uly 29 - August 4, 2018: Issue 369
My Holiday By Charles De Boos – 1861
Originally printed in Sydney Mail on Saturdays and republished in Sydney Morning Herald two days later – on Mondays. We have left words you may not recognise and varying spellings of wallaby (wallobi and wallabi) as they were originally used by this gentleman in the hope you will investigate or chart for yourself the evolution of our language. Shelagh and George Champion, whom we spoke to regarding this wonderful tale, point out it was written for entertainment and although some places and persons are identified correctly, much of it is folklore and should be read as such. We have linked to pages, where already published here, for more accurate insights into the places and peoples spoken of. Listed below in 'Extras' are a few insights into people and events mentioned, and a bit about the wonderful Mr. de Boos himself.
(From the Sydney Mail, June 22 )
Reader, are you a politician ? Have you ever felt an interest in the Land question, for that appears at the present time to be the political touchstone ?-and, if so, has your interest ever carried you to the extreme length of attending the debates in Parliament ? If it has, I know at once that I have a sympathiser in you. I know, as well as if you had confidentially whispered it into my ear, that for the first few minutes of your first visit you sat awe-struck at the presence in which you found yourself ; that you admired the Speaker's lobes, and whispered nervously in face of the robed and banded clerks that you felt a nascent tremor as lawmaker after lawmaker entered the Chamber and took his scat ; and that you settled yourself snugly down in your seat in the anticipation of hearing something that should edify and delight you, as the great Order of the Day was called on. I know, too, that these feelings gradually died away within the first half-hour, and that the second half hour passed over rapidly by reason of the expectation you entertained of witnessing the sharp encounter of wits, the clash of mind with mind in wordy strife; but as the tirade went on, I know also your feeling of disappointment, as you found that there was the wordy strife without the mind-the sharp encounter, but with only small wits. I am aware, likewise, that as your hope of being interested gradually faded away, the time drew on heavily, and that you leaped joyously from your seat when the House rose for refreshment, and that when it sat again, your place knew you no more. What, let me ask you, would your feelings have been, if, after your return home, when you fancied you had for over escaped the horrid flow of words that deluged the Parliament Chamber, and pressed heavily upon your aural tympanum, you had been ruthlessly dragged from the domestic hearth, transported to the Assembly gallery, and there chained like a galley slave to the bench, doomed by a refinement of cruelty that no Inquisition has yet reached, to listen hour after hour to the bad grammar, the illogical reasonings, the distorted sentences and the murdered English of some of our legislators as a man and a Briton, you -would not have borne such treatment; but, like our great Premier on a recent occasion, would have appealed to the country. I never yet met the man who could sit steadily for two hours, and listen patiently to the frothy declamations of ~-but, I won't mention names. I am not naturally vindictive, and though I have suffered much at the hands of some particular legislators, I am not exactly disposed to crush them into nothingness.
Reader, have you read my appeal and misericordian? Do you wish to know why I desire to enlist your pity ? I am a reporter!-One who in the innocence of his heart, in his very young and very green days, thought it an exceedingly clever thing to learn short hand; and who is now, like the ghost of Hamlet's father " doomed for a certain space," not exactly to "walk the night" for even the cold comfort of the midnight promenade is denied him, but to sit till he "sniffs the morning breeze," listening to bad grammar and worse English which he has to dish up in a presentable form for the breakfast table of the great public. Am I not a fit object for compassion? Had I not some other subject in hand just" now, I could, like the ghost aforesaid, "a tale unfold would harrow up your blood," of deliberate inflictions of words, of cold- blooded attacks, of bland persuasions, of palpable soft soapings, aye, and even of impassioned appeals that I have had to submit to and though I have had to "grin and bear them," after the manner of the young sea wolves, by the end of the session I always rind myself the worse for them ; and the relief that I and my confreres experience when the announcement is made, " That on - his Excellency will come down and prorogue the House," is, to use one of our own favourite expressions, "more easily imagined than described."
With us, the recess of Parliament is always a holiday; for what, though we may be busy every day -what, though we may occasionally be harder worked-what though annual, meetings of all possible societies start up thick as mushrooms the moment the legislatorial doors are closed, still they come fresh and fresh upon us; a religious meeting on Monday being set off by an “Extensive Fire " on Tuesday, and the "Wednesday's interesting lecture, to which we have perhaps listened six different times at six different places, until we almost know it by heart, being rubbed out of our memory by a "Dreadful Murder " on Thursday. It is the humdrum, wishy washy no-ideas of the Parliament that tell on us, making our hair grey before its time from our constant sorrow at seeing "bearded men," as Donaldson used to call them, playing such fantastic tricks "on the lure of this House.*"
The recess, then, is a holiday, and a leave of absence in a recess is a holiday within a holiday-an imperium in imperio-and consequently is doubly enjoyable; and great was my delight when I received this leave, and mighty were my preparations to spend it as such a time ought to be spent. How I passed my holiday it is now my business to describe.
Different people have different ways of getting through a holiday. A friend of mine always passes his in bed, and if mine had happened in the middle of the session, I don't know but what I might have done so too, for it is very hard to bear up against the soporific influence of " this House."
My wife thought the most comfortable way would he to sit at home and read, or have a cosy chat by the fire ; and a fellow scribe suggested going in the Domain and smoking all day, as the very acme of enjoyment. I did not agree with either of these suggestions, but resolved upon a pedestrian tour, and for its locale fixed upon a district where strangers' visits are "few and far between," and where the foot of the tourist but seldom treads-I mean that part of the sea coast that lies between Manly Beach and Broken Bay.
Wondrous tales were told me of the manner in which game abounded in that part of the country. Wallaby scoured the bush in flocks, and would run over you if you did not get out of their way. Wild ducks were so numerous that they were only too thankful to be shot that the redundant population of the swamps might be thinned off; wonga-wongas sat cooing their harsh note in every tree that lined the way and bronze wings were so common as to have fallen into general disrepute. Believing a very great deal less than the half of what I heard, I of course provided myself with a gun and its accompaniments powder and shot, and strapping my blankets on to my shoulders, took passage by the Phantom to Manly Beach.
'Phantom' paddle-steamer at Manly Wharf, circa 1870, The `Phantom' (built in 1858) started on the Manly route in 1859. Picture No.: a089691, courtesy State Library of NSW.
I am not very tall, nor am I very short ; neither do I pretend to have a very commanding figure-though since the volunteer movement I have cultivated beard and moustaches; and as I sallied forth with my blanket at my back and the "billy," or tinpot, for tea making, which bush requirements render necessary, hung at my waist, I am afraid that, despite the gun in my hand, and the powder flask and shotbolt hung ostentatiously in front, and despite my moustache (which, by the by, my wife will persist in calling " brushy "), I had not a very sportsmanlike appearance, for some of those young vagabonds that infest the streets, the garnira of Sydney, called after me as I went, "Hooray ! off for the Snowy."
I had contrived to inveigle two friends to join me in my expedition, and as I shall have frequently to speak of them in the course of these adventures I may as well briefly introduce them to the public. The first, whom I shall call Tom, is a keen sportsman, and a first-rate I shot, clad in the regular orthodox shooting coat of many pockets, with corduroy unmentionables, and lace-up watertight boots, about which there was a perpetually recurring difficulty. The other is an old Rockhampton chum of mine, who has recently been on a visit to England, but has returned after only a very brief sojourn, in order, as he informed me in confidence, "to get dry " - the wet season that he experienced in England never having allowed him to attain to that state of beatitude. His peculiar idiosyncrasy is a love of ease, and a disinclination to take more trouble over a thing than is absolutely necessary for effecting it. To save trouble in writing, I shall abbreviate his name into Nat. We had appointed to rendezvous at Manly, and there we all assembled on the arrival of the steamer.
Having made an equal division of the various articles to be token with us in such a way as that each should have, as nearly as possible, the same weight to carry, we shouldered our swags for a start, when Tom suddenly remembered that our dogs wore not forthcoming. Down went our loads again, whilst Tom made off to get one of the two animals that were to accompany us. In about half-an-hour he returned, leading a kangaroo dog by a leash, and once more we buckled on our loads, and this time made a start. Scarcely, however, had we got into the roadway, than our animal became restive, hung back in the leash, and, in consequence of a rather impatient drag on the leading strap, drew her head clean out of the collar. No sooner aid she find herself free than she scampered off through the bush in a totally opposite direction to that by which we proposed to travel, utterly inattentive to the whistlings and the coaxing appeals of Tom, who, as the hound disappeared in the distance, gradually sank his note down to a growl, and ultimately to an expletive. As we all stood leaning sorrowfully upon our guns and looking mournfully along the track of the fugitive, we must have offered to the passer-by a very pretty picture of personified disappointment and, as it is considered absolutely de rigueur to be accompanied by kangaroo dogs when out after wallaby, we felt that this was a mischance that must under any circumstances be remedied.
As luck would have it, however, a gentleman resident in that vicinity, who had no doubt marked our disconsolate visages, and pitied our deserted position, very kindly came forward, and offered to lend us his dog-"a regular nipper"-as Tom, on his own personal knowledge declared him to be. Of course we were only too thankful for the offer, and after a brief delay, the dog was secured us we thought and we made another start, picking up our second animal, a very handsome kangaroo dog named Spanker, as we passed the Steyne Hotel, and going on our way rejoicing. But alas! our felicitations were ill-timed, since we had scarcely proceeded half a-mile before the regular nipper made a dive forward, a start backward, a sudden and indescribable shake and wriggle, and lo he was free of the leash, leaving behind in the hands of the astounded Tom the complicated series of knots which he had only a few minutes before defied the sleekest headed hound in creation to slip. Before any one of us could muster up presence of mind enough to call, whistle, or coax, the regular nipper, with his tail hard jammed down between his legs, had disappeared in the scrub, in the most direct route homewards. The faithful Spanker, however, was still left to us, and we were fain, as the afternoon was drawing on apace, to be contented with one dog, the more especially as that dog followed us of his own accord, influenced evidently by an innate love of sport. I am afraid that our parting addresses to the "nipper" were not exactly benedictions, but we were all of the one opinion that we were better rid of the nuisance of dragging him along, and we consequently made tracks much more lightly and cheerfully from being relieved of this incubus.
South Head from Manly Beach by Samuel Thomas Gill late 1850's. Image No: a6253001, courtesy State Library of NSW.
Before altogether leaving Manly and crossing the lagoon that divides it from the country to the north-ward, we took one last look at the locality we were leaving. We were about to penetrate into an all but unknown country, for the wild legends respecting it current amongst Manly aboriginals have hitherto been regarded as fabulous ; and as we thus looked back at the civilisation we were quitting and forward into the wild scrub of Ti tea and honeysuckle, the feelings in our Cockney breasts were, I believe, somewhat akin to those which Leichhardt, Mitchell, or some other great explorer must have felt when from some giant ridge of the far interior he has looked back upon the station-the last vestige of civilisation he was quitting-and then forward into the wild, dark, and unknown sea of leaves that moaned and rustled before him. We had not all the little accessories that attend your great explorers, or perhaps we might amongst us have got up a little poetic fervor, and have perpetrated a few "lines on leaving Manly Beach on an exploratory tour to Pittwater."
I think I should have done something sentimental myself, for, as I looked back, I pictured to myself my better-half mourning disconsolately in her bower for the other, the worse half, that wasn't forthcoming and my radicals of boys rushing home from school, and loudly calling for bread-and-butter, which there was no "Pa" to cut for them; but as my eye wandered round, it fell upon a mysterious-looking turret, perched on the top of a lofty ridge, and surmounted by what I conceived to be a giant teapot, and this at once gave a new channel for my ideas.
" Whose tea-gardens are those?" I asked.
"Tea-gardens! where ? " said Tom.
"There!" said I, "where the coffee-pot is."
" Coffee-pot ! Oh, oh, oh ! ha! ha! ha!" and Tom burst into an immoderate fit of laughter. Nat meanwhile grinning at me sardonically. "Yes," I responded in somewhat indignant tones-"Coffee-pot ! and what is there to laugh at in that?"
"Ha! ha! Oh, Charley, you'll be the death of me! That 's a Kangaroo!!"
I was thunderstruck. What I had mistaken for a coffee pot, by reason of my near-sightedness, was in fact a chiselled representation of a kangaroo and my mistake had arisen from the very peculiar manner in which the artist had posed his subject and from, the way in which he had curled up the animal's caudal appendage so as to afford a very exact model of the spout of a coffee-pot.
The kangaroo was erected by H.G. Smith – founder or ‘father’ of Manly around 1857 – Picture from: OLD LANDMARK, MANLY, PORT JACKSON'. The stone kangaroo, of somewhat primitive fashioning, which forms a prominent object in our engraving, is well known to most of the numerous pleasure-seekers at Manly, Port Jackson. It was erected by a local resident and property owner, and stands on the crown of a rocky hill, whence maybe obtained an excellent view of the pleasant little village of Manly and of the many charming villas that dot the slopes of the hills. Manly Bay is also to be Been, together with the South Head and entrance to Port Jackson. Sketches with Pencil. (1875, May 15). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 - 1889), p. 19. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article60606767
It may readily be imagined that I had to endure on endless amount of badinage on the subject of the "coffee-pot;" and had it not been for the damping effect of the lagoon, which wetted us all up to the knees in crossing. I don't know when my roasting would have ceased. Having once passed the lagoon, we were thereupon in the terra incognita borealis of Manly Beach, for that narrow but knee-deep stream has hitherto formed a barrier insurmountable even to the most enterprising explorers amongst the denizens of Sydney, and has proved a Rubicon to be passed only by some of the residents of the district beyond, and an occasional straggling fisherman whom stress of weather or other accidental cause compels to take the overland route from Broken Bay.
Mounting the rocks on the north side of the lagoon, we pass along a paddock fence, and through a slip rail into" a very primitive kind of farm yard, with everything lying about in the most admirable state of confusion. A row of pig-styes lay on our left, but the porkers for whom they were intended appeared to have vacated their lodgings for some time past, in order, no doubt, to give up quiet possession to the troop of merry children, who, chubby, healthy, and laughing, all of them with that peculiar but beautiful silky flaxen hair that marks the young Australian, were making a "play" with bits of china, shells, and other odds and ends, and who peered at us wonderingly through tile chinks of the slabs, which walled in their supposititious parlour. On the right was the paddock in which the corn stalks denuded of their cobs stood up like so many gaunt spectres of departed fatness, their few dry and half-withered leaves rattling hoarsely in the breeze as they fell against the hollow stems. In the front was the hut-a true specimen of the old colonial slab edifice; the door barricaded round with iron pots, frying-pans, buckets, and a variety of other utensils, so as to make an entrance difficult, if not impossible; whilst a miscellaneous assortment of all sorts-ploughs, harrows, boilers for pigs' food, &c, were strewn about in wild disorder, making the march for our roadway an exceedingly complicated matter. To add to our dilemma, the children in the pig-sty set up a wild Indian yell, as we filed past them, and this calling together the dogs of the establishment, we were immediately beset in front, flank, and rear, and, but for the timely arrival of the farmer should have had to beat a precipitate retreat. Under his escort we effected the passage of the farmyard, though not without strong doubts as to the safety of our calves, and long after we had left the dangerous spot behind us, we could hear the Babel-like sounds that proceeded from it, in which the voices of children dogs, and poultry were striving together for the mastery.
Collins Flat near Manly Beach, circa 1870. Picture No: a280004, courtesy State Library of NSW.
After crossing the stony ridge which separated us from the lagoon, we came down upon a heavily timbered flat, of fat black soil, but exceedingly damp and swampy; and here we encountered the first of the real natives of the district, for the farmer who had saved us from the dogs was hardly to be regarded in that light, living as he did so close upon the very borders of civilisation.
To our friend Tom-who, by the way, is a kind of universal genius, and knows a little of everything we entrusted the task of communicating with the stranger, who, after all, had nothing particularly formidable about her-for a female we supposed it to be, at all events if the style of dress in the district was similar to that of Sydney. She was evidently a very young, I can hardly say woman, and rode up leisurely -for she was on horseback-eyeing us with a look something between astonishment and amusement.
"Good afternoon," said Tom.
"Good afternoon," returned the horsewoman, and to my delight in perfectly good English.
" Are we on the road to Pitt Water?" asked Thomas.
" Yes," she replied; '. straight on."
“Straight on !" said I, as I looked forward through the heavy timber amidst which the road turned and twisted in anyway but a straight line.
" Yes," responded the damsel, " follow your nose, and take care not to bark it against the trees." With a light laugh, she gave her horse the whip, and cantered on, leaving me thoroughly discomfited.
After passing this flat, the road led along some dry stony ridges covered with a rather dense but low scrub, and so continued for some miles with very little change in the appearance of the country through which we were journeying, except when we passed the holding of some small settler, whose hut and clearing formed the only break in the monotony of the scenery. In fact I was surprised to find that even though so near to Manly Beach, and with so much fine rich land around, the number of settlers should be so few.
From the Manly lagoon to the bridge over the head of the Deewy lagoon, I do not think we passed more than a half-dozen of farms, and these were only very small holdings, producing nothing beyond corn and pumpkins, and looking just now more like poverty stricken and deserted tenancies than like the pleasant smiling freehold homesteads that the popular orators of the day have pictured to the people, and which the hon. Secretary for Lands desires to see scattered over the country, I was told that one of the reasons for this appearance, as well as for the small number of cultivation plots, was that the land was so very wet in anything like a drooping season-that the soil became too strong and sour to be-cultivated successfully whilst another reason was one that I argued afterward very fully with parties highly interested in the question, and to which I shall allude in its proper place.
The Deewy bridge is not a very extensive structure still it is sufficient for the traffic that passes over it, although it must be somewhat dangerous to cross of a dark night in consequence as well of its narrowness is of the total absence of any handrail or side guards.
It was all but carried away during the floods of last year, and was so materially injured as to render its passage a matter of considerable danger It was consequently repaired, subscriptions for the purpose having been raised from the inhabitants of the district , and though an application was made for a portion of the funds voted by Parliament for the repair of the road between Manly and Pittwater, it was refused, and the cost of the repairs fell entirely upon the settlers themselves.
After crossing the Dewy bridge, the road takes round the northern edge of the Deewy lagoon, through a country covered with a pretty close scrub, intersected rather frequently by wallabi tracks, on which the imprint of these animals claws and tau were freshly left. As it was getting rather late, and as our swags were now beginning to press rather heavily upon shoulders as yet unaccustomed to such a burden, we did not beat up this country very closely, but rather pressed on in order to secure a good camping place for the night After passing for rather more than a mile along the edge of the lagoon, the road takes away to the left, over the point of a broken spur of a range that comes from the west almost down to Deewy and then by a series of gentle ascents leads up to the station of Miss Jenkins.
This is a most beautifully situated homestead the homestead sitting slightly back from the road, is nestled in at the foot of a lofty and thickly timbered range, and has a beautiful look out to the north, south and east, over the Pacific and over many of the bold headlands that breast its mighty rollers. This property includes a very large number of paddocks, all inclosed, but none of them bearing any appearance of having been cultivated for some years past. In fact, the road for a considerable distance passes between fences on either side, though, from the absence of cultivation and even of stock-for not a beast was to be seen cropping the herbage which grew thick and rank in the inclosures-the tout ensemble of the scene, whilst picturesque and interesting, was one entirely of quiet life, impressing upon the mind a greater feeling of solitude than was experienced even in the thickest and least frequented gullies of the bush. House, yards, paddocks, all scorned deserted and lonely, no smoke curled up from the chimney, no dog barked in the yard, no shrill challenge was sent forth to us by bold chanticleer, the only evidence of life about the place being some article of apparel, which, fluttering from a clothes-line, showed that somebody was, at all events, sometimes there. I can assure you that I looked with something very much like sorrow at these fine paddocks that were thus allowed to lie not only unused, but useless, and I determined within myself before I came back to get to the bottom of why this was so frequently the case. But the evening was now drawing on apace, and the sun had long since sunk down behind the high range of hills which lay only some three hundred yards to the left of the road, so, after one more survey of the magnificent panorama of sea and coast that extended to our right, we passed on our way, and turning round the corner of what may perhaps be termed the home paddock of the property, we came upon a large extent of cleared ground, in which some few years back maize had evidently been grown, as the small hilkls that had been made round the plants were still easily perceptible
We had scarcely entered upon this clearing than a sound of horse’s feet behind us caused us to look round, and at a glance we recognised the female denizen of the district, whom we had encountered in the afternoon. She had evidently been to Manly for supplies, and had her horse freighted with several well-filled bags, which she managed to keep in order, and the same time to maintain her seat with perfect ease and nonchalance. Of course, Tom had a few words to say, en pastant, to the fair equestrienne, but I, remembering my rebuff of the previous part of the day, very wisely held my tongue. Nat, however, would not let me off, for with a savage grin he stroked himself down the nose, winked at the girl, nodded towards me, and said, " All safe” This, of course, elicited a smile at my expense, but as man was bon to suffer, I put up with it, though I dropped sulkily to the rear. Our fair fellow-traveller, however, had not passed us more than a couple of hundred yards than we suddenly saw her horse make some extraordinary and eccentric movements, turning round and round in a very circumscribed circle, occasionally giving a slight lift to his hind quarters, that very disagreeably affected the bags and sent some of the smaller ones flying in all directions. He then took the bit in his teeth and darted off to the left of the road, as if with the intention of scaling the mountains, comporting himself meanwhile in such boisterous style as to render it necessary for his rider to give all her attention to herself. Thus the bags being left to take care of themselves, banged about the horse's sides, the more vigorously as he curvetted the higher, until with a final effort he got rid of them all. A brief struggle now took place between the horse and the rider, in which the former was very quickly forced to succumb. Having conquered him, the young girl quietly jumped off his back, commenced collecting the lighter articles of her load, and was about to get the heavier bags, when our party came up and relieved her from her difficulty. It appeared that the horse had a sore wither, and by some means the saddle had got forward until it pressed upon the wound, and made the animal restive. Amongst us, however, we soon put the saddle right, gathered up the loading, packed it safely on the horse, mounted the equestrienne once more, and started her on the road homewards.
By this time, the shades of evening were fast closing in, and we at once made our way to the foot of the ranges which, as I have said, lay only some three hundred yards to the left or west of the road, and in one of the gulleys falling down from them we found a running stream of delicious water. Here, then, we determined to make our camp for the night.
(To be continued )
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, June 24). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13062630
(From the Sydney Mail, June 29.) [continued.]
Only they who have carried a heavy load on their shoulders for a day's march can tell the luxury of throwing it off and of feeling oneself free. If I could have laid down and rolled, I should have considered myself supremely happy ; but there was a fire to make, and a store of firewood, sufficient to last the night, to be collected before dark. I at once set about the first, whilst Nat busied himself in getting together the largest logs he could manage to provide for the night's consumption of fuel. In the meantime Tom was despatched to a station we saw ahead of us with instructions to purchase a piece of meat, that being an article which we by some singular mischance had neglected to bring with us. Sly part of the work was soon completed, and within a few minutes I had a glorious roaring fire, in front of which I had placed the "billy" with the water for tea. Having now, for the first time, a full opportunity of looking round me, I found that I had reason for felicitating myself on the choice of a camping ground. It was on the edge of the cleared land, and just in the entrance of the gulley, being backed up by the heavy precipitous range I have before mentioned, and which protected us materially from the west wind blowing cold and bleak now that the sun had set. We were to some extent sheltered on the flanks by short hummocks that fell off from the range on either side of the gulley our front was thus our only exposed part, and there we had built our fire, beyond that extended the cleared ground down to a belt of Ti tree scrub, which alone separated it from the sea beach, upon which the restless waves beat unceasingly, now moaning like a drowning crew in agony, now roaring and bellowing as though enraged at the puny barrier of sand by which their progress was opposed. Bit by bit, however, sea, scrub, and clearing faded from the view, as the light receded in the west, and darkness crept up from the east, until at last our area of vision was circumscribed by the radius of the light given out by our brightly burning fire, the gleams from which danced amidst the ferns and amongst the leaves overhead, setting before the mind a perfect phantasmagoria of weird forms as the gusts of wind blew the flames hither and thither, now leaving them in all but dark ness, as the flames were beaten down or dispersed by the wind and again lighting them up with renewed brilliancy, as an eddy of wind caught the fire and, with five hundred lungs' power, blew it up into a scorching blaze.
The darkness had fallen upon us like a pall, but still Tom had not returned. The water had boiled in the billy. The tea had been made in most approved bush fashion, by throwing a handful of the leaves into the boiling element, and then clapping on the lid of the utensil to allow the tea to draw. A newspaper was spread out for a tablecloth, and our supply of biscuits was laid out upon the newspaper, but there the resources of our larder ceased; and should Tom's mission be unsuccessful, our means of refection would be confined to the two articles of tea and biscuit-not a very encouraging prospect for appetites sharpened by a long walk. The selfishly interested nature of our anxiety after Tom can now be understood, and after our expectations had been strained to the utmost by another half-hour's delay, we jumped to our feet joyously as Spanker came within the circle of light cast by our fire, looked at us for a moment as if in approval of our mode of procedure, and then retired a few paces in order to look after his especial protege, Tom, who soon came into sight but, alas! empty-handed.
Poor Tom gave us a rueful account of the barrenness of the land into which our spirit of discovery had led us. The farm house ahead, which, perched on the top of a prominent rise, had a most imposing appearance, he described as little better than a heap of ruins inhabited by a varied assortment of women, children, and fowls, the first of whom he summed up as being big, bony, and not too young the second as being brown, chubby, and ragged; and the last as being long-legged and rough-feathered. He had opened negotiations for the purchase of flesh of any kind, but his overtures were listened to with astonishment, and he thought, with horror, as happening to turn an admiring eye upon one of the little ones rather fatter than the rest, the careful mother at once smuggled it out of sight, as though she fancied that Tom, in the absence of beef and mutton, might take a longing for kid.
" No," she said, " she hadn't got no meat. They didn't use much on it ; it was too hard to get."
" No, no eggs-the fowls weren't laying."
"Any butter?" "No didn't make no butter."
" What do you think of that?" said Tom; "What do you think they live on ?"
I could not say, of course, but suggested, " Corn cobs."
Nat thought for a minute and then ventured, "Potatoes."
" You're nearest," said Tom ; "they live on bread, pumpkins, potatoes, and honey,-except when they catch fish, and then they live on that as long as it lasts."
This was an entirely new feature in our Australian history, and I at once made a note of it for the service of the public. "I might have had some honey," he continued, "but having only my pocket to put it in, laying aside the little inconvenience it might have proved to me, I thought it would hardly come to you acceptably, in such a package."
We thought not also, for we hid an indistinct recollection of a habit of Tom's of emptying any tobacco left after filling his pipe into some one or other of his pockets ; and as the pocket thus favoured was always the one that happened to be for the time being nearest to the tobacco hand, we felt that the favour was pretty equally distributed over the whole of them.
Never mind, a light supper would allow us to sleep the sounder, and then we should all the better enjoy our next good feed-but where, oh where, was it to come from ? The uncertainty in which the answer to this question was shrouded added in no slight measure to my feelings of uneasiness. However, upon biscuits and tea we made a hearty meal, for we were honestly hungry, and the enlivening effects of the cup ‘which cheers and not inebriates' soon made themselves manifest, and we became as jolly under our difficulties as even the most exacting Mark Tapley could have required. Spanker got his share of the allowance, though the biscuits were scarcely to his taste, and he took them between his teeth as gingerly as a damsel would take a macaroon between net fingers. However, feeling persuaded that nothing else was forthcoming, he at length made up his mind to swallow the unusual food.
We now lit our pipes, and drew in closer to the fire, for the dew was beginning to fall very heavily, and the wind came soughing down the gulley cold and piercing, seeming to go through and through you. Tom rolled himself in his blankets, "just to keep off the dew," as he said; but their comforting effect was soon demonstrated by the long-drawn nasal trumpetings of our-tired out companion. Nat and I sat for some time, yarning about old Rockhampton times, and questioning each other about this one and that one we had known, and tracing down the history of each as far as our knowledge allowed us. By degrees, however, the questions and answers got fewer and fewer, until we relapsed into silence. It, was impossible to carry on a lively conversation beneath that broad, solemn star-studded vault that overhung us, forming a canopy to which we had been so long unaccustomed. There was a mournful stillness in the air, though I can hardly call it so, since the heavy beatings of surf sounded incessantly, the bell-like voices of the frogs were heard on every side around; from the bush those mysterious sounds proceeded, which have so often puzzled and rendered uneasy the neophyte in bush travelling, whilst occasionally the long-drawn melancholy scream of' the curlew was heard from the flat below. Shivering with cold, and damp with the dew, I now rolled myself in my blankets, put my boots and a few etceteras under my head for a pillow, and tried to sleep. For a long time Morpheus refused to have a thing to do with me. Just as I was dropping off, a wretched curlew would insist upon coming as near to the fire as his shy habits would let him, and screaming out purposely, as it were, to wake me. At last I got off to sleep.
I don't know how long I slept ; my own impression was, that I had not been to sleep at all, when suddenly I was aroused by an exclamation from Tom, who sat up, unrolled himself from his blanket, and looked round him with the most perfect astonishment.
"Why, Charley, what have we done wi' t'fire ?" Tom is a north of England man, and when strongly excited always speaks a little broad. The fact was that Tom had laid himself down on the side of a slope, in a very comfortable position, but as he moved in his sleep ho had gradually slipped down and down this slope, until he had got out of the reach of the radiating heat of the flames and now rose up shivering with the cold and the damp chill of the dews. We laughed at his dilemma, though somewhat riled at having our slumbers disturbed and being now fairly roused up, we made another pot of tea, ate another biscuit, and of course had another smoke, and then once more went through the ordeal of surf, frogs, and curlews, into a sound sleep, Tom's last recommendation to me being to cover my head well up with my blankets, for if I didn't, the wind was so sharp that it would be sure to shave off my moustaches before morning.
Shortly before dawn we all awoke, almost simultaneously, the bitter coldness of the early day, exposed as we were without shelter to the sweeping breeze, and the falling dew, rendered it impossible to sleep longer, so we made up a roaring fire, draped ourselves in our blankets-more mericano-and enjoyed the luxury of a warm through. As the light of day ascended from the east, a heavy bank of clouds that lay on the S.E. horizon crept up gradually with it, giving us the very unpromising prospect of a wet tramp. By the time the sun had risen, we had performed our ablutions, made our pot of tea, and demolished our breakfast of tea and biscuit ; and shortly after the appearance of the great luminary, we once more shouldered our swags, and put ourselves en route.
Descending to the road, a few minutes walk along it brought us abreast of a cluster of buildings which we had mistaken for a farm, and which is known amongst the natives as "Jenkins" old place." And old enough it is, in all conscience-the houses having a ricketty tumble-down appearance sufficient to deter any but one who had a very heavy insurance on his life from venturing to go in them. There appeared to he no signs of cultivation, in so far as we could see from the road, the only relief to the otherwise forsaken look of the place being a solitary cabbage-tree palm, which grew at the foot of the hill in the bed of a small watercourse, but looked ragged and miserable, as if half-ashamed of the shabby rookery of houses with which it found itself in such close company. At the bottom of the hill by the roadside was a half broken down stockyard, and by the side of the stockyard was a quite broken-down cart, the body turned bottom upwards, and the wheels lying rotting alongside of it, as though there had been at one time an intention to repair it, but that a sufficient amount of energy for the purpose had never been forthcoming. None of the inhabitants described by Tom gave any signs of vitality as we passed, neither women, children, nor fowls being visible, and it seemed as if the roosters even were too dispirited to get up a crow amongst the lot of them; there was nothing, therefore, very attractive in this picture of desolation, and we made tracks away from it without regret.
Right: Plan of the survey of Jenkins' 80 acre grant [cartographic material] : situate in the Parish of Narrabeen: 1831 - 1859. MAP F 172. by Brownrigg, W. Meadows (William Meadows), courtesy National Library of Australia
The road now led us along a swampy honeysuckle flat for rather more than half a mile, and then brought us on to the margin of the Narrabeen lagoon. Narrabeen is a somewhat extensive lagoon, connected with the sea by broad sandy flats covered by the tide at high water, but hire at low water, with the exception of a distance of about twenty rods in width, forming a channel by which the surplus water of the lagoon runs out into the sea. The opening to the sea is somewhat narrower than this, though deeper, taking a man to the waist in wading over, whilst at the regular crossing-place the stream at low water is not much over the knee. It is situated between the island fall of the high precipitous ridge that, jutting far out into the ocean, forms Narrabeen Head to the north; and to the south, the long low sandy beach that extends northerly from the Long Reef. The large sheet of water that forms the lagoon is situated some two miles from the sea, with which the sandy flats connect it, although at high water, and particularly at spring tides, one broad expanse of water extending in one continuous sheet from the ocean into the interior for a distance of five miles is presented to the view, forming a magnificent lake, by no means wanting in picturesqueness and rude grandeur in some portions of it. Where the road crosses, the country for some distance around is flat, and consequently tame, and the picture is rendered sombre by the low, thick growth of ti tree that fringes the water line, and the dark leaved honeysuckles of the flat land beyond ; but higher up, where the fresh water of the lagoon commences, where ranges clad with giant timber come down to its margin, and where numerous gullies with the rich, dank jungle vegetation of the tropics, including the cabbage-tree palm, the fern tree, the bengola, and wild vine, empty their watery contributions into it wild landscape views might be taken fully equal to many of those about which artists have raved so much.
I have said that the morning was cloudy, and consequently the sun, not yet very high, was overcast and as we came down to the channel, over which we had to cross, the wind swept coldly over the sandy beach, making the task of stripping and crossing anything but a pleasant one. Under the circumstances, the twenty rods of width-for luckily we had hit the extreme low water - appeared, in my eyes a mighty waste of waters, and in the absence of guide or direction, it seemed a somewhat dangerous experiment to venture upon, particularly as the water was evidently running out with great swiftness.
"Oh," said Tom, as I expressed my doubts, " there's no danger; its all right !"
Right: The Plateau Valse [music] - 1880 - 1889 (9 pages - cover shown) by Charles Huenerbein, courtesy National Library of Australia
So we sat down, pulled off boots and stockings, and tucked up our trousers as high as we could ; but I noticed that with all his boasting, Master Thomas loitered considerably over his preparations, growling audibly over "those blessed boots," the getting on again of which he declared to be a matter of considerable doubt. Tom grumbled and fumbled so long, that Nat, declaring that "he wasn't going to wait getting cold through for him," took the lead in the advance, walked nonchalantly into the water and made steadily for the other side. I watched him with fear and trembling, expecting every minute to sea him disappear, but, as I perceived that he got half-way over with the water only up to Ins knees, I took heart of grace and ventured in. But oh the terrible agony of that first plunge! The water was as cold as if it had been fresh melted snow, and my feet, having been warmed by the brief walk, felt the change most bitterly. But on and on I went, the chill of the water biting in rising circles round my legs as I got deeper and deeper in the stream, causing an agony unspeakable. Just as I was about half-way across, I turned round in order to see by the distance I had passed how long this torture was to be continued and there I beheld Tom, all ready for the passage, peeping out at us through the bushes. He caught my eye, and shouted "Tell us if it gets any deeper!
The old dodger had quietly pushed us on ahead, in order, as he said, that we might take soundings for him. I made him no answer, for I was too full of my own especial sufferings just at that moment j and, i without joke, it was as painful an ordeal, in regard to mere corporeal pain, as ever I went through m so brief a time. In fact, so acute was it, that I felt as I neared the end of my torture as if I could not possibly hold out until I got out of that blood-chilling stream, but that my feet must give way, and that I must fall. However, across I did get, without the fall that I considered inevitable, and it was only by looking down at my feet and seeing them there doing duty, that I could assure myself that I still possessed those appendages. The feeling I experienced on quitting the water was as if feet ankles and legs had been cut off, just at the place where the water had reached highest, with a red hot saw. Though I looked down occasionally to assure myself of the fact that I still possessed them, it was only after a ten minutes' run upon the sand that any sensation of feeling in those useful members made assurance doubly sure; and during the whole of the day I felt that burning ring round my leg, sometimes with painful distinctness.
There was a large flock of sand pipers, small birds, somewhat about the size of a lark, but with long lags like a snipe, that were running about the sand picking up their morning meal. I tried very hard to got a shot at them, but they ran away so fast and kept themselves so pertinaciously out of gun-shot that at last I let fly haphazard at them, and of course got nothing.
We now made for the opposite bank of the stream, where, above high watermark, the grass grew in thick coarse tufts forming a convenient towel with which to wipe the sand from our feet, and here we once more resumed boots and stockings, and got into marching on, though not before Tom had had a desperate struggle with his rebellious watertights, in which, from dread that in the end the boots would get the best of it, we were at last fain to join, and so by dint of numbers gained the mastery. Tom seemed quite proud of his achievement, and stalked along in consequence quite boastfully for the rest of that day's journey.
We had hung our loads on the posts of a fence that skirted the edge of the sand, and which enclosed paddock of long reedy grass, as high as a man's waist though beyond some gently undulating land the crest surmounted by a not very neat but substantial looking slate dwelling, rose up from the marshy plain, and appeared to be rich cultivated land. We were about to take our loads from the temporary pegs on which they hung, when we were joined by another wayfarer, who, like ourselves, had just crossed the lagoon, and came up to us to reconnoitre.
"Shooting?" asked he.
"Yes," answered Tom, "if we can act anything to shoot."
" You didn't ought to want for plenty to shoot here away," he responded, and I ought to have stated that the new arrival was evidently of the sea, sailory. About this, there could be no doubt, even at the first glance.
“Any ducks?"-and here Tom now took up the questioning,
"Plenty in the black lagoon," he answered.
Above: View from Brock's House, Allen Family Album, 1911. Image No: 3289054, courtesy Mitchell Library NSW.
"And where is the black lagoon ?"
"About two points west of north, two miles from here," said the seaman.
" Any wallabi?" asked Tom.
"Not many here away, but plenty about old Cooper's place."
"And where was that?"
"Oh, the other side of Lush's."
Here, then, we had a key. We knew Lush's.
" Whose place was this ?"
" This ?-why, this was Collins'."
And now we approached a tender point-one upon which we all felt, I won't say tenderly, because we didn't, but ravenously.
" Didn't he know where we could beg, borrow, of steal apiece of meat, salt or fresh?"
He shook his head doubtingly. We had evidently given him a puzzler. Ducks, wallabi, or pigeons could be mapped out with a wave of the hand, but the location of meat, which I had always deemed an indispensable requisite to man's carnivorous nature, was not so readily to be pointed out.
At last he said, "You see meat is rather a scarce article 'n these parts. They have to bring it all the way from Sydney for they can't always get it at Manly, and in consequence they often run out of it. It's hard to say, where you'll get any. But" and here he brightened up a bit, and, of course, our countenances which had got ruefully long during this speech, brightened a little also,-"come up to Collins'; if he's got any, he'll let you have some."
"Is this Collins' place here?"
"Yes," answered the sailor, "he's a very decent fellow too." And so to Collins', under the guidance of our nautical acquaintance we determined to go, and with something like hope in our hearts shouldered our loads.
[To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 1). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13061639
Enlargement of peice of Parish of Narrabeen, County of Cumberland [cartographic material] : Metropolitan Land District, Eastern Division N.S.W.
1886. MAP G8971.G46 svar (Copy 1). Showing placement of 'Collins' Lagoon side and 'Black Swamp' - Mona Vale (Turimetta).
(From the Sydney Mail, July 6.)
We entered the paddock by the slip rails, we followed the cart-track tip up the house. When within fifty yards of this, another fence occurred, with a slip rail also that had just been let down to allow the passage of some five-and twenty head of small, ill-bred cattle, mostly milkers, that were being driven through by two children-a girl and a boy, the one about eight, and the other perhaps seven years old. The little creatures were only scantily clad, and were bare-footed and bare-legged, the latter being more prominent in the girl's case, from her having (since her frock had been made for her) taken one of those periodical shoots upward that children are accustomed to make, whereby the lower part of the leg protruded very much more beyond the frock than had been originally intended. They were two pretty interesting children, although they stood gaping at us with that bashful, half-wondering, half-spoony look so often seen on the faces of youngsters who are unaccustomed to strangers. The boy simply stood in open mouthed astonishment, whilst the girl assumed an attitude of a most remarkable kind, and one perfectly emblematical of Australian mauvaise honte. Raising the left leg, she rested the left foot against the inside of the right knee, the left knee being thus projected sideways nearly at right angles, the body being mean- while poised upon the right foot only. This attitude, not unlike that of a goose on a dull day, she maintained, steady as a rock, although upon one foot only, until we had passed.
A few words passed between the children and our guide in reference to . “Ball " who hadn't come home, and to "Daisy" who had calved, and then we caught sight of a tall, stalwart, but not very smart-moving man, who, with a bucket of milk in his hand, was coming out of the stockyard, where he had evidently just finished his morning's work of milking. This was our man, the padrone of the establishment, upon the plenitude or emptiness of whose harness cask our fate depended.
"At him, Tom," cried Nat and I, for we knew that if a negotiation was to be carried on successfully, it would be so by our companion. Cautiously Tom attacked him with the weather and the season, and then with the stages and distances on our route, into which Tom with his usual judgment managed to introduce some facetious small talk with a view of making a favourable impression. At last, fancying he had gained some ground, he put the question,
" Oh ! by the by,"-as if he had forgotten it till then, " can you sell us a piece of Bait meat ; we have unluckily come away from Manly without any."
We listened breathlessly for the reply, and Nat even turned pale with anxiety. " No," at last he said, " I've been out of it these three days, and my missus has gone into Sydney to see the doctor and get some." Here we were thin done again.
Our nautical guide, who seemed to take considerable interest in our proceedings, now came up, and told us he was sure that Collins had none, or else he would not have denied it to us.
" But what," asked I, "did he mean by saying that his wife had gone to the doctor's to get some."
The seaman looked at me with something like contempt.
"Why, you don't suppose as how she gets corned beef at the doctor's ?" he asked.
"Well, I thought not, and that made me wonder."
"Wonder !" said he, " there ain't nothing wonderful in a woman wanting the doctor. Hanged if I think women are ever happy unless they are running after the doctor." This was a physiological fact that I had never noticed, and I told him so.
" Well," he replied, " you would notice it if you lived here- away ; for you would see that all the women about wanted the doctor every fortnight or so."
"Dear me," said I, " it must be a very unhealthy neighbourhood."
"Not at all," he answered, "but," and here he sank his voice mysteriously, and winked knowingly at Tom-" it's my opinion "that it's all ribbons!"
I didn't see how ribbons made the doctor necessary, but of course Tom did, and roared with laughter. Nat looked to Nauticus for an explanation. "Why, don't you see," and he appeared disgusted at our slowness of perception, " a fortnight of the bush tires 'em, and they want to see what's going on in Sydney, and what bargains is to be had in ribbons, and so a little cough, or a headache, or a queerness, or something or other, and then they must see the doctor."
Nat looked with admiration upon this man of enquiring mind, who had made so important a discovery; and I could not help thinking that there was much to be learned from what I had just been told. Many a husband, whose wife wants the doctor, might if he chose to sit down patiently and trace the matter out, find that, after all, it was only-r-ribbons.
This important question settled, he asked us if we felt inclined to try the swamp road-we might get a duck, and he would pilot us. Of course we did; ducks were the very objects of our ambition. He didn't know how the road was after the late rains, but would ask;- He did ask, and Collins' told, him it was up to the waist in water. We had had quite enough that morning of water up to the knee, and didn't feel inclined to dip any deeper in it that day; and not even the prospect of roast duck could induce Nat or me to undergo such an immersion; We had no alternative, then, but to fall back en the road we had left, and this we did by crossing the paddock diagonally, thus reaching the corner of the fence, after the perilous passage of a deep, muddy creek, by means of a tree thrown across it, and forming a very precarious bridge, not from any want of solidity, but from the slippery nature of the stem.
Arrived once more upon the honeysuckle flat that bordered Narrabeen, we had gone only a short distance along it, when Nauticus laid his hand upon my arm, " Is your gun loaded?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered.
"You want meat, don't you ?" I stared savagely at him, but acquiesced.
"There it is running about almost under your nose." I looked forward through the bushes and perceived a few sheep, and, a dozen paces bringing me on to some slightly rising ground, I saw that there was a whole flock feeding there. Acceptable as a leg of mutton would have been just then, I had a slight suspicion that the owner of the sheep might have objected to an appropriation of any portion of his flock without his assent ; and I hinted as much to our guide.
"It's just a matter of taste," he growled, "if I was hungry, I know I'd-" What he would do under such distressing circumstances was lost in the deep bass into which his voice sank, or I should have been only too delighted to have given it as a guide for travellers who might hereafter be placed in a similar trying situation.
It was, however, perhaps, just as well that I did not take the advice of our friend, for, though no shepherd appeared in sight, yet we had not gone very far before we perceived, I will not say a shepherdess, but certainly a guardian protem to the flock, in the person of a lady, young and apparently not ill-looking, dressed in appropriate riding costume of habit and broad leafed hat, who was standing by the side of her horse, which she permitted to crop the short sweet grass at his feet whilst she was admiringly regarding the feeding flock. Only for one instant did she turn her eyes on us as we filed past at about a hundred yards distance from her and our appearance having evidently no possible interest for her, she again brought them on to the sheep in whose matutinal repast her whole attention was absorbed.
We soon left the flat, and began to mount the sides of some heavy, stony ridges, which the flock we had just passed had entirely denuded of everything having the slightest claim to the name of grass; and for some two miles the road was all up hill and down hill, mounting a long steep rise on one side merely to descend it on the other. A number of short broken ridges occur here starting off from the main range, in most confused style, and making this up-and-down work absolutely necessary. At last, however, we came down upon a long ridge of sand banks, composed of coarse sea sand, evidently thrown up in some former day by the mighty ocean. In this, tufts of harsh wiry grass were growing, intermingled with the fleshy, salcolaceous plants so frequently found in the immediate neighbourhood of the Australian coast. Here and there occurred thick groves of honeysuckle, though dwarfed by the powerful and salt-laden breezes off the sea. We could now perceive that we were not far from the edge of a long sandy beach, which extended to the light of our road, I should say, at a rough guess, nearly a couple of miles.
On our left, a long range of swamps, all full of water, and some of them of very considerable extent, ran along far as the eye could reach in advance of our path, bearing a little to the east of north, and ending between the points of two ridges, which appeared almost to meet each other, but which in reality are widely apart, the extensive muddy flat that forms the southernmost extremity of Pittwater lying between them. Into this is emptied all the surplus water of these lagoons that lie so near the sea, and are indeed only separated from it by the low narrow range of sand-hills I have before described. We could see also that this range of lagoons ran a long way back to the southward, and, as far as we were able to judge, must have been some ten or twelve miles in length.
Standing upon the most prominent of these sand-hills, and running the eye along the line of low land that intervenes between this spot and the head of Pittwater, the particular name of which is, I believe, Creel Bay, one cannot help feeling impressed with the certainty that at no very distant epoch, the long peninsula that commences here and terminates at Barranjuee, was an island. How the present barrier of sand-hills has been formed, whether by an up heaving of the land, or by deposition by the waves, is for somebody more versed in such matters than myself to say. .
"Do you see the smoke rising from beyond that bank ?" said our guide. Yes, of course, we all saw it.
"That is Lush's, he rejoined, and of course we were all delighted to hear it, for here we had determined to fix our headquarters. At the same time the barren- ness of the land we had passed through, more particularly in regard to the interesting article of beef, caused certain serious misgivings to enter our minds. What if the mistress of the house was subject to the periodical visitations that Nauticus had alluded to, and had gone " to see the doctor and get some ?"
The prospect was too miserable to be contemplated. But we walked on in stem resolution, determined to brave our fate, even if it should come in the shape of pumpkins and honey, the last resources of the Pitt Water larders ; and to sacrifice ourselves if need be in the cause of enquiry by laving down our bones to bleach in the desert ranges. In my excitement I happened to make this latter remark aloud, when Tom at once corrected me by informing me that our bones would not bleach in the damp bush-they would only get green mouldy. Nat, with his usual grin, told me that I ought to have said, " laying down our bones to frighten the poor little wallabi from their play."
"Talking about laying down bones," said our self constituted guide, "it's just about here that old Foley was supposed to be shot,"
"Here? Foley! shot !" we ejaculated.
“Yes, his cart and the body was found over yonder, and they traced the blood up to here, where it is supposed he got his settler." This, of course, made us exceedingly anxious to learn all the particulars of the occurrence, and we questioned our companion respecting them. He knew but little of the matter, but that little whetted our curiosity, and subsequent inquiry brought out all that has as yet been known relative to this bloody tragedy.
It was a cruel and a cowardly deed that had been committed some thirteen years back -in 1849, I believe. Foley was a well to-do settler, occupying at the time the farm, to which we were then making our way. On the morning of the day on which he met his death he had, in company with his farm servant, driven his cart to Middle Harbour for the purpose of taking butter and other produce to market. Arrived there he had sent on his man with the produce and had himself returned homewards. He was seen by several settlers to pass their places, at one or two of which he stopped, and he had called also at the house the nearest to his own on his road home. That home he never reached alive.
The usual hour of his return having passed, his wife became uneasy, and accompanied by her two daughters, grown up girls, went on the road to meet him. Hardly had they gone half a mile, when they came upon the cart, completely overturned in the bush, and lying upon the old man's body, the horse between the shafts, but on his back and so incapable of freeing himself. Poor Foley was brought home a corpse to the house, which he had so recently left in good health, and then an examination of the body showed that he had been the victim of some dastardly assassin. Two shot wounds, either sufficient to have caused death, were discovered in his back, piercing the body through. It would appear that the old man must have been sitting unconcernedly in his cart, as he passed the bush behind which his cowardly murderers were concealed and that, the moment his back was turned to the ambush, the felon shots were fired that sent the poor victim, without warning "unanseled, unanealed," into the awful presence of his Maker.
The horse had doubtless taken fright at the shots fired so near him, and had bolted, but the wheels of the cart having come into contact with a tree or a stump, the vehicle had over-turned with such violence as to throw the horse upon his back, and thus to prevent him from bringing home his ghastly bleeding burden. Two persons on whom suspicion had fallen, on account of some misunderstanding having occurred between them and the murdered man, were arrested and committed for trial on the coroner's warrant, but the evidence produced against one of them who was tried, so little touched him that he was acquitted, and the other was discharged from custody without trial. There the matter has hitherto rested, and this, like many another deed of blood, for it is all nonsense to say that
"murder will out," is doubtless decreed by the All-wise to pass unpunished by man. Unknown of all but the Omniscient, the murderer stalks abroad in security, but who can say that the blood-bedabbled figure of the old man does not walk forth at his side by day and stand at his bed by night, blighting his path and haunting his dreams.
The details of this tragedy had so far whiled away the time that, almost before we were aware of it, we found ourselves in sight of the homestead of Mona Vale, better known-amongst the peninsularies as Lush's, and consequently close to it, since it is so nestled down amidst the sand hills that surround it, as to be unperceived until you are within hundred yards of it. We found it a neat looking little place so far as outside appearance went, not evidently the worse for wear, like every building we had then met, and I may add, like every one we afterwards came to in the district. It had, at one time, been a dwelling of some pretension, as was evident from the stabling, fowl-house, and dairy, now somewhat dilapidated; and from the enclosed garden in front of the house, in which flowering plants, roses, pinks and geraniums, struggled manfully for existence with the strangling couch grass, amidst which they were all but buried. A large stockyard, in which was a shed, covering in the milking bails and calf pen, lay to the north of the house, the venerable grey hue of the timber speaking for the antiquity of the construction, as well as for the durable character of our colonial timber, since the posts, though somewhat eaten away by decay below the surface, were still sound and hard as flint above it. At the back of the domicile, or east- ward, the high sandbanks sheltered it from the fierce Sharp breezes from the ocean, though the surf, as it curled and dashed upon the long sandy beach, roared and moaned incessantly in such close proximity as to be inconvenient until the ear had got accustomed to the sound.
To the right, or northerly, a high range, terminating in a rocky headland which jutted far out into the sea, and abruptly ending the long line of beach, arose almost bluffly from the edge of a small paddock reserved for a kitchen garden; whilst southerly, a close belt of honeysuckles protected it. To the front or westward, the view was open, extending along the broad clear flat which I have before spoken of as reaching to the head of Pittwater, and a large portion of which I could now see was enclosed, thereby forming a vast paddock. Beyond this again the prospect was bounded on the right by the fall of the Baranjuee ranges, and on the left by the great Lane Cove range, and the complicated series of tortuous ridges that ramify from it.
The gallant Spanker, whose doings I have too long failed to record, albeit that he was throughout our avant courier, running ahead particularly when approaching a station, thereby bringing upon him- self the savage enmity of every dog on the location, and at the same time withdrawing their polite attention from ourselves, not in the least, it must be confessed, to our displeasure ; the gallant Spanker then, as usual, went forward, whether to announce us, to see how the land lay, or to forage for some stray bone, I am not prepared to say ; but going forward, even to the door of the house, the ordinary consequence followed-the dogs of the establishment rushed out upon and attacked him, and finally ejected him ignominiously from the sacred precincts enclosed by the garden fence. The jolly confusion that ensued from the barking and wrangling of the dogs, from Tom's insane shouts at the animals, and from the hearty laughter of Nat, and myself, had all the effect that we could possibly desire, since it gave the alarm to the household and drew them all to the door, Foremost amongst them was the matron of the establishment, her young brood hanging round her in wonder, not unmixed with alarm at the rude Vandal- like irruption that was being made upon their peaceful abode.
" We're right," said Nat. " She's not gone to the doctor's."
"But where's the master?" I suggested that perhaps it was " his turn," and Nat rewarded me with a Mephistophiles grin.
We deputed Tom, as usual, to open negotiations. He was an old friend of the master of the house, who was not at the doctor's, but at work in the bush. Beef ? Oh, yes, only too happy to oblige us with a piece; but it was going to rain, wouldn't we come inside. Come inside, of course. We asked nothing better, the more especially as the clouds had been coming up heavier and heavier, until now one so weightly charged with moisture as to be able no longer to bear its burden commenced discharging it in so smart a fashion as to lender some kind of shelter imperatively necessary, unless we intended to get wet through. The mistress of the establishment most thoughtfully looked after our welfare, by directing us to relieve ourselves of our loads, and by placing us in comfortable seats around the fire, upon which logs were heaped in true bush fashion, causing the flame to roar and leap up joyously as if to welcome us. Didn't we enjoy the shelter and the warmth? Didn't we snuggle ourselves up by the chimney corner, as we heard the squall moaning and tearing past, and the rain, drops patter-pattering upon the roof, and splash- splashing upon the ground ? I rather fancy we did. But that which formed the chief attraction for us, was a vast three-legged iron pot, which hung over the fire, and the steam from which sent forth an odour so savoury, so captivating to our olfactories, that, after having once inhaled it, I am sure, from the savagely determined glance that passed between Nat and Tom, that nothing but force, and superior force, too, would ever have driven them from that spot without a share of its contents.
Right: Passing showers, Mona Vale by Harold Cazneaux, circa 1935. Picture No.: nla.pic-an2384473, courtesy National Library of Australia.
For myself, I am a mild and inoffensive man, despite the ferocious air that my moustaches give me, but I am sure that if any attempt had just then been made to oust me, I should have yielded to it only after a desperate struggle with -my strong appetite and my wounded feelings. Having attended to us, the thoughts of the good wife reverted to the husband. To think of his being out in the bush in such a heavy shower-he would get so wet- and he had no coat. I slightly suspected that he would under such circumstances ; though, of course, I did not add to the uxorial uneasiness by saying so; but, on the contrary, suggested that he was sheltered under some tree, I was rewarded by a kind smile for my suggestion, and was almost melted to tears thereat, as I looked hopefully towards the pot whose contents were steaming and bubbling-now sputtering over in a mad leap, and then trickling down the iron sides on to the red logs, which hissed and cracked at the contact.
The heavy squall had passed, but a steady drizzling rain had followed it; it was getting near dinner time-they have meals at very primitive hours in this our newly-discovered land and some measures must be taken to rescue the master of the house from his difficulties. I suggested that Tom might take a coat, and go and hunt him out - he was so clever that he couldn't miss him. I should have said more, but Tom's look of savage ferocity silenced me; and before he could reply, the daughter of the house, a fine young girl of seventeen, said she would go. She wasn't sugar nor salt - and here me thought she looked contemptuously at the three of the nobler sex, croodling round the fire-and she wouldn't melt with a little wet. No sooner said than done, and just as I had made up a nice little speech in defence, and was turning round to utter it, she disappeared through the door taking with her coverings for her father and brother. Anxiously I deprecated the wrath of the matron, but was told shortly, that it would have been no use for me to go, for if I had, I shouldn't have found him-a statement perfectly agreeing with my own private impressions. I, fearing that we had lost ground by the last move, began to get uneasy, and so couldn't find a word to say for myself. How I envied Tom the easy nonchalance with which he talked about nothing; the authoritative air with which he retailed anecdotes of celebrated personages; the profoundly critical manner in which he discussed dress and fashion from the last new bonnet down to the latest style of hoops; and the dignified mode in which he stated with certainty the intentions of the Ministry. I envied him, because I saw that the citadel was rapidly yielding to his clever sap, and that we who already occupied the outworks would soon be in triumphant possession of the whole place.
A brief half hour had scarcely passed, when a cry of " Here's father !" from one of the children, warned us of the arrival of the master of the house. Tom immediately rushed out. See he joins him-they recognise each other-they, no they don't rush into each others arms, that would be too much in the novelette style-but they shake hands as good honest Englishmen ought to do-I hear him address Tom as " Tom"-Hurrah !-I feel now that I have a vested interest in the iron pot.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 8). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13058404
(from the Sydney Mail, July 13.)
THERE are few feelings more jolly than that which your wayfarer experiences after he has disposed of a good hearty solid dinner. It is relief to take off the heavy load from the shoulders, it is luxury to sit down and rest free from the burden, it is beatitude to inhale the fragrance of the friendly pipe, but one is raised to the seventh heaven after the "tightener " as the blacks expressively call it. None but he who has undergone the ordeal can tell the inexpressible relief it is to the " gentleman of the Press" when in a heavy debute some blundering outsider catches the speaker's eye, just as one of the great guns of the House, armed with a host of authorities that are piled in fearful heaps before him, is about to rise. None can tell the joy he feels when, after some discussion long drawn out, but which can achieve no possible result the mover rises to reply. None can tell the savage delight he experiences when the honorable House breaks off from some wearying question into a "point of order" or of “privilege," or the ecstasy with which he jots down some of the flowers of oratory that drop from hon. members during some scene of personal recrimination. In all these, however, mingle a spirit of wild vindictiveness, springing from the knowledge of all that he has "to be, to do, and to suffer."
And here I may, by the way, remark that I have often thought that to him may be applied the pitying exclamation of the young school girl, who being informed, on the authority of Lindley Murray of the characteristics by which verbs might be known, ejaculated, "Pour little things, what they must have to put up with." And so it is with your "gentleman, of the Press." He has to be a gentleman, and yet to suffer the treatment of a lackey from men not quite his equals in mental calibre. He has to do all sorts of things, and know something about every one of them, from the highest and most complicatedly knotted political point down to the most barbarous and un-euphemistic aboriginal name; for should he make the slightest mistake, forthwith comes a letter to the editor, in the most freeingly polite terms, informing him that at the meeting last night the speaker made allusion to "Tubbabutta," and not to "tub o' buller," as reported. He has to be hustled in crowds, and to be poked about by policemen for pushing himself too forward. He has to be perched up on a hustings in full view of encited independent electors, exposed to their coarse jukes and mobocratic witticisms. He has to dine at public dinners, at which, until the cloth is removed and the speeches begin, he is regarded as an interloper; and worse than all, he has to sit at public meetings in which he has not the slightest interest, and to listen to political statements in which facts are so glaringly distorted as to make his hair bristle up in horror as he transcribes them.
But-here I am off on my old grievance again when all I wanted to any was that the relief and ecstacy of the reporter had an alloy of savageness in it, whilst the beatitude of the "tightener" was supreme. It is almost needless to say after this that we had our share of the contents of that interesting pot, and that we polished off with bread and honey to such an extent as to perfectly confound the juveniles, who, I promise you, had never before witnessed such gastronomic feats as were then executed. The rain still continued, and as the day was wearing away, it was unanimously agreed, on the recommendation of the magister domi, that we should postpone our attack upon the wallobies until the following morning, when, with on early start, we should have the prospect of a good day's sport before us.
Our host's son, Frank, volunteered to be our guide, and promised to show us as many as we liked if we could only shoot them. And here he broke out into details of the haphazard adventures of others, who, like ourselves, had manfully trusted themselves in this unknown region. A professor of the sword and bayonet had recently been there, in company with another, bringing with, them dogs, guns, and an outfit sufficient to clear the bush of walloby; but the Fates were unpropitious. The skies had opened, and the rains had fallen for three days in succession, keeping them close prisoners to the house, so that, with the first break in the tangled mass of clouds, they packed up and returned, leaving this region of storm and rain for one of more hospitable character. A young Frenchman had also visited them, boasting loudly of his skill at shooting, and only fearing that no wallobies would be met with. Frank had told him, as he told us, that he would take him to them, if he would or could shoot them. So certain of this was our young Frenchman that he promised Frank half-a-crown for every walloby he showed him. "To shoot them," said he, " that is my affair." The next day, Frank took him to the bush. Walloby after walloby was put up, was fired at, and was missed; until at last the climax was put to Frank's discontent, by the young Gaul firing at almost à bout portaut, and missing a grey old man, who had perched himself on a stump, possibly for the purpose of ascertaining what all this tiring without result was intended for, and who had waited with a knowing kind of don't-you-wish-you-may-get-me look about him, until they were close up to him. "I could have shot him with a pistol," said Frank, "as easy as falling off a log, and when he missed that one, I cut it." Frank's feelings were the more especially lacerated, as it had been stipulated that he was not to take his gun with him, so that the sport of the Frenchman might not be interfered with.
"And how many did you show him?" I asked.
"About a dozen," said Frank.
" Thirty shillings. Not a bad day's work," I observed.
“Yes, if I'd have got it."
"Of course, he paid you?" said I.
"He did-hook;" and Frank went through some juvenile pantomine expressive of astonishment at my softness, and finally subsided into a comer where he commenced a romp with a pet cat.
The rain however cleared off in the afternoon, and, as ducks were said to resort after dark in large numbers to the waterholes, that skirted the line of the paddocks, we resolved to have a go in for them; and the better to effect our purpose we proposed to erect small huts of boughs sufficiently large to cover us when kneeling and to screen us from the quick vision of the nightly visitors. A good sized honey-suckle was quickly thrown down, and its boughs lopped off, and these we drew down to the side of the pond, nearest the house, each man making his own hut, in the spot of his selection. The pool was about twenty yards across, and about thirty rods in length, with a thick growth of reed, sedge, and chickweed, over the greater part of it; but, along the centre was a stretch of clear water, sometimes widening, some- times narrowing, and it was into this that the ducks delighted to plunge; of course our object in placing our screens was to get them in such a position as to rake the greatest possible length of the clear water.
Our host selected his ground with considerable skill, his knowledge of the locale causing him to do this without difficulty. He built his hut nearly at the centre of the western line of the pond, the clear water making a bend in to the shore just at that spot, by which he obtained a good inking fire both to the right and to the left. Tom was placed considerably to the right of our host, not in a very good position as regarded the water firing, but in an admirable place for shooting on the wing-since the birds, when disturbed would be sure, according to our host's account, to take in that direction. For myself, following our host's example, I took up a good raking position, but on the eastern side of the pool, and rather prided myself upon the judgmatical way in which I had made my arrangements; but, from the wicked twinkle that I noticed in the eyes of our host, I anticipated that I had made some blunder somewhere. However our work was finished before dark, and we then went up to the house, had an early tea, and just as darkness was struggling for the mastery over the last gleams of light, we escanced ourselves in our leafy screens, in preparation for the chant à la hutte. At 8 I stood outside my mi a-mia, I was pleased to find that the light was reflected in first-rate style off the clear water, and of course I had no longer any dread of not being able to see the ducks when they came; but when I entered my honey-suckle bower, knelt down, and took a look out through the opening I had left for firing, I was disgusted at discovering that the shade of the bank encroached, in consequence of my being down so near its level, over fully one half the pool. I got out, stood upright, and looked-all ,was clear and bright; I went in again and knelt, and, lo, one half the clearness and brightness was gone. I now understood the sly look of our host at hearing my glorification of my camp. I had the light or what little there was left of it right in front of me, and consequently the shadow from the opposite bank told against me. No matter, perhaps, the ducks might come into the visible half; vain hope ! As the light faded away in the west, sinking lower and lower, the line of shadow stretched over the pond further and further, until all was one dark inky black, into which, in so far as I was concerned, five hundred ducks might come and disport themselves in security, as I could never see one of them.
But, hush! there is a "quack! quack!" from a large pool on my left, answered by another from a pool on my right, and responded to by a similar musical sound overhead, whilst the rapid whirr of wings proclaims' the approach of our game. Presently there is a splash, splash, splash, in the water before me, and I know that three ducks have descended, under my very nose; and that I- miserable man that I am-cannot see them. I can hear no water ripple as they move about - I can hear their beaks dibbling amongst the sedges, and their low confidential communications and anatanine small talk; but, for me, they might just as well be in the black lagoon of our companion Nauticus as here. I am half tempted to rush out and chance a shot, when bang! goes our host's gun. There is a "quack, quack," a splash, and a sound of wings, and then bang! goes Tom's gun as the birds fly past him. I lie disconsolately in my lair, and hear with grim delight that they have hit nothing. I wait and wait, and hear several splashes in the water, but no shots from my friends opposite, they being by this time in about as bad a predicament as my self, through the darkness of the night "making the blue one black." Our host is the first to move, and, taking a tour round his side of the pond, starts up one or two ducks that he can't see, and which, of course, he can't shoot.
When I see this, I don't trouble myself to beat up my side, but simply walk away homewards, and I am joined by Tom, We were about to enter the garden gate, when we suddenly heard a bow-wow-wow! a short distance to our left.
"The dog has tree'd a 'possum," said Tom. I thought it very likely, but suggested the improbability of our being able to see it, on such a night,
"Never mind," rejoined Tom, "let's go and have a look, at all events."
As possums were game, I didn't mind, and so we hurried over to where one of the dogs of our host stood barking, excitedly under a small tree, making occasional desperate attempts to climb up. I looked up, but could see nothing. Tom, however, examined the tree carefully, and then suddenly exclaimed, "By Jupiter, I see his eyes!"
I looked to where he pointed, and certainly there could be no mistake about the eyes, for there they were, like two lit coals of fire. In an instant, Tom's gun was at his shoulder, a flame and a report, and then followed a wild demoniac shriek, such as certainlv never came from the throat of an opossum, that beast being in the habit of taking the leaden pills prepared for it by man in the most easy and noiseless manner. We were not laft long in doubt. Catching wildly at the branches amongst which it crashed in its descent, it came to the ground with a heavy thud, and the dog at once sprung at it. He sprang at it quickly, but more quickly did he jump back again, uttering loud yelps of pain. We ran up, and seeing the wounded animal struggling on the ground, I dropped the butt of my piece upon it, and so rubbed it out. Tom then caught it by the tail, and held it up to examine it, when, by the little light given out by the stars we were just able to perceive that we had shot-our host's cat !
With feelings very nearly akin as I should imagine to those experienced by murderers, we held a hurried consultation, in which we mutually recognised the necessity for secrecy, and in pursuance of which we performed the funeral obsequies of poor Pussy at once and on the spot. The interment was rather a hasty one, owing to the darkness of the night, and to our anxiety to put out of sight the evidence of our bloody deed. We rooted a hole in a sand-hill with the butts of our fowling-pieces, deposited the body therein, and hastily covered it over with the sand, which we trod down with our feet. This done, we returned towards the house, with somewhat relieved, but far from easy minds.
Of course on entering we were questioned as to what we had fired at, and our possum shooting on such a night became the theme upon which no small quantity of jokes was based. How I looked I cannot say, but poor Tom had the pale, frightened air of one with "fifty mortal murders on his soul;" and his ghostly attempts to smile at Nat's hard grim jokes were perfectly painful to witness. As time went on we gradually regained our equanimity, and in the course of half-an-hour Tom was himself again. For the delectation of the company he introduced his favourite scena of "The old woman from Botany," the ancient dame being represented by one of the performer’s hands being held in a particular manner, with a handkerchief arranged round it in the form of a mob cap; and the conversation being carried on ventriloquistically, Tom was in the midst of the most interesting portion of his colloquy with the old lady, by which he was eliciting thunders of applause from the juvenile portion of his audience, when suddenly there came a mysterious thwack against the door, followed by the low growl of a dog, and then by a snort and a shake, Spanker, who had been a most interested spectator of Tom's manouvres, immediately started to the door, gave a long whistling sniff at the crack beneath it, and then with a growl made frantic efforts to get out.
Tom turned deadly pale, as he dismissed the ancient lady most ignominiously; and I expected nothing less than that the door would burst open, and that pussy's ghost would enter and denounce us as her murderers. "What the deuce is the matter ?" said our host, as he sprung to the door, where the shaking and bumping seemed to be going on vigorously. His question was answered as soon as the door was opened, and the light had streamed upon the scene that was enacting. There was the deceiver of a dog that had led us into our difficulty-like that other dog whose fame the nursery poet has rendered imperishable,-"worrying the cat," that cat which had been the pride of the household and the especial favourite of its mistress.
In our haste, we had thought only of the cat, and, had forgotten all about the dog, of whom we had altogether lost sight after his yelping retreat. He, however, had not lost sight of us, and being determined to have some kind of satisfaction for the claying he had received about the nose, had scratched up pussy's carcase, to which our slovenly burial offered no very great impediment, and had brought it up to the house, so that he might have the agreeable amusement of shaking it every now and again whenever the pain of his nose reminded him of the insult he had undergone.
The children at once rushed forward and claimed the carcase, now caressing the once lively favourite, and now addressing Tom with "Oh, Mr. Tom, how could you!" The host muttered and growled, and they were certainly not prayers that he was saying; Nat was going through a series of bottle-imp laughs, after the O. Smith style; our hostess said nothing, but she looked daggers-not at me, for I had wisely slunk into the back ground-but at Tom, who, now that the worst had come, had evidently determined to brazen it out.
"Well," said Frank, " you are a nice sportsman ! "
" Yes," responded Tom, looking down demurely at the cat; "it was a pity, wasn't it?"
Here, of course, we had a world of lamentations over the poor animal, all its amiability, all its virtues and good qualities were set forth, each vieing with the other in their anecdotes. This, of course turned attention for the moment from us, and in thus acting Tom, as usual, showed his good generalship. Before the matter came round again to our criminality, Tom, by parallel anecdotes of cats he had known that always did something beyond what this cat could do, gradually worked the conversation into another channel; the feeling of irritation was expelled, and, at last, in spite of the protests of the juveniles, pussy's carcase was ignominiously expelled from the house, Tom himself taking it by the tail, and slinging it, as he said, " to the other side of next week."
We had had a long and a wearying day ; our early rising had made it the one, and our journeyings and our disappointments had made it the other. We were not therefore inclined to sit late into the night, but, taking the first favourable opportunity that offered, we pleaded fatigue, and were shown to comfortable beds under shelter of a good roof. Summing up the events of the day, we could hardly come to the conclusion that it was calculated to add to our sporting honours. We had missed the ducks and had shot a cat-the latter by no means a favourable omen, according to the old Roman saying.
" Never mind," said Tom, as he pulled off his obstinate watertights, that just as pertinaciously refused to come off as they had contumaciously objected to go on; "never mind; we have had a good feed, and here we are in good quarters. I told you what I could do. Only you trust to me and you'll see."
After that, what could I do but go to sleep, full of faith in the inexhaustibility of Tom's resources, and I should have done so but for a leaven of doubt that was put into my mind by the sententious opinion of Nat, who, whilst putting on his nightcap-a red comforter tied turban-fashion -round his head-declared, "That the man who could mistake a household cat for an opossum, was just as likely to conceive a barn door fowl to be a wonga wonga."
This was said with so grave and Minerva-like an air as to deeply impress me, and before I could come to any settled, conclusion between the two conflicting opinions, I was sound asleep. It needed not the lullaby sung by the waves, as with low moans they broke upon the beach, to send me off to sleep. No, I was dead beat, and curlews might scream, ducks might call, and opossums might whistle, and still I should sleep on; and not even Tom's objurgations on his boots, or his Jeremiads over the morrow's anticipated difficulties in regard to them, could waken me.
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 15). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13065945
(From the Sydney Mail, July 20)
If ever a man slept soundly, I did that night, so much so that the hours of darkness were a perfect blank. I remembered nothing, dreamt of nothing from the time I lay down to when I awoke at the first peep of day; and I consequently turned out thoroughly re-invigorated and ready for the perils, dangers, and adventures of the coming day. I had considerable difficulty to get Tom from between the blankets.
"You see, Charlie," he said, "I should like to make an early move, but it won't do to wake up the family."
I bade him listen to the little voices that were chattering and laughing in an adjoining room. He could make no reply to this, so he first rolled himself vindictively up in his blankets, as though to feel to the fullest extent and in its highest perfection the luxury he was quitting, and then with a spring threw them off him, and, with a reproachful look at me, commenced to dress. I next approached Nat, but he informed me that he was not going to get up in the middle of the night for any one. Prayers, entreaties, promises, were of no avail. Did I want him to dress by candlelight? No, he wouldn’t. And so he pulled his nightcap lower down, and his blankets higher up over his head, and declined to make further answer.
Placed in this position I had only one alternative, a cruel one I will admit, but still the last resource, and I was compelled to adopt it. I set the door and window wide open, letting in the cold current of the morning air, which, frosty and biting, would, I knew, soon make master Nat move. For a few seconds he lay still. He then began to dodge about, tucking the blanket in, now here, now there, as the piercing breeze insinuated itself into every crevice that was left, and after a vain struggle with the persistent enemy, put his head out from beneath the blanket. One glance showed him what had been done, and another, the author of the mischief, grinning at his discomfiture; so, seizing a boot, he hurled it at my head, but of course hit the door-post, for gentlemen who throw boots in their passion never hit the mark they aim at. My object, however, was gained, for he was now so thoroughly roused that there was no chance of his going to sleep again in a hurry, so I quietly got myself out of the way of the other boot, which might possibly have been directed with more coolness, and with better aim.
A kettle doesn't take long to boil over a regular bush fire, and breakfast was therefore speedily underway. During the time of its preparation Tom was walking about in a most uneasy state of mind. Those boots! That was all he said, but oh ! what a commentary did those two monosyllables contain. I ought to have mentioned, that owing to our night walking through the long grass, and to our ducking exploits in the marsh, our boots had got perfectly saturated, and Tom's watertights had proved themselves unworthy of their name, except in so far as that they pertinaciously retained all the water that entered into them through soles end uppers until they became full, when the superabundance was squelched out over the tops with every tread of poor Tom's foot. His first care had been to dry them by the fire, but this process, by contracting the leather, had rather curtailed the space required for the wearer's feet; and so, to remedy this, he had thoroughly greased them, rubbing them until they shone again with the fat,-very much to Nat's admiration, who forthwith put his boots through a similar course of treatment.
Notwithstanding their brilliancy, Tom still regarded them with a rueful eye, not daring to make the effort to put them on, "for " said he, "I shall get out of temper with them, and that will spoil my appetite; and besides, I shall be stronger for the struggle after feeding." I admired his philosophic mode of regarding the matter, though Nat, far from doing so, remarked grimly, "That a boot that had to be got on had better be got on at once."
This was also a philosophic view on the other side of the question, and I was again thrown into a dilemma. However, breakfast was ready, and we all sat down and made a hearty meal. Nat and I only had to don our sporting accoutrements, but as the weather was lowering, and as one or two insignificant showers had fallen, Nat suddenly declared that he would stop at the station and fish, whilst we beat up the wallabi. We had no objection to urge, and so buckling on my belt and hanging my powder flask round my neck, I shouldered my gun and was ready for the Road. Frank and the master of the house were by my side, fully equipped, and then we turned to look for Tom. He was not visible, but from a back room a low growling, occasionally bursting out into a prolonged grunt, was heard to proceed, and then I knew that Tom was struggling with his boots. We all ran to the spot, and there was Tom, red in the face with the exertions that had caused the perspiration to run in heavy beads down his cheek and drip from his chin- "larding the lean earth." One boot, by a giant effort, made when fresh from the feed, had been secured, but the other defied every exertion, although Tom declared that he had made efforts that had brought him to the very verge of bursting a blood-vessel. The services of all hands were at once put into requisition, and Tom's pedal extremeties were mauled and twisted until he was made to halloo again. In the midst of the struggle, Spanker came to see what was the matter, and finding us all surrounding Tom, made a push into the centre of the ruck, to perform, if necessary, his part of the work. In doing this he insinuated himself between Nat's legs, just as he was making a Titanic heave, threw him over, and pitched him slap into our host's chest. The two, when they found themselves going, gripped firmly by Tom's leg to maintain their equilibrium, and capsised him also. Tom jumped up, vowing vengeance on the dog, and rather glad to have the chance of venting his rage upon anything, whilst Spanker, perceiving the mischief he had done, quickly cleared out. Tom rushed forward and made a kick at him as he went through the door, but caught the post instead of the dog, his foot coming with such violence against the solid ironbark, as to see him dancing about the house like a madman, for the next five minutes. When he had cooled down, miraculous to relate, his boot was on, whether by that last hoist that had carried him, Nat and the padrone over together, or whether by that kick at the door post will always remain a mystery.
This happy consummation reached, the rest was all plain sailing, and Tom was speedily in full sporting order.
We left the house in an opposite direction to that by which we had reached it, and as we passed over the cleared ground-only a very short space be it said-our host, gave his directions:
" You must all keep as quiet as you can," said he ; "and walk as carefully as possible, for the cracking of a stick will startle them."
We both promised not to say a word, and not to tread on a single stick.
"And now there is only one thing more," he added, " take care of the leeches!"
"But," said I, "we are not going into the swamps? "
"No," he answered, " in the ranges."
"In the ranges ? Leeches in the ranges? " The idea of leeches in the ranges seemed too absurd.
" Yes, in the ranges. There's where you'll find them worst! So look out."
I thought this some of our host's banter, although he spoke seriously. I was well aware of the prevalence of leeches in the low swampy grounds and waterholes, but I had never before met with them on the ranges. My blood began to run cold at the very idea, and as I am neither stout nor fleshy I began making a mental computation of how many of these ugly striped animals it would take to deprive me of all the blood in my body. The "tottle" I arrived at did not by any means tend to reassure me, and from that moment my enjoyment was gone, leeches, that would travel up ranges and attack unoffending sportsmen on dry land, were a monstrosity, and I had fullen upon a country of horrors.
Right: View near Pittwater - 1857 sketch. Image No: anl8003895, courtesy National Library of Australia.
Still, I was committed to the expedition, and felt bound in honour to go through with it, though, had I been left to myself, this piece of information would have sent me straight home at once. Tom declared that "it was nothing when you were used to it." and as I generally take him as an authority, I thought that perhaps it mightn’t be, and so pushed on ahead. About two hundred yards from the house we found ourselves in the wild bush, travelling across the broad embouchure of a gulley running down to the flat fronting the farm. On the other side of this gully we commenced mounting the side of a gently-sloping hill, that had at one time been very heavily timbered, though all the best and largest of the trees had long since fallen beneath the axe and saw.
Arrived on the top of the hill we found ourselves in a dense scrub. Giant trees ironbark, mahogany, and gums of various hues, reared themselves up aloft from amidst the dense undergrowth that matted the ground, and blended their Titan limbs together in mid-air so closely as to exclude the rays of the sun, and almost the light of day, nothing but a dim mystic twilight pervading this dank primeval forest. Here and there however, some finer tree than usual had attracted the splitter s notice, and its fall had made an opening in the leafy canopy overhead, through which the sunlight streamed down, and caused almost a sensation of relief as we entered upon these un-illumined areas. The undergrowth consisted of small trees and shrubs of a thousand species, with here and there magnificent specimens of the bangola; the tree-fern, and numerous varieties of palms. These were interlaced with creepers of every character – some with small and beautifully verdant foliage, others with large bright crimson or with splendidly variegated leaves; whilst a dense crop of ferns, growing from four to six feet high started up from and covered every vacant spot of ground.
Such a bush as this would have been absolutely impenetrable to any who did not make roads for themselves through it, were it not that the wallabi are in the habit, like cattle, of using one particular road to and from any favourite place of resort. Their peculiar mode of progression renders roads absolutely necessary to their safety, in order that they may be enabled to reach the open forest as soon as possible when caught in these thick scrubs. The consequence is, that by their frequent use of these roads, a regular track is soon made, by which the sportsman is enabled to penetrate into the lairs of these singular animals. We then followed the wallabi tracks, Tom and Frank taking a track to the left, our host and I taking one to the right, that ran parallel to the other at about a hundred yards distant. We were now upon the ground, and Hush! was our host's injunction. I had been Hushing ever since we entered this brush, and now to hush still more I actually, in my excitement, walked for some distunce on tip-toe, until, having very nearly fallen on my nose five or six times in treading on the slimy, slippery roots that everywhere protruded themselves through the earth, and having thereby made much more noise than if I had tramped lustily along, I concluded to walk as nature intended me, and so got on much better.
Right: On a bush track, Newport, 1924, by OLive Cotton. Image No.: nla.pic-an12819132, courtesy National Library of Australia.
Presently I saw our host, who was about a dozen paces in advance, put up his finger in sign of caution - and here I should like -very much to know how it is that persons who take you out shooting, always will go in front, and why it is that they always expect you to stop still when any game is expected. This is a question that, for the sake of young sportsmen, is well worthy of elucidation. However, he made me the sign-which I didn't regard, any further than to move forward more cautiously than ever, and I had nearly reached his side when I heard a heavy flop! flop! to my left. The flop being the peculiar noise made by the tail of the wallabi, as he comes to the ground after a jump; and I knew that in this instance our wallabi had taken two jumps. My hand was at once on the trigger of my piece, and we stood still in expectation, glancing keenly round in anticipation of the sudden appearance of our game. Then we heard the dogs, far away to our left, giving tongue and in full cry after something or other. Our customer made a move at this outcry.
"Look out !" whispered our host, my finger and gun were ready, and my eye was everywhere. Unlucky that it was so, for as I looked round, a stray glance happened to fall upon my boots, and there horror of horrors! were about fifty leeches darting up with marvellous rapidity as if racing each other for the first bite at my poor carcase. I was transfixed, unmanned, and the brute of a wallabi took just that very moment, as if he had been watching me, to leap across our path. Lush pulled trigger, but his piece hung fire, and just as I was stooping down to brush away the blood-suckers who had by this time invaded my nether garments, I caught sight of a big brown beast bounding away in wild leaps that seemed to carry it ever fern, and undergrowth, and everything. Our host looked round with wonder when he found I did not fire, and seemed terribly disgusted when he saw how I was occupied; but what cared I ? My blood was of more value to me than the blood of wallabi, or even of ducks, and I wasn't going to lose it if I could help it. He looked a little black at first, but I made friends with him afterwards by assuring him that I was certain he would have killed the game if his piece had only gone off; and he contented himself by advising me not to mind the leeches, but "to pick 'em quietly when I had nothing better to do," advice, which from the first I made up my mind not to follow. I took the greatest care to see that none of the leeches had attached themselves to me anywhere, and then once more walked onwards.
We had not passed over more than a couple of hundred yards, when flop !-we had another move. This time I paid every attention to the wallabi alone, manoeuvring the leeches by keeping my feet perpetually in motion, something after the style of the military "mark time," by which I hoped to prevent them from escalading my boots. Now, it isn't very comfortable to stand with your fowling piece at the " ready," your finger on the trigger, and your whole attention fixed upon discovering the first appearance of an animal that passes before you like a streak of greased lightning, and yet, at the same time, to go through an exaggerated mark-time movement. I felt that it was not, and groaned in agony.
Our host turned round and looked at me with a blended air of wonder and annoyance; “What the dickens are you dancing about ?" he almost shouted.
With the first word the wallabi started. I caught a glimpse of its brown body as it rose in its second leap, and, without stripping my leech-preventing movement, fired. Of course I hit him. Nobody ever fires and misses; but somehow, he managed to carry the shot away with him, for I heard the beat of his tail until the sound died away in distance.
Here was another disappointment, and our host fairly danced with vexation, I accompanying him with my mark time, whilst I made my excuses. Telling me that if I was "determined upon dancing I shouldn't have him for a partner," he made a rush through the thickest of the bush and took his way over to Tom. To tell the truth I wasn't sorry at his leaving me. I had serious misgivings about my legs, nervously imagining that they were covered with leeches, but I hadn't dared to look if they were so for fear of bringing down upon me the ire of my companion.
Now I could relieve my mind, and relieve it I did by finding that my movement had been successful in keeping the bloodsuckers at bay. I now stalked on along the track with a much lighter heart, and in the course of another hundred yards I again heard the sound of wallabi. There was one somewhere-to judge by the sound-in advance of me; no doubt in the track, and if I could catch sight of him he was mine. I crawled along stealthily, noiselessly, when suddenly there was a rustle in the bushes by my side, the leaves parted, and Spanker entered upon the track a little ahead of me. He saw my position, judged there was something up, and sprang forward. The moment after he had done so, he uttered a shrill yelp-the canine view halloo, as he carne in sight of the game, and at once dashed on in pursuit. My chance was now gone. The sounds of the chase grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and I was left, like that ill-used old gentleman, Lord Ullin, " lamenting." Anathematising dogs, leeches, and wallabi, particularly the first, I "turned and left the spot," with a vow not to attempt to fire another shot, so long as there was a dog in company.
A short distance further on, the track brought me out into more open ground, and here, in a few minutes, I was joined by Tom. He had heard one or two, he said, but had seen nothing, "those varmints of dogs" he added, "were determined to have all the sport to themselves, and would have driven all the wallabi away if they had been as thick as bees." As I coincided in this view, we very soon came to the conclusion that it was useless to attempt hunting whilst we had the dogs with us; and as our host said he was about to leave us and return home, disgusted possibly with my to him unaccountable dislike of leeches, he proffered to take back his dogs with him. Spanker was now our only difficulty, but a handkerchief tied round his neck in one of Tom's never giving knots was to secure him, and he was to be led by Frank, who would accompany us. All was done as arranged, and we now proceeded to follow Frank to a gulley where he informed us we should see wallabi, if there were any in the country. All was done as proposed, but the arrangements thus cleverly made were doomed to be speedily upset.
We followed along the top of on ironbark range, heavily though not closely timbered, for about half a mile, and during the whole of the distance we could see below us the dense and impassable scrub that lined the gulley intervening between the range on which we stood and that which we saw towering up opposite to us. We were about to descend the range in order to cross the gulley at its only practicable point, which was where it came down upon the beach in one of the many coves that are contained in Creel Bay, when we heard yelp ! yelp ! yelp ! behind us, accompanied by a crashing and cracking through the bushes down into the gulley that left no mistake as to what was going on. Spanker made a spring forward, as he heard the other dogs in full cry, and descended the hill so persistently that Frank, who held on manfully to the hindkerchief was carried a considerable distance down with him, until finding that either he must go with the dog, or let the dog go by himself, for stop him he couldn't, he adopted the latter alternative, and loosed his hold, whereupon Spanker flew down the hill, his "streamers waving in the wind," as Tom's silk handkerchief caught the breeze in the dog's rapid progress.
We continued our descent to the mouth of the gully, in the hope that we had seen the last of the dogs-a hope; however, that was to be grievously disappointed. By dint of sliding; slipping, and jumping, for the lower part of the range was exceedingly precipitous, we reached-I can't call it the beach, for it was here a broad muddy flat, covered with mangroves, a peculiar kind of dark green leathery-leaved tree that has the characteristic of growing only in salt water; and the young shoots of suckers of which could be seen starting up from the mud to the very verge of low watermark, surmounted in most instances by a cluster of others-a circumstance that has given rise to the assertion, at one time considered fabulous, that oysters in Australia grew on trees. There was a belt of low swamp oaks, intervening between the foot of the range and the mangrove scrub which reached to the highest high water mark, and as we came upon these we heard a loud whirr of wings, accompanied by the clapping together of the pinions, that always denotes the flight of a pigeon. Tom's eye was on the bird, and he followed it until it rested on a limb of one of the swamp oaks.
"A wonga wonga, by Jupiter!” he exclaimed, and, taking a steady aim, he fired, the feathers from the bird fell down in a shower, whilst the bird himself flew away into the thick brush of the gully, not unharmed, as many of the feathers were stained with blood. However, we did not get him, and that was enough for me. Not so for Tom, for he persisted in hunting up the feathers, in declaring that the bird must have been skinned by the shot, and in wondering however it could have got away. I was quite used to all that sort of thing, for I had tried the same dodge myself when I hadn't bagged my game, so I put down my gun, walked quietly down to the rocks, and commenced opening and eating the oysters with which they were covered in the greatest profusion.
So soon as Tom perceived the occupation in which I was engaged, he ceased his wonderings, and his declarations, and, laying his gun aside, joined in the same interesting employment. He found it, however, too tedious work, to open them one by one with a common pocket knife, the more particularly as the shells were guarded with sharp edges that cut like a razor, so that a slip was almost sure to result in a gash of the fingers. Before he had managed half a dozen, his hands were bleeding from a score of cuts, and he gave up in disgust. In the meantime, Frank, who had looked on our proceedings with an evident smile of pity at our want of management, had lighted a fire, for which there was plenty of material almost anywhere, and now came down to the rocks, filled his cap with oysters, and then returned to the fire, round and about which he began to arrange the shells in such a way as to roast the oysters within, and thus compel them to surrender at discretion. By this arrangement a sharp pointed bit of stick is sufficient to open them, when done to the proper turn.
"I say, Charlie," said Tom, as he watched this manouvre, "these youngsters will be some day showing us a new way of sucking eggs."
I didn't see any reason why they shouldn't, it they could find one.
" But what a muff you must have been," he replied, " not to have thought of it."
I used the tu quoque line of argument, in answer for as it is one that is a particular favourite amongst the greatest men in the great House inMacquarie-street, and as they have used it with the “most unparalleled success," as the play bills have it, I thought it could not fail with our friend Tom.
" Ah!" said Tom, when, as I imagined, I had finally shut him up, " there's where it is. If you hadn't begun, I shouldn't have followed. In fact, one fool makes many." He would no doubt have added more, equally worthy of being recorded, but just at that moment he had procured what he considered a sufficiency of oysters, and marched off with them to the fire. I stood lost in admiration at the mode in which Tom had extricated himself from this difficulty, and as I pensively gathered oysters and cut my fingers, I pictured to myself the revolution that would be effected, if Tom's genius were appreciated, and he were to obtain a seat in the House. How he would upset the Government upon every tack, brazening down their tu quogque arguments, bullying their argumentum ad kommen out of the House, and laughing their argumtutum ad miscericordiam to scorn; and I thought what pleasure it would be to report his ready saucy answers to the cold cutting sarcasms of Cowper, the ranting fiery denunciations of Robertson, the sharp biting jibes of Arnold, or the pointless would-be bitter attacks of Weekes.
Rapt in this contemplation, I for the moment forgot the business I was on, but was brought back to it rather rudely, for, treading on a mass of slimy sea-weed growing on a rock whose face sloped down towards the water, the marine vegetation crushed beneath my feet, and so became slippery as ice. The result was, that I lost my balance, my feet slid from under me, and I was shot out into about four feet depth of water, after having sustained a rude shock upon that part of the person which is considered to be the very opposite to the seat of reason, and which came into somewhat violent contact with the rock in question.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 22). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13069662
(From the Sydney Mail, July 27)
The water was not deep enough to drown me, though there was quite sufficient of it to give me a thorough ducking. Politics have led many a man into hot water, but I expect that I am about the first that they have dipped into cold. Admiration of Tom's versatile genius had plunged me into politics, and politics had plunged me, if not into a sea of trouble, at all events into a sea of biting coldness. Spitting and spluttering I crawled out, and, whilst I was shaking myself, Tom, who had heard the sound of the parted waters, ran down to see what was the matter.
"What, Charlie, lad-what be'st doing?” Tom was excited, and spoke broad.
As soon as I could recover breath, I explained the nature of my misadventure though not its cause, and then Tom rattled on about the advisability of undressing before taking a bath, and the folly of attempting self-destruction in three feet of water.
"I pronounce," he said in conclusion, "a verdict of 'Fell in the sea.'"
The joke was too old to laugh at, and, besides, I was just then in no humour for jokes, and so I told him; but nothing daunted, he kept on incessantly, as he led me up to the fire. Arrived there, my garments were stripped off, wrung out, and then hung before the blaze to dry, Tom very considerately lending me his shooting coat, lest the winds "should deal ungently with me." To tell the truth, with the exception of Tom's shooting coat, I was in purus naturalibus; but as this was an out-of-the-way nook, I didn't so much mind it except for the cold breeze that every now and again come puffing down the gully. Tom perfectly gloried in my position, insisting that if I had only been black, I would have been a perfect image of King Bungarree in his robes of state, and offering to paint my portrait as then apparelled for the delectation of the selectest circle of my friends. I let him go on, whilst I drew the coat close round mc, squatted in front of the fire, and roasted and ate oysters with the most perfect non-chalance.
We were thus employed in the most free and-easy manner possible, when we were startled by the mysterious appearance of Spanker, who, in the most unconcerned manner, came up noiselessly to the fire, and looked round at us one after the other, as though he would have said "Here I am. You thought you were rid of me, but you arn't." The remains and only few of the remains-of the silk handkerchief were around his neck, for by far the larger part of it had been left in the gully, to decorate the bushes; and Tom looked with rueful eye upon the wreck, but as he did not know which to abuse, the knot for holding so tight, or the dog for running away-both escaped an anathema. I rather fancy from his saying, "There-I said the knot would hold," that he was rather pleased than otherwise at the loss. But, to add to our annoyance, following Spanker were the two dogs of our host, and they certainly met with no welcome at our hands, lukewarmly as we had received the faithful Spanker. Yet, even this was not all, for just as the dogs came up, we heard a cooey from the quarter whence they had arrived, and looking round, we saw Nat descending the range on the other side of the gully, and behind him was-awful sight for me- the eldest daughter of our host !
"Here's a pretty go, Charlie," cried Tom. "You can't receive company in that dress."
I knew that without his telling me so, though for the moment I was panic stricken, and didn't know what course to adopt. Tom advised me to go back to the water and stand in it with the coat on, gammoning to gather oysters, until she was gone; but even as he was speaking I seized my half dry clothes, jumped up from the fire, and dashed off to find the shelter of some friendly rock. Luckily this was not wanting, and long before Nat and his companion came up, I had resumed my ordinary costume though not my ordinary ease of manner, for the clothes were still damp, and would feel cold whenever they touched me.
It appeared from Nat's account that he had tried to fish from off the rock, which, from having good deep water, and no minor rocks in front of it, was need as the ordinary fishing ground of the establishment, but an easterly swell had set in that morning, and by the time they had got down to the ground had become so heavy that after losing about a dozen hooks and several fathoms of snapper line, and after getting wetted through several limes by rollers larger than usual that had broken on the rock, Nat had given up in despair of success. Not knowing what to do with himself, he had in desperation accepted the invitation of the daughter of the house to accompany her to Creel Bay, there to gather a tin of fresh oysters from the rocks. The indentatation we had selected happened to be the nearest to the station, and they had consequently made for it, and on their road down they had encountered the dogs returning from their run after the wallabi. Then the smoke of our camp fire, and the keen scent of the dogs had put them on our track. I need not say how satisfied I was at the timely warning that had been given of their approach; though when my adventure was detailed I had to suffer a most unmerciful amount of jokes and pleasantries.
Tom and I left Nat and the sister and brother at the fire, whilst we went as we said to beat up a portion of the gully, our real object, be it said, being to get rid of them and the dogs, so that we might have the field to ourselves. By means of a log, we crossed the narrow muddy creek, that, running down from the hills, here emptied itself into the bay; and just slipping into the bush sufficiently to screen our manoeuvres, we made away for the opposite range. Our progress was very slow through the dense undergrowth, in which, after leaving the path, we became terribly entangled; whilst in order to keep out of sight, we had to make a most circuitous track in mounting the range. All this kept us a long time, so that after about half-an hour's dodging, when we came upon the clear face of the range and struck a path, we began to plume ourselves upon the excellence af our tactics. But before we had gone a hundred paces along the track, we had the mortification of finding Spanker by our side, and of seeing the other two dogs running up joyously behind him, whilst, as we paused in dismay at being thus bowled out, we heard not far off the merry ring of feminine laughter that told us as plain as possible that we had not been so successful in our evasion as we had anticipated. There was no help for it, so we resigned ourselves submissively to fate, and waited the coming up of the rear guard.
"Hallo ! " said Tom, as the brother and sister alone hove in sight. "Where's Nat ? "
"What, my mate ? " replied the young girl. "Oh, he's bolted, and gone on a voyage of discovery on his own account."
"You don't say so ?" responded Tom.
" Yes; I cooeyed to him, but he didn't take any notice," she answered, " so I just left him."
"What a Goth!" ejaculated Tom.
"Wasn't he ?" she answered; "and it seems you wanted to give us the slip, too; but were'nt quite clever enough."
Of course both Tom and I denied this most strenuously, and in answer were told that it didn't matter whether we did or not. She was going up to another cove in which the oysters were much more plentiful and far larger, than in that we had left, and hadn't the least idea of meeting us again. The cool and easy way in which this was said, was evidently exceedingly settling to Tom's vanity, and so completely shut him up, that he had not a word to reply. He therefore whistled to the dogs, and stalked on ahead, whilst I slipped quietly to the rear, only too glad to escape observation. In this order we proceeded for about half a mile along the side of a dark and heavily timbered ridge, until we came down upon a gully which opened out rather more broadly than us fellows, thereby leaving a comparatively level flat of some fifty or sixty acres of rich alluvial soil, deposited there from the hub above.
This had been taken possession of, many years ago, by its present occupant, who had erected house, barn, out-buildings, and fences, and had thus brought the first footsteps of civilisation into this secluded dell, which, without the boundary of the fences, wore still an air as wild as when its quietude was broken only by the noisy leap of the wallabi or the shrill whistle of the opossum. The house, the ordinary slab building of the bush, was placed on the southern side of the gully. Behind it, for some twenty yards, extended a tangled mass of verdure, the very luxuriance of vegetation, which, had at one time been the orchard, but which, from the richness of the soil and the non-application of the pruning knife, had run into a dense and almost impassable thicket of lemon, apple, pear, and peach trees. The ground sloped down gently from the house to the little silvery creek that danced and sparkled along the bottom of the gully; whilst on the other side of the stream enormous rocks, grey with lichens or green with dank and slimy mosses, towered up in vast tiers one above another, like some gigantic wall; and at flat right apparently inaccessible.
In these gullies, protected by the huge rocks and the giant timber of the range from the burning heat of the sun, the too rough visitation of winds, and almost from the very light of day-the veriest profusion and rankness of vegetation is to be found. Ferns and palms of numerous varieties startup around; lichens and mosses, of every form and hue, spring up from rocks, or droop from trees and shrubs; parasites, of strange grotesque or monstrous shapes, batten upon the dead or fallen timber, or draw life from the juices of living trees ; whilst shrubs and plants of the most varied and beauteous foliage are bound up and interlaced together by an infinity of creeping plants, some of vast proportions hanging and twisting amongst the tree tops like fabled serpents; others, minute and delicate, clinging bashfully to the support that upholds them.
Of these peculiar, deep, and rocky gullies, the one before us formed an excellent type, looking more dark, dank, and impassable from the lofty range which was reared up almost precipitously on either side, forming a dreary sombre background, that threw well into relief the little clearing and the primitive homestead. In one corner of the cultivation ground a patch of barley was making desperate efforts to grow, under circumstances of particular discouragement, as the wallabi at night cleared off every bit of verdure that the grain had pushed upwards during the day, and in this struggle it was quite evident that the barley was getting the worst of it. There was a good large patch, of some ten acres, off which a crop of maize had been taken. The stalks were still on the ground, though prostrate; and here, when the barley had not made sufficient headway to appease the appetite of the marauding wallabi, they were in the habit of coming to finish off with the occasional stray bits of verdure that were to be found amongst the cornstalks. This was a piece of information that I determined to store up for further use-the more particularly as the tracks of these animals were to be seen so thickly all over this part of the paddock as to give every probability of success to the adventure I had already planned in my own mind.
But, whilst speaking of the homestead, I have too long left its owners out of sight. They were an ancient and a primeval couple; the man still hale and hearty-so much so that he started off to his work of felling and splitting almost immediately after our arrival. The dame, however, was somewhat the worse for wear, and, being one of those characters peculiar to the Australian bush that-I had almost said happily-are now fast dying out, is perhaps worthy of a line or two of description. A countenance, pinched and shrivelled with old age, but bearing still the unmistakable marks of former days of misery, crime, or degradation, and lighted up by dark piercing eyes almost as bright and fiery as those of youth, was framed round by an old-fashioned mob cap of soiled white. From beneath the cap, long elf locks of grey, in the midst of which stray hairs of its original hue of black could be perceived, hung down thin, weird and unkempt. Her hands and arms bare nearly to the elbow, were long, yellow and fleshless, putting one forcibly in mind of the brachial appendages that poets have given to the Harpies. A dress, of sandy coloured, chintz patterned print of antiquated cut, faded hue, and somewhat greased appearance, was set off by a showy red cotton handkerchief placed shawl wise round her neck and across her breast. Her stockingless feet were thrust into a pair of men's old boots cut down at the heel so as freely to admit the foot, and in these she hobbled over to the door to address me as I reached the house.
" Oh ! * * these * pains." The asterisks stand in the place of the expletives, which however elegant she herself may have deemed them are scarce such as I feel inclined to place before eyes polite. I, of course, condoled with her and the pains.
" It's that * rhumatis, that's tuk the feet from under me. I never had such as * * before. "Until this winter, devil a smarter woman nor myself I upon my * * pins."
Such was the style of her conversation, and she rather seemed to pride herself upon the variety and the originality of the foul expressions made use of. Now I wondered very much to see the old woman come bustling up to the door, when I arrived; but the secret soon came out. It seemed that our acquaintance Nauticus had, on leaving us, called in here, and given the old lady information respecting a certain flask, of whose alcoholic contents I had given Nauticus a taste, in reward for the information he had vouchsafed to us. Tom had entered the house before me, had been questioned relative to the flask, and had pointed me out as the Ganymede-the cup-bearer of the party. Hence the old lady's interest in my advent. Something like the following colloquy ensued, though I, omit the expletive asterisks, lest the compositor's supply of them should fail.
" Well, young man !" now I am an elderly man, the grey predominating considerably over the pristine auburn of my hair, whilst a certain protuberance-I should rather say rotundity-of abdomen has destroyed the once thin and elegant proportions of youth,-" Young man," ' said she-for it is a piece of bush etiquette to address the traveller as " young man," or "young feller" being something like an equivalent of the "stranger " of the American backwoods,-
"Young man, is it 'ye as carries the bottle?" she asked. I confessed that this was my part of the business. "Shure, then, my blessing on ye this very morning. Come in, come in; and let’s taste it." she ejaculated. This threw me completely aback. I carried the flask, certainly; but it had been left behind, rolled up in my swag, and so I told her. " And what --," I leave the reader to imagine any possible number of asterisks here-" brought ye here ? Don't ye know that the liquor's the life of the ould ; and ye come with ne'er a drop ?"
I humbly told the old lady that our call had been purely accidental, and that, had we known beforehand that we should have made this visit, we certainly would not have come without the bottle. This somewhat mollified the old lady.
“Well, well ! " she answered, “Ye'll give us a coll to-morrow, and don't forget the bottle. Sure you may shoot as many wallabi as ye like here." I thanked her, promised the bottle, and told her I would call going home. “* Do ! do ! " she said, " and then ye'll know the way back. But don't bring less nor a bottle. I wouldn't chate my mouth with anything under that."
And, at the very thought of liquor, the black, snake-like eyes of the old dame sparkled and glistened in such a way as to make me nervously anxious to clear out. Only by dint of very hard persuasion could I induce Tom to leave the chimney nook in which he had ensconced himself with his pipe; and when at last we set out in company with Frank, we received innumerable reminders in reference to the bottle, to all of which I answered, as I firmly intended that we would return by that route. Our host's daughter had kept her two dogs with her, and we were consequently followed only by Spanker.
Our guide, Frank, led us across the gully and up the side of the wall-faced range, the ascent of which was not, after all, so difficult as it had appeared, since innumerable wallabi tracks wound round the rocks at every accessible point, and led by easy gradations to the face of the range. Taking open order, by extending along the fall of the range at about eighty yards distance from each other, we now proceeded cautiously ahead; but with all our caution, and with all our beating up every bit of ground that we passed over, we travelled some five or six miles without seeing a single brown skin, or hearing so much as the beat of a tail. We were getting discouraged. It would not do to go on perpetually ahead as the sun was getting low, and, therefore, taking council together, I unfolded the plan I had already matured, and which as no other than to reach a little before dark the station we had left, then to plant ourselves round the fence and to await the wallabi, which would be sure to come down at dusk, since that was their favourite feeding time. We need not stay very long, as there was no moon, and the night was sure to be the same as that which had preceded it-dark and cloudy, so that when the last faint gleam of light departed from the West we would up and away home. My proposition was adopted non con. and we at once faced about, our eager feet devouring the backward track in our anxiety to reach the farm before too late to take up our stations round the fence.
We looked not for game, nor should we have met any if we had looked for it, and we had nothing to detain us, consequently as the rays of the setting sun were gilding the edges of the Lane Cove Ranges with gold pure from Heaven, we came in sight of the homestead. A few minutes sufficed us to descend the giant boulders, to cross the creek, to pass over the cleared land, and to salute the ancient mistress of the mansion. She, auguring from the fulfilment of one promise, the keeping of the other,-anent the bottle, was all smiles and good humour, and imperatively insisted upon her "old man" going out with us to show us his favourite runs of the wallabi into the clearing. This the old gentleman did, not at first with the very best of grace, but afterwards, as he warmed into it, some of the youthful spirit showed up in him, and he began to descant learnedly but somewhat prosily upon the best modes of procedure in cases like the present.
We listened to all he had to say whilst he showed us the runs, and then acted on our own judgment, sending him home out of the cold, as we said, but out of our way as we meant. Frank, Tom, and I took up our positions along the fences, slightly concealed by a few bushes hastily drawn together, and rested on the | rails. I may have been some hundred and fifty yards from Tom, whilst Frank was about two hundred yards on the other side of him. Placed behind a broader post than usual that occurred in the line of fence I guarded, and which line ran nearly east and west, the cleared ground and the water of Creel Bay left the western sky open to me, so that I hid a certainty of seeing any dark object intervening between me and the light, so long as any of that light remained. I can't say how Tom and Frank were placed, as each of us shifted for himself; but I know that no position could hove been better than the one I had selected. Now silent and immovable, hardly breathing lest we should startle our exceedingly susceptible game, we lay patiently waiting their arrival. "We may have been in this position a quarter of an hour, when I heard the first flop! across the paddock, announcing, no doubt, the advanced guard of the marauders. This stand was repeated at intervals in different parts of the clearing, but as yet neither of my companions had made a sign nor had a token been given to me of anything coming my way. I began to get fidgetty.
The light was fast fading away in the west, and I peered out anxiously from behind my post, whence I commanded with my gun what the old man had declared to be "the best run on the ground." Hark ! What was that? The rustling of branches near my "run." There it is again-no mistake this time coming on steadily to the entrance I guard. And here I may explain that these runs, or entrances into the paddocks, are spots at which the rails have been narrower than usual, thereby leaving free means of ingress or egress to the wallabi, who, innocent creatures that they are, never think of leaping a fence, or even of passing through it, if such passage is accompanied by anything like inconvenience to themselves, hear the rustling, then, and look out so intently upon the entrance that I soon see nothing but an infinite series of black circles surrounded by small luminous dots, an optical delusion that gives me the hint to look less fixedly if I wish to see anything. I close my eyes for a second or two, and hear the cracking sticks and bending bushs still more clearly; but strange to say, I hear no flop! But, I argue with myself, my friend may be coming on slowly and easily, and thus may "leave not a flop behind."
That must be the case, for-yes, I hear him now at the fence itself. All this passed much more rapidly than it can he read, still less written, and I give my thoughts as they arose as some kind of apology-but let me not anticipate. I distinctly felt the jar as the fence was touched, so I ran out my piece, and in true sportsmanlike style sighted the spot at which I expected to see the wallabi enter. I had not long to wait. Scarcely was my gun rested in position than I saw a black something protrude between the rails of the fence, and show out markedly upon the little remaining light reflected up from the water. It was right in line with the gun, so I pulled trigger and fired.
Simultaneously with the report there arose to heaven a maddened "Boo! boo!" I don't know how to put on paper the peculiar cry of agony that is uttered by a young bull calf when he has reached that particular stage of bovine juvenility as to become, in bush parlance, "staggering Bob;" but suffice it to explain that I recognised the sound, and felt, as the German metaphysicians have it, "in the innate depths of my own moral cansciousness," that I had been making minced veal of the head of one of the "old man's" calves. I felt myself aggrieved, injured, wronged. Why had he come to my particular run, to thrust through his head and pick the tempting com leaves that had lured him to his ruin? Why hadn't he gone to Tom, who was so clever? Or to Frank, whose sharp eyes would never have mistaken a calf's head' for a wallaby? Why had he come to me a poor, peaceable, nervous, elderly gentleman, who was victimising himself in the cause of science, stopping out in the cold at the risk of rheumatism, and doing all manner of other ridiculous things, solely for the benefit of the public? He must have known that I couldn't stand the tongue of that ancient dame, and have therefore thought himself safe. I was crushed, floored, annihilated, and was only aroused from the deep dejection that had fallen over me, and left me insensible to all around, by a kick on the shins, and a vituperative growl which I recognised as coming from Tom, who, not seeing me in the deep darkness, had stumbled over my legs, and nearly pitched on to his head.
"Well, Charlie," said he, "you have been and gone and done it this time, at any rate."
" Let me know the worst?" I answered in solemn G. V. Brooke tones "Be-he-dead !"
"Dead?" he responded "not a bit of it, but livelier than ever he was in his life before, and running a precious sight faster. He took along the fence, and coming across me shot me out of his road like next to nothing. Only, look here at the bump-but I forget,' you can't see-here !-put your finger here."
My hand was directed to Tom's os frontis, which, not having been so strong as that of the bull calf, had suffered very severely by the concussion of the two heads.
" But come," he added, " we must clear out. They've heard the shot, and heard the calf too; and by the dodging about of the lights at the house you may depend upon it some of them will be soon down here. If its the old woman --"
I didn't let him finish; the picture presented to my mind, already shattered by the event, was too frightful to contemplate, so I seized him by the arm and dragged him off-nothing loth, I must confess, to where Frank lay perdu. He had seen nothing, but had heard enough to let him into the secret of my misadventure, and he was as anxious as ourselves to slope as soon as possible. Making a detour through the bush in order to avoid any attempt that might be made to cut off our retreat, we hastened on as fast as we could do, consistently, with the caution necessary to prevent our falling into the hands of the enemy, until at last we struck the homeward track, considerably beyond the reach of danger. Then, breaking into a long slinging walk, the three miles that separated us from Mona were soon got over. Arrived, we found a plentiful supper awaiting us, to which we, after the exercise and the fasting of the day, were prepared to do the most ample justice.
(To be Continued)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, July 29). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13062989
THAT evening, when we had retired to our rooms, and were in course of preparation for bed, I held a council with Tom, pointing out to him the desirability of shifting our ground.
"What for?" he asked; " ain't we comfortable here?"
I admitted the comfort, and acknowledged the beef and pumpkin'; "But," said I, " do you believe in unlucky days ?"
"Unlucky! " he replied; " do you take me for an old woman!"
Of course I didn't: but then I pointed out that many great men held that belief.
"Well, then," he answered ; " I don't."
I told him that I did, and that I had the fullest impression that these were the Ides of our March, and that they were doomed to be as unlucky to us as in former times similar days had proved to Caesar.
"I don't know what you mean by our hides," said he; " for we got neither the cat's skin, nor the calf's pelt; and what the mischief Caesar has to do with us I can't conceive."
I was angry-my classic allusion had been thrown away, and so I replied that we had gone on from bad to worse. He had killed a cat, I a calf, -"Only made him a bit more lively," he interpolated-and that, having done this, the chances were that our next misadventure would be to shoot a man in mistake for a-for a-I was puzzled for similitude.-"A bandycoot!" added Tom, "they aren't unlike navvies about the legs."
I saw it was useless to reason with him, so I at once, mildly but firmly, indicated my intention of shifting on the morrow from a ground where we had had so much misfortune, and from the neighbourhood of the families into whose midst we had brought death and destruction.
"Ah, Charlie," said he, "I see now you are frightened of that old woman. To tell you the truth I can stand a bit, but I wouldn't get that old lady's tongue on me for sixpence. So perhaps - we'd better shift. Give us a hand, like a good fellow, with this boot."
Elated at having carried my point so easily, for I had anticipated considerable difficulty in getting Tom away from such snug quarters, I not only gave him one but two hands to the boot; and it was luckily removed with rather less than the ordinary amount of labour; Nat regarding me the meanwhile with his ordinary grin, from between the blankets in which he was rolled.
“Well," said he, "have you settled that we move to-morrow?" I answered that we had. "All right. Goodnight," and his head and even the red comforter in which it was enveloped disappeared below the bedclothes.
I will not pretend to say that my sleep was dreamless that night. Irate cows demanding their slaughtered calves at my hands, haunted my rest, gradually, as they waxed more and more wroth, assuming the form of the ancient dame at the farm; whilst, as I tried to fly, ill-conducted wallabi stood in my path making at me the peculiar sign known amongst gumina as "taking a sight." Only with the first cock-crow did these visions of the night pass away, and though I had been tumbling about and restless "grunting," as Tom observed, " like a pig in flu," I yet turned out fresh and ready for work with the first dawn.
Right: Clearing showers, Mona Vale by Harold Cazneaux, Image No.: nla.pic-an2384505
The morning looked heavy and louring. Vast masses of clouds hung-upon the south-east horizon, whence the scud was coming up thickly and rapidly. Everything betokened a day of heavy showers, if not of continuous rain. All this I Spirited out to my companions, with, a view to hurry our departure, in order that we might the sooner fall into other quarters.
"But if it's going to rain," remarked Tom, "I don't see the wisdom of our moving," and he rolled himself round as if inclined to take another snooze.
I didn’t say absolutely that it would rain, but that there was a possibility of its raining, and that, therefore, we ought to hurry. "And, besides," chimed in Nat, " we decided to move; and now we are bound to quit."
Nat could always manage Tom better than I could, he always put such downright posers to him; so Tom grumbled out ; "Let's see what the morning's like," uncoiled, half dressed himself, and came to the door to inspect the skies. "I don't think we'll have much rain till night," he decreed, after a careful inspection of the heavens, in which, by the way, I noticed that he looked solely to leeward, the direction to which the door faced; because, to observe the heavy bank to the southward he would have had to have gone several paces to the front over the wet cold grass, and to do this sans boots I knew would go against Tom's grit, his feet being particularly tender and sensitive, so much so that when bare-footed-he walked about as cleverly as a cat would do in pattens.
Despite all I could do to hasten him, Tom would go through all the forms, with as much, care as though we were not in a hurry to depart. First, there were the lamentations over the boots, and a learned disquisition on their impracticality, next followed the lubricating process, in which, by the way he was again imitated by Nat; then the guns had to be rubbed and oiled, and a difficulty occurring in regard to one of the nipples the charge had to be drawn and all made right, although by this time breakfast was waiting us - after that, attention had to be given to the morning meal, ann then, when we had succeeded, after his fourth cup of tea, in withdrawing Tom from the allurements of the table, there were those boots to get on. I have already pictured one scene in regard to these unfortunate articles of Tom's attire, and it would therefore smack of sameness to recount all the stragglings, heavings, pullings, and pushings of this morning. Suffice it to say, that after twenty minutes of as severe labour as ever I underwent, and by the joint exertions of all hands, the boots were finally shipped; and radiant in grease, shone back placidly upon us, looking as innocent of guile as any pair of boots could look, although for all anathematised them in our hearts, and would have joyfully seen them lying “full fathom five," and even deeper, in the waters of the Pacific. -But all things must have an end, and even the extremest formularies of-the most formal men must come under this rule, and consequently somewhere about 9 a.m. Tom announced to Nat and I, who by this time had managed to lash ourselves into an extreme state of nerves and ill-humour, that he was ready.
We once more donned our loads, bade, farewell to our entertainers, and, accompanied by the faithful Spanker, marched out of the gate. We followed a broad and well-defined cart track leading northerly, which mounted and crossed the range that terminates in the bold rocky headland, called Bulgola Head. Keeping for about half a mile along the crest of the ridge, which, with the exception of a few dwarfed and stunted honeysuckles, and occasional tufts of coarse wiry grass, is entirely denuded of verdure, the road at length takes a sweep down along the inland fall of the ridge, through a beautiful open forest of fine lofty and heavy timber. Here we see that the road has been cut out, with evident care, from the side of the range, the earth dug out in levelling the upper portion of the road serving to raise up the lower half. Upwards the enormous trees, their trunks black with age and bush fires, towered up in gradually decreasing size as they reached the top, where the cutting breezes from the ocean reached and kept them down. Below, the open forest changed progressively, from the park-like wood to the thick bush and the dense and tangled jungle; whilst from the heavy brush of the bottom rose up the notes of the feathered songsters, for it is a libel to say that we have no song birds in Australia, and the sharp whistle of the coachman, the mocking tones of the gill bird, the liquid note of the bell bird, and the song of many other denizens of the scrub, mingled with the drowsy hum of a running stream that occasionally sent up sounds like far off bells, as its waters struck the air in descending the many crannied rocks that lined its course.
'Bulgola Head' circa 1880-1900, Image No.: a116493h, courtesy State Library of NSW.
I stood for some minutes, at a turn of the road as it wound round a short spur of the range, in contemplation of the wild Salvator-Ross-like landscape, and was gradually tailing into-yes, I will say it-a poetic reverie, when I was roused again to sublunary things by a loud and distant shout from my companions, and then became aware of a sharp pattering amongst the leaves overhead, and of heavy raindrops that were falling most peltingly and pitilessly.
"Come on ! come on !" I now heard in Tom's most impressive tones, "without, you intend to stand there all day in the rain."
I had no intention of the kind; but, on the contrary, having a perfectly cat-like antipathy to getting wet, hurried on to overtake my comrades. Luckily, the shower was the first of the series and, therefore, though a sharp, and decisive, was also short whilst the heavy canopy of verdure overhead to a great extant sheltered us from its effects. The road now descended the range, but so gradually as to appear all but level until it brought us down upon a broad, swampy flat on which belts of ti-tree and clusters of swamp-oak began to mingle with the monarchs of the forest, and ultimately to outnumber them as we proceeded.
After travelling for half-a mile over the flat, the water squelching and bubbling up from the saturated soil with every step we took, we observed an opening in the timber that proclaimed a clearing. A clearing, naturally suggested a proprietorship; and a proprietorship, a homestead, and with a homestead were connected thoughts of shelter, fire, and comfort that were exceedingly consoling to think upon, especially on such a cold, bleak, wet day as the one we were favoured with. At last we came, down to a broad, noisy, dirty-watered creek, crossed by a rough but substantial bush-bridge of logs, over which were thrown a number of ti-tree bushes. The approach to the bridge on either side was guarded by a wide belt of mud, the depth of which Nat, by slipping off the causeway, ascertained to be a little below the knee. Over this ti-tree bruin had been pretty freely thrown down, in order to allow of a passage by horses and carts. Of course, the pedestrian, in going over the causeway, would be about to the ancles in mud, a depth as disagreeable to the biped as it was Immaterial to the quadraped. The crossing of this Rubicon of mud having I been effected, and a secure footing on firm ground having been gained, we now looked around us at the magnificent prospect to which we had not previously been able to give our attention.
'Pittwater. Broken Bay' - Watercolour by M.C. Denison, from Album, 'Views mainly of Sydney, Wollongong, New England, Cook's River, Hawkesbury River, Norfolk Island, Hobart and Franklin Valley, and Moreton Bay, ca. 1846-54.'Image No.: c11829_0029_h, courtesy State Library of NSW
Above and below: Farrells Beach, Bungan Head. Circa 4/1912. Images d1_12147h and d1_12148h, courtesy State Library of NSW.
In the centre of the picture stood the homestead, a long low slab building faced with weatherboards, and fronted by a verandah supported on rough bush posts that gave a kind of rude picturesque air to a building that would have otherwise passed as tame. It was perched on the crest of a small though sharp rise that started up from the bed of a deep and brawling creek which ran between where we stood and the house, and from which we were separated by between two and three hundred yards of flat swampy land. This creek ran away to the eastward; widening out rapidly until it emptied itself, in company with the muddy brook we had first crossed, into a miniature lagoon, separated from the sea by an extensive sand-bank. It was crossed by a substantial timber bridge, raised high above flood level, whilst its southern border was ornamented with two cabbage- tree palms, the last remnants of the giant denizens of the forest that had at one time crowded the spot when it was a close and all but impenetrable jungle. These relics of former days now rustled their half withered fen-like leaves sadly as the wind swept through them, as though mourning for the comrades that had once surrounded them, and for the departed days of prosperity and verdure.
Right Newport Beach circa 1908, courtesy State Records of NSW.
To the left of the house a clear flat, on a considerably higher level than the one we were on, stretched out to a belt of honey-suckle and ti-tree, which separated' it from the line of sand-banks that intervened between it and the sea-shore, whilst in the background was a high, blank range, covered with a scanty stunted scrub and running far out into the sea, terminating in a bold rocky headland. Immediately to the right of the house were the barn, stables, and various other out-houses, all neatly and handily arranged, whilst at the back of them, and running along southerly to quite as far as where we were making our observations, was the eastern line of the paddock fence. From this fence the enclosed land was nearly level, with a slight rise only, for about two hundred yards, when the hill became steeper, until at last it was too precipitous for cultivation, and mounted up grandly into a lofty range, whose heavily timbered sides, and stern rocky crests, seemed to hang sombre and threatening over the peaceful clearing below, that at no very distant date had formed part of its domain. Along its side, the line of fence, now white with age and exposure to the weather, could be clearly traced against the dark background of the verdant forest, in which enormous trees and thick undergrowth, showed how hardly and with what toil the victory had been gained by man over nature. In the large area of cultivation land thus enclosed were to be seen-first, a broad and well-defined belt of yellow, that told distinctly of a com stubble; then a square plot of yellowish green, which we could see to be a plantation of sorghum; next occurred a wide belt of block, which we knew from the narrow strip of white left near one edge of it, to be land in course of ploughing ; then came a smell portion of fallow land; and afterwards a belt of beautiful green, that could not be taken for anything else but young barley. The land thus actually under cultivation may have included one-third of the whole area of the enclosed land-that area being at a rough guess about forty acres.
Whilst I had been making my observations on the magnificent scene here spread out before me, Tom and Nat-with Spanker as usual in the van,-had gone on ahead ; and I had once more to hurry up to join them, knowing from previous sad experience that it is always the rearmost of a party that the yelping pests of stations most favour with their attentions-barking and snapping savagely around him as though to excuse themselves for allowing the advanced guard to pass:- I therefore bustled on as well as my load and the slippery nature of the ground would permit, and managed to catch them as they were crossing the bridge. Following the dray track, we mounted the hill, but were no sooner on its top than we were set upon by about a dozen cattle dogs of various ages from the old and toothless, but still watchful, slut, down to the extreme juvenile pup, whose shrill piping bark mixed with the deeper and hoarser voices of the parents of the pack. As the shrill note of the bugle calls together our valiant volunteers, so did the loud challenge from these many canine throats bring forth the denizens of the farm, and from every conceivable corner, door; or wmdow forms' protruded, or heads were seen, and men, women and children seemed to start up into sight where previously no sign of animal life had been visible. Their dogs were gradually approaching within disagreeable propinquity to our legs. Spanker had sought refuge from them in our midst, and we were considering-whether or not to sacrifice one or more of the animals to secure our safety, when a loud voice was heard rebuking the dogs, telling them to- "lie down,", and directing, us to "come on."
With many a sidelong glance at the legs, particularly I thought at mine, from which 'they had hoped to snatch a refreshing morsel, the dogs obeyed, and I presume, “laid down." that is, if they could possibly find a dry place, to lie down; and then we, the men, obeyed also, and "came on" to the barn door whence the voice that had hailed us had proceeded.
"Hilloo," said, in a voice of astonishment, a fine, strapping, fresh complexioned man, with a face the very personification of good humour, as his laughing eye fell upon Tom, when we had reached the barn door at which he stood, "so you've come to see me at last."
"What," cried Tom, "is it you. Why, I thought you lived ten miles further on."
"No, here's my place. But come in to the House. I'm heartily glad to see you, and so will the old woman be."
With that he led us over to the house, and we entered by the back door, that being the nearest, in company with our host, three young kids, five puppies, and about seven children. Before anything at all could be done, the kids, the pups, and a portion of the children had to be got rid of; the two first were disposed of very summarily by an application of rattan, the last, however, were dealt with more persuasively, by an application of bread and butter. And now I had an opportunity of looking round me, I perceived that we had passed through a skilling or lean-to, that served as store, tool house, and work shop, and had entered a good sized apartment, the common keeping room of the establishment, in which the first thing that took my attention was the enormous fireplace that extended nearly the whole width of the room, and in which were burning two logs, or rather young trees, that would have furnished fuel to a Sydney fireplace for a fortnight at least.
Standing at the fire was a young girl of apparently between twelve to thirteen years of age, holding the handle of a Brobdignagian frying pan, truly worthy, from its vast proportions, to be employed for cooking at such a fire, and on such a fireplace. A quantity of fish sufficient to have provided a meal for half a dozen hungry men, were spitting and cracking and hissing in the pan, which ever and anon the young damsel would swing from off the flame, when the heat became too powerful. A large table occupied the centre of the room, at which the mistress of the house-was busily engaged in dredging with flour another huge heap of fish destined to take the place of those in the pan so soon as they should be declared by competent authority to be done. At the far end of the table was a stoat strong armed wench, with another heap of fish before her, which she was employed in salting, rubbing the coarse grains into the flesh so lustily as, from some sympathetic cause that I did not stop to enquire into, to make me nervously uneasy and to attract my eye, nolens volens, to the irritating process so long as it was continued.
On looking round further, I found that capacious tin dishes, huge buckets, and medium-sized washing tubs, all full of fish in different stages or states of preparation, covered the floor. It seems that I had, on entering the room, passed unaware, but safely, through this chaotic confusion, though how I had contrived to do so was a mystery. And now the last sprinkle of flour having been given to the last fish, for, good husband that he was he knew better than to disturb the house wife at her work, our host introduced us to his "old woman”. From her we received as frank and hearty but as little formal a welcome as we that just had from the master of the house.
“But come,” said Farrell, our host; "off with your swags. Now you are here, you're not going to move any farther to-day.'
I was about to raise some objections, for I half dreaded that we were not far enough beyond the reach of our ancient, and, no doubt, irate dame.
“We were thinking of getting as far as Barranjuee today," put in Tom.
"What’s your hurry Look, there !” and Farrell pointed to a heavy cloud that was drifting fast up and from which at the same moment heavy threatening rumblings were sent forth. "It's going to be wet all day long and if it isn't, I’ll show you some sport, more than you'll get at Barranjuee. And then if the rain holds up at night, we'll go candleing,. Oh!, such fun !" and here he broke into ecstatic laughter at the very idea.
"Candleing?" queried Nat and I in one voice; but the old soldier Tom, who knew everything, let fall no such indication of ignorance but, with an air of perfect acquaintance with all details, said, "'Well, it is fine fun so, I don't care if we do."
"And don’t you know what candleing is?" asked Farrell of Nat and I.
We honestly confessed that we did not.
"Ohl Oh! Oh!" laughed Farrell, as if it were a good joke to meet with two persons who actually did not know what this fine fun of his was.
"Oh! Oh !-tell 'em Tom." And he laughed louder than "You see,” commenced-Tom, when thus appealed to,"candleing is-a-a-in fact, you go fishing and then-a-" But here a brilliant idea seemed to flash across him, and he at once took up readily "its nothing more than fishing with a torch and a moutang or fish spear, though how you manage to use it on these rocks, or how you contrive to launch a boat, or keep it afloat in these rollers, I'll be hanged if I can tell."
“Oh! oh ! oh !" burst out our host. “I knew you couldn’t tell what it was. The fact is, you don't often see it, for there are but very few places on the coast where this style of fishing can be followed."
Under these circumstances, Tom was fain to acknowledge that he didn't know, that being the first time that he had ever been known to make a similar admission. We now requested our host to describe the mode of procedure.
"You see that headland, just over to the south-ward, on which the rain is beginning to fall. Well, below that, there is a flat ridge of rock running out very, nearly a quarter of a mile, the whole of which is bare at low water. In this ledge, there are many deep fissures, in some places widening out into large pools, with about three or four feet of water in them. They are all connected by narrow openings with the sea, but in order that the fishing should be successful, it requires that the pool itself should be capacious, and that the entrance from the Ocean sbould be narrow. At low water, the fish that frequent the rocks, though it is mostly black- fish that we find get into these pools for safety, as the narrow inlet will not admit of the entrance of any of the many enemies that are constantly prowling about for them, in the shape jew-fish, king-fish, sharks, and others. Here then they conceive themselves to be safe, and so they might have been forever, so far as I am concerned, if it hadn't been that a blackfellow, old Bowen, put me down to the candleing. We happen to have on this ledge, just such a pool as suits the fish all to pieces, so we wait for a dark night, the darker the better, and having laid in a good stock of dry stringy bark for torches, and placed a large pile of firewood on the rocks ready for night; we go in as large a party as we can muster down to the rocks a little before-low water. We first make a roaring fire as near to the pool as we can get, and then twisting up a handful of bark into a torch, we light it and take that in one hand, and a good lump of a waddy in the other, and surround the pool, placing in the first instance a good sharp hand to guard the outlet. As soon as the fishes see the light, they begin to jump up and dart about in all directions. Then, the fun begins. We waddy away at them, as fast as we see them, and in general the pool is alive with them. Why, last night we brought up in bags as much fish to the house as six of us could carry. When one of them gets a lick, he turns up at once, and then you fish him out if in reach, or leave him awhile if out of reach. Of course some get away, but not many, if you have a good man at the entrance. Well, after a bit, the creatures get bothered, and go and poke themselves into every nook and cranny of the rocks that they can find, so that when we see that there are none swimming about, we all jump in, and go and rummage the rocks, pulling them out by the tail, or pitching them ashore just as we can get at them, or fetching them a lick as they try to get away. It's about as good fun as any one would wish to have and profitable, too, let me tell you, for a haul of fish such as we got last night is worth having,"
"Is there no danger ? " I timidly asked.
"Danger !" and he laughed a mirthful laugh of scorn, " not a bit of it."
" But with a heavy swell-like-like-there is on now ?" I again meekly enquired.
"Why, the rollers do come in over the ledge sometimes," he replied, " and then you get wet through, but you are sure to be that way before you've done, so it isn't much difference."
That answer decided me and from that moment I denounced candleing in my heart, and made a solemn promise to myself to do my utmost to save myself from undergoing such an accumulation of misery, as poor innocent jolly Farrell, with- his unsophisticated bush notions, had been pleased to designate fun. The mere wretchedness of a ducking, even if in a broad day and sunlight, was crushing, as I had only recently experienced; but, to be ducked at midnight on a cold bleak bare ledge of rocks, over which the piercing southerly breeze would blow with almost freezing power was, in my opinion, the very acme of misery. And then, as if this were not enough, therewere the rollers coming in, seething and foaming and roaring, and carrying you off your legs ever so far up the ledge, and then, perhaps, drawing you back, over--.
My-horror-spoken air, as my wandering thoughts reached this disagreeable climax, attracted our host's, attention, who, feinting out my woe-begone look to my companions, burst into a hearty fit of laughter, in which he was joined by Tom and Nat.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, August 5). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article28624608
(From the Sydney Mail, August 10)
After they had had their laugh out, the subject was disposed of by a mutual understanding that we were all to go candleing that night. Farrell then excused himself for leaving us, and returned to the barn, where, prior to our arrival he had been engaged in preparing with a chaff-cutter the horse’s supply of fodder, which job he desired to complete.
When he had left us Tom commenced, " Well, we've got into good quarters again. Ain't I a good pilot !"
" Yes, responded Nat, " but you kept your piloting to yourself, and appeared quite as much astonished as any of us at the meeting."
“ Ha ! ha ! that was it,” said, Tom. "I wanted to surprise you. However, this will do, eh, Charlie?"
“All but the candlèing. And if I trust myself out on that shelf of rock in the dark, may ___” ' I was about to commit myself by some terrible adjuration, when Tom added,
" And do you think I mean to go? No, thank'ye ! Tom isn't so soft as that. But we must humour him you know."
Nat looked at us both with one of the most sardonic of his smiles, and added, " Well ! you are a pair of humbugs."
"Because we won't make victims of ourselves ?" I asked.
" No, but because you're deceiving Farrell. Tom, I always knew you were a humbug, but I thought better of you, Charlie."
The fire was getting too hot, so Tom like an able general fell back out of range, and then showed a new front by modifying his previous assertion, and ultimately ended by declaring that if Farrell insisted upon going, of course he had never intended anything else but to accompany him.
No great time, however, elapsed before our host returned, and then as the shower had passed over and one or two straggling sunbeams had made their way into sight from between the masses of cloud, he suggested that as it was now low water we should go down and fish from a ledge of rook whence they were accustomed to try what luck the ocean sent them. We might get a snapper, or a groper, or a cod. I looked up to the rain-charged skies, and then turned my ear seaward where the surf was now thundering upon the beach, and with fear and trembling consented to make the trial.
Nat, Farrell, and I, -for Tom was too knowing to be deluded into this adventure-provided ourselves with a snapper line each, with a roasted starfish for bait, and took our way down to the rocks, which formed a ledge, lying to the northward of the beach, above which the house was situated, and, consequently, not the candleing ledge of which he had spoken. We laboured our road over the sand hills, on to the beach, almost stunned by the incessant roaring of the breaking waves, and we had scarcely reached the rocks when a shower, heavier than any that had preceded it, came tearing in from the sea, accompanied with a violent squall of wind that sent the spray flying over us as thickly as the rain that was poured down upon us from overhead, and we at once ran, helter skelter, for the nearest refuge.
Now it happened that on this unlucky shelf there was only one boulder of rock of size enough to offer shelter, and this was by no means of sufficient capacity to protect the three of us; consequently, as I was the last to reach it, I had to get in anywhere, the anywhere being the extreme verge of the protecting medium, whereby one shoulder was exposed to the whole fury of the rainy torrent, whilst my head, which by an excruciating corporeal contortion I had contrived to get just beneath a small overhanging ledge, was subjected to a continuous douche from the drops that were driven over rapidly by the wind, and which, with the contrariety usual with all inanimate things upon such occasions, would insist upon coming inwards further than they ought to have done, and dripping down my neck, running meanderingly down my back in a most cruelly unpleasant manner. In the meantime the sea, lashed up by the wind, was dashing furiously against the outer edge of the reef-roller after roller coming in, each heavier than the other, and sending the foamy water washing at times nearly to our feet. The tide was rising too, that was a fact I had ascertained, and I began to get nervously uneasy, as I pictured to myself our position, if the tide should rise and cut off our retreat.
I put this case feelingly and in the most moving accents to Farrell, who was sitting laughing and joking as unconcernedly as if in front of his own capacious fireplace and rather, I think, enjoying our discomfiture.
“Oh, no fear," he replied, "if we can't get back one way, we can the other and if we can't get by the rocks, we shall have to face the hill."
I looked at the lofty towering headland near me, some three hundred feet high, and marked it's sheer bluff front of stone, and I thought that I, at all events, should have to face it along time before I surmounted it, whatever the others might do. I said as much to our host.
"Not at till," he answered, "there is a track up it, not quite as level as George-street, but I have been along it dozens of times, when I have been nailed here by the tide."
This was not at all calculated to allay my perturbations, so I once more attacked him upon the ad viability of moving.
"There's no hurry," said he, " it's not more than half flood, so we'd better wait till the shower 's over. We may have a chance for a throw in presently."
At the end of another five minutes I could stand no more, the water was now regularly and unmistakably washing up to our very feet, and I anticipated nothing less than that some roller larger than usual would come and walk us off altogether. So briefly stating my impressions upon the subject, I declared my intention to clear out.
"Well," he responded, looking out from hw shelter, "I believe you’re right. It is time we made a move."
Oh, with what alacrity, now that the word was given, did I patter away over that wet and slimy edge, taking the shortest and most direct course to the beach, heedless of the pools of water, some of them knee deep-all of which, by the way, I had carefully avoided and gone round in coming-that I found in my path and only too happy to find myself getting out of the reach of that rooting and treacherous element, which seemed bursting with fury at our escape from its clutches.
Dripping like a nereid, and shivering with cold, I reached the house, over the floor of which I left a broad, trail of wet as I walked towards the fire. Tom regarded me with pitying eyes, and then recommended me to hang myself over one of the huge beams, that crossed the inner part of the chimney, to drain, offering as a token of his sincere friendship, to wring me out with his own hands. Disgusted with his hard-hearted jestings I folded my arms sternly across my breast, determined like the hero in a Sadler's Wells melodrama "to brave the worst."
Farrell, however, took compassion upon the misery that he had had so great a hand in producing, and very considerately offered me a change of attire. This I joyfully accepted, and after a few minutes absence to remove the wet and to don the dry garments, I returned to the room in such guise as to elicit a spontaneous and general burst of laughter at my appearance. I have said that our host was a fine strapping fellow, by which I mean to indicate that he was tall and that he was stout withal; and as I have previously described myself as not being either tall or stout, it may be readily imagined how ill his apparel sat upon me. The girth of the nether garments would have encompassed two such puny individuals as myself, notwithstanding the Puuchi-formity of abdomen that gives me an imposing air of burlyncB8 when in my own attire, and they consequently hung bagging about me in anything but picturesque draping ¡ whilst, being too long by nearly half the length of the leg, I had to turn them up in many folds at the bottom, and thus further add to the singularity of their appearance. The coat was one common to bushmen and seamen, and known in ordinary parlance as a "monkey jacket." This article is usually supposed to come down to the hips, but the one in question having been selected to match the trousers, reached nearly to my knees, whilst its circumference being similar to that of the garment aforesaid, fitted me in about the same proportion, or as Tom remarked "rather too much." My hair, still saturated with the rain and brine, hung down after the fashion of "long dips," and as I had omitted to resume my cap which was undergoing the draining process from a nail on one of the chimney jambs, the whole beauty of the crinatory arrangement was fully displayed.
I let them have their laugh out, for I didn't care a pin about their merriment, as I was now dry, warm, and comfortable, and as dinner-consisting of the huge dishes of fish I have before referred to-was ready, I was in admirable humour for the meal, and none the worse in appetite for the ducking I had undergone. I was standing at the fire, after a very respectable go in at the fish, and as I smoked the after-dinner pipe, which, next after the after-breakfast pipe is the one that your true smoker most enjoys, when I contemplatively assumed the before-the-fire attitude peculiar to the true born Briton. This I need hardly say consists in turning the back to the blaze, and opening the legs to an angle of fifteen degrees, and with the two hands making a posterior division of the coat flaps. Thus I stood, buried in the delicious aroma of Leigh's primest honeydew, when Tom approached, walked round me once or twice, regarding me the while with a most admiring gaze, and at last said, "First rate dress that, for shooting !"
“I couldn't conceive how. The things were altogether too big.”
"There's the beauty," he answered. ''I didn't remark it till you assumed that attitude, but now I see the value, of roomy, toggery.”
" In what way ? “ I asked.
"Look here, Nat ," and he brought my other companion up to join in the inspection. “Would any man with a pair of inexpressibles like these, ever want to carry a bag for his game ?" and hereupon he seized hold of a vast superfluity of cloth, that my elevation of the coat had made distinctly visible behind.
I resented Tom's remark as a personal matter, but I was greeted with such uproarious laughter that I was fain to smother my wrath, though at the same time I promised myself to have my change from master Tom on the very first opportunity.
The weather still continued wet, heavy showers passing over in quick succession, and leaving but brief intervals of calm, during which the poor sun made feeble but abortive attempts to show himself, never succeeding further than occasionally to thrust a straggling ray down between the edges of the clouds. Every preparation for the candleing was however made, though Farrell shook his head, and had his doubts whether or not the weather would be suitable, because if it rained at all hard it would be useless to make the attempt, since the torches wouldn't burn. On hearing this I forthwith invoked the Jupiter Fluvius, of the Austral hemisphere, that he might pour down "cats and dogs,"-the hardest kind of rain that is supposed ever to be experienced from now until tomorrow morning. Still, Farrell was determined to be ready, and so large quantities of stringy bark were brought in from a shed, where they had been stored, were dried before the fire, and w ere torn up into long shreds, ready to form a torch at a moment's notice. I knew it was going to be, and to continue to be wet, and savagely told our host that it was no use to make these preparations.
" Well, I don't know," he said, in answer to my last appeal. "We may get a chance to run down between two showers, or perhaps it may hold up with the turn of the tide. Let’s see how it looks."
We all adjourned to the verandah, under which we were sheltered from the rain falling from the tail-end of a cloud that had all but passed over.
"It has stopped now, you see," he said.
"Yes, but look at that high headland to the south- ward, on which the succeeding cloud has already commenced to discharge cargo." I had him there.
"It's coming down there, isn't it ?" he responded. "It's strange how all the heaviest showers touch that hill first as they come in from the sea."
"Perhaps it's the highest," I suggested.
"So it is; it's the highest piece of ground between Sydney and Newcastle, and when on its top you can see Sydney Heads, and even Botany on one side and Bungaree Norah on the other."
"What do you call it ?" I asked.
"I don't know what name they give it on the maps, but we here about call it Casey's Hill," answered Farrell " that's the name I've known it by from a boy, and it was so called from a notorious bushranger named Casey, who used to make it his haunt."
View from Bushrangers Hills south. Image No.: a924065h, circa 1900. courtesy State Library of NSW.
"Rather an out-of-the-way place," I put in.
"Not at all. There's always been plenty of settlers between here and Lane Cove, and he had the whole country open to him along the Parramatta River on one side, and the Hawkesbury on the other. He used to come up here after his expeditions, and lay by a bit, because he could see all around him for miles, if any one was in pursuit of him."
"I never recollect hearing of him. What became of him?" I asked.
"He was shot at last by a blackfellow-Black Bowen as we used to call him-one of the finest darkies I ever met with, and I've seen a good many of 'em in my time," he replied.
We now all pressed him to give us the particulars of this "death of the bushranger."
"I'll tell you all I know about the matter, though it isn't much, and as it happened a long time ago, I forget a good deal about it. However, this Casey was a pitiful, sneaking kind of bushranger, never venturing, like Opossum Jack, or Paddy Curran, or Jackey Jackey, to do business on a large scale, or amongst those who could afford to lose the money he took, but confining his operations to huts and small farm-houses, never caring whether it was an un- fortunate Government man that he robbed of his rations, or whether it was a poor devil of a settler, who didn't know which way to turn to make the two ends meet, that he cleared out. His robberies were chiefly of rations and clothing, sometimes a little money, or articles that could be converted into money. He had had a pretty good run, having been out nearly two years, when at last, a consequence of some ruffianly conduct on his part, the Government determined upon his apprehension. In those days there was very scant ceremony over a convict that took to the bush, and where there was no good reward for delivering him up, the police have been suspected of shooting their man where they found him, just to save trouble in escorting him afterwards. They were out after Casey for three weeks or a month, but deuce a bit could they find him. There he was perched on that hill, and their first appearance sent him off to some of the many secure nooks that are to be found hereabouts, in which a regiment of police would never ferret a man out. He was compelled to take this course, because every man in the district. Government men and all, on account of his plundering his own kind of people, was dead against him. Now, it happened that Bowen, who was a great favourite with the Governor, had been several times employed to track bushrangers, though it was a job that he didn't like, as his sympathies were rather with than against them, and on one occasion for something he had done this way, he had had a gun made a present to him. This he ever afterwards carried about with him as a trophy of prowess; and it was a trophy, too, for few white men, let alone blacks, possessed a gun in those days. Well, Bowen was very proud of this and took it with him every where. One day he was out in the bush towards Lane Cove way, I don't know exactly where, but at all events, he heard great cries and noise coming from a spot where he knew two Government men were stationed in a hut. The word "murder" being used most energetically, Bowen ran as hard as he could to the place, and soon come in sight of the two men who were desperately engaged in defending themselves against Casey, whilst he was attacking them with a large knife in one hand, and a pistol held by the barrel in the other. Bowen at once saw how the land lay, so coining up cautiously, though rapidly, he got within gunshot of Casey, and sent the contents of his piece into the worthless carcase of the bushranger. The charge struck him in the back and lodged in his heart, and he never spoke again. It seemed that he had been blockaded in his hill for so long that his grub had run out and he had been obliged to come down for something to eat. Getting to the hut he was about to steal the poor men's bit of rations, when they came upon him before he had time to get away. A struggle ensued, and a tough one it was too, as the question to be decided was, which of the parties should go without grub for the remainder of the week. Casey was armed only with a pistol, and this he had discharged without effect, and had then attacked them with the knife, wounding both so severely as to lay them up in hospital for some weeks afterwards."
"Your Bowen, then, was a plucky dog," said Tom.
"He was," answered Farrell, "and without exception one of the rummest devils I ever saw. He was particularly fond of dress, but would never wear more than one article at a time. Some times he would appear in a pair of old regimental trousers ; then these would be put aside and he would turn out in a waistcoat, which, in its turn would have to give place to a coat or a hat. But his most favourite piece of finery was an old dress coat of mine, a regular swallow tail that I had given him, and in which he would turn out as proudly as any swell in the land, although he hadn't another stitch on him."
"It is not often that you can get the blacks to wear clothes," I observed.
"Well, Bowen took to this old coat of mine most amazing, putting it on upon all grand occasions of ceremony. Ha ! ho ! ha ! I shall never forget his coming to me one day with it on, to give me information of a bee's nest he had discovered. He was in full fig with the dress coat, his hair knotted up behind, and three feathers stuck in it. He took me to the tree, and my noble Bowen at once proceeded to mount in the usual way, by cutting himself footholes in the trunk, and hoisting himself up with his tomahawk. Arrived at the limb at which was the nest, Bowen proceeded to chop, to make an opening by which to take out the honey. With the first jar of the stroke of his tomahawk, out flew a host of bees, who, circling round, soon discovered their persecutor. They lodged about his body in all directions, but as they don't sting until they are themselves attacked, Bowen would have got off scot free, if it hadn't been for the dress coat. This was buttoned in front, and of course, with every movement of his arm in chopping, the inner surface of the coat rubbed against his body. Now, some of the bees, in the course of their explorations over his person, got between his skin and the coat, and feeling the friction, fancied themselves aggrieved, and at once-took revenge by driving their stings into the offending surface, coat or flesh, whichever happened to be nearest. "Ha!" "oh!" "ha!" would poor Bowen cry out, as he felt the prick-up now on one side, now on the other, at the same time bending his body to take off the pressure from the side stung, and thereby causing a friction and a consequent sting on the other side. At last it got so warm that Bowen was coming down,' when I, who up to that time had been unable to speak for laughing, told him the cause of his suffering, and directed him to take off the coat. It was with extreme reluctance that he did so but once relieved of the swallow-tail , all went well, and we got the honey."
"I have always understood that a black would never attempt to ascend a tree with any article of clothing on.” remarked Nat.
"No more they will generally," responded Farrell " but Bowen was very proud of his coat."
"And what became of him, after all ?" I asked.
"Poor Bowen!" he replied, his usually joyous tones sinking to a melancholy cadence, "he was shot, whilst sitting at his camp fire, by a cowardly skulking lot of bushrangers, who hadn't the manhood to come up and meet him face to face, for Bowen was game to the back bone, and has stood to me in many a pinch both on land and water."
"Don't you know who killed him?" I again enquired.
"No. The news was brought me by some blacks who found his dead body by the side of the fire, and who, from the tracks around, knew that four armed whites had been there. It was perhaps lucky both for me and for the man who did the deed that I didn't know him, for I looked upon Bowen almost as a brother, and I would have followed his murderer to this day, but I would have had blood for blood."
There was a pause in the conversation after the enunciation of this terrible sentiment I was staggered, as I had never anticipated so great a display of decision from our laughing, good-humoured host. He remained moody and thoughtful after this unexpected burst, but only for a brief period, for his temperament was too mirthful to allow sorrow to have the upper hand for any length of time. Suddenly breaking out into his usual joyous laughter, he exclaimed,
"Well, you've had me at a pretty game. A rare string you've got me into. I didn't think that I was so green as to be run into such a show off as I have made. But come; here is a fine warm gleam of sunshine; let us go down to the rocks, and get together the firewood for our candleing."
Here was a change, from the romantic to the absolutely practical, that I did not at all agree with, so I excused myself on the ground of my previous wetting, whilst Tom excused himself on no ground at all, simply declaring that "he'd be hanged if he'd go and get wet for anybody."
So Nat, Farrell, and two men went to procure the requisite firewood, whilst Tom and I took a quiet saunter down to the paddock, as one always does in the country, to have a look how the crops are coming on, or the work is progressing. There was not much to be seen, except the evidences of the late rains, which, having washed a large portion of the soil from the higher parts of the cultivation had deposited its sandy particles at the spot where the fall of the water had been broken by the fence, so that in the hollow near the creek the deposit reached nearly to the second rail of the fence. We walked round the barley, and through the sorghum, and over a portion that had been cut and left in the ground in order to try the experiment of the second year's growth. Here the stems, cut down to within about eight inches of the earth, were al- ready sending up three, four, or more shoots, according to the strength of the root. We walked round to the head of the ploughed lands, and across the young barley on to the fallow land, which had evidently been allowed to lie idle for some years past. Here was a recurrence of the circumstance that had everywhere puzzled me ever since I left Manly Beach. Why wasn't this land cultivated ? Here was a fine active enterprising man, only too anxious to push about and do anything, and yet he allowed two-thirds of his property to lie idle. I would speak to him and have an elucidation. I could not return to Sydney with this incubus on my mind,-I must know why this land was not tilled.
Whilst allowing my mind to run away over the tangled mass of thought that confused it, and of which I could make nothing, I was not the liveliest possible companion for Tom, whose jokes were completely thrown away upon me, for even when he challenged my approval, by his question, "Not bad that, Charlie ? " of some pun or equivoque, more barbateus than its predecessors, I had to demand a repetition of it, together with an explanation and answers to collateral questions arising there out, all of which, in Tom's opinion, tended to take the pungent edge off his puns, so gradually ho turned sulky, and finally decided upon returning to the house. I was nothing loth, and homewards we bent our way, meeting Farrell and the rest at the door, just as they returned from the opposite direction.
"Now then," said he, "we're all ready for the night."
I answered nothing. I was afraid to trust my tongue to speak.
"Such a jolly pile of wood!" he continued. "But where have you been?"
"Just looking round your cultivation !" I replied, glad of a chance to turn the conversation. " But that reminds mc that I wanted to ask you, how it is that you cultivate so little of your ground ?"
"There are a good many reasons for that; but what do you ask for ? Are you a free selector ?"
Had a bombshell fallen at my feet, hissing and fizzing and ready to explode, I could not have been more thrown off my usual aplomb than I was by this question. Here was I, in a new and unexplored country, the natives of which I had fondly imagined to be living in a primitive state of barbarism, and innocency, and where no such words as Electoral Reform, Elective Upper House, Land Bill, and Free Selection were known, and yet I had had hurled at me the cruel words, the bitter words, the maddening words that had been dinned into my ears in every tone of which the human voice is capable during three sessions of Parliament, during two general elections, and four recesses, and at public meetings innumerable. Here amidst primeval gums, and aboriginal forests that hated free selection, had like some unquiet ghost come stalking before me, determined to haunt mc, though I here most solemnly aver that neither I nor any of my brother reporters had anything to do with its murder; on the contrary it was we who nursed and cherished, and made much of it very much more than it deserved, ungrateful that it was ; and we have, therefore, nothing to answer for in regard to it. Hero it turned up again then in the wilds of Barranjuee, when I had thought it quietly laid by until September next.
However I had raised the monster, and I felt that I was doomed to be its victim, so resigned to my fate I doggedly prepared for the contest, whilst Tom and Nat, when they saw things assuming so serious an aspect, withdrew without a word.
( To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, August 12). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13066494
(From the Sydney Mail, August 17.)
"Are you a free selector ?" asked Farrell, and thereby rudely awakened me from my fancied dream of freedom from politics, and ruthlessly brought me back to the questions vexate of days of drudgery, and toil, and disgust. 1 need hardly say that I paused to recover breath before I replied, and then that I answered .cautiously, for I did not yet know into what political circle I had fallen, or whether our host was red-hot conservative, progressive liberal, or ultra radical, and said :
"It seems to be fashionable now-a-days, and one might as well be out of the world as out of the fashion."
" Yes, that's just it. A parcel of fools get up a cry, which they don't know the meaning of, and then others, knowing us little us themselves, join 'em, until they make such u din, that sober serious brains are muddled and moidered, and can't get n chance to think."
" Then you' don't believe in free selection ?" I asked.
" Believe in it ! Hal ha! ha!" and he laughed boisterously for a couple of minutes. " Well that is good !"
" Come, come," I responded, "laughter is no answer, and there are very many sensible men who go in for the principle." That was a bit of Macquarie street for him.
"Principle!" he ejaculated; " j-es, it's their interest to go in for the principal "-he was actually perpetrating a joke. " But now, do you really fancy that anyone of them seriously believes in it ? "
" Of course, I do ! " I answered unhesitatingly, for Ï remembered the virtuous indignation, the patriotic .warmth of Robertson, and the wild, the rambling, or the obscure advocacy of many another hon. gent.
" Ha ! ha ! ha !" he roared, " you are an innocent, and no mistake. Do you think, now, that John Robertson* believes in it ?"
" I have no cause to doubt it," I replied ; " for has he not laboured and toiled, and roared and danced, and torn his beard, and nil to establish-"
"What he knows to be a humbug." Farrell was ill-mannered, and interrupted me when I was preparing to be eloquent. " Look here, I’ve known John Robertson since he was a lad, and I know that he has toiled and worked and drudged the same as all us settlers have had to do, and has known as well as we have how difficult it is to make the two ends meet. Now, look at me. Here I am on a bit of land of my own. I have cattle of my own to milk or to kill. I have plenty of pigs and poultry. I could keep two, three, or even four teams of horses continually on the road, let alone bullock teams, and yet you see my land-there isn't the third of it cultivated-and I am within easy reach of Sydney."
"That's exactly what I want to get to the bottom . Why don't you cultivate ?" I asked eagerly.
"For a very simple reason,-it don't pay. “
" But surely you might grow your own wheat; as much as you would require for your own consumption."
" I can get flour in Sydney, all ready for use, at a cheaper rate than I can grow wheat, even on my own ground."
" I can hardly think that," said I.
" It's a fact all the same. I've totted it up, and know that taking the price of the seed, with the cost of labour in ploughing, sowing, harrowing, weeding, reaping, carting, threshing, and grinding the flour I should get would cost me much more than I can buy it for in Sydney, although the land is my own. And mind you, here I leave out of sight the chances of losing the crop by hot winds-an occurrence by no means unfrequent."
I was staggered, but not beat yet, sol tried another tack, " Some of those who advocate free selection propose to aid the farmer by imposing a tax upon articles imported-in fact, by protective duties,"
"Protective duties-destructive duties they mean," he answered, in an evident tone of ill temper. "How the deuce can they possibly protect me if they make me raise my own wheat at a higher cost than I can buy it now. If the wheat costs me a shilling a bushel to raise it more than I can buy it for in Sydney, and I use a hundred bushels a year, I shall consider that I am robbed of a hundred shillings a year by their protection.''
" But then the small farmer will be able to clap on the price at which he sells, and so get a market that he hasn't got now." I confess I was fast getting out of my depth, but I recollected luckily some of the electioneering protective harangues that I had listened to from one gentleman, who has at last, after a great many rebuffs, succeeded in finding a seat.
"Yes," said Farrell, " and so victimise someone else in the community. But only see how this acts. Suppose you put a tax on everything imported that comes into competition with anything made here ; the result is that all producers are protected in so far as their own article of production is concerned, but are victimised by being made to pay more than before for every article that they do not themselves produce. The man who produces nothing has to pay more for everything, and of course claps it on his dealings to cover increased cost, and so everything is dearer, nobody a bit the better off, and very many a great deal the worse off, for the producer of the one single article who may be led to fancy himself protected will be the greatest sufferer, and will soon find that, instead of protection, they have given him destruction."
"Then it would seem by your account that it would be impossible for a man to live on a piece of ground of his own?" I couldn't keep on the Protection question; it was beyond me, I confess it, and was only too glad to get him back to the land and the farm, in which I fondly believed that the three sessions, the four recesses, the two general elections, and the innumerable public meetings that I have before referred to, had tolerably well posted me up.
" On a piece of ground, certainly not." He said this most decidedly-, " If I was to try to live off this piece of ground, I should make a mess of it."
"And do you mean to say you couldn't live off this land ?"
" It all depends upon what you call living. I suppose I could grow enough potatoes here, and catch fish enough from the rocks to give us our tucker. That might do for a blackfellow, but would hardly suit me," and here he gave a jolly laugh and passed his hand coaxingly over the abdominal regions. "But to live as I now do, and to have something to spare for a friend or for a passing stranger, it couldn't be done."
" But why ?” I thought that was the shortest way of coming to it, for he seemed to me to be always darting from the real point to which I wished to bring him.
" Because it costs too much to raise the articles that will command a market, to say nothing of the expense of preparing them for and bringing them to the market. To be sure there's hay. That will always sell, because people who keep horses must feed them, and hay is too cumbersome to carry far but only let that run up to anything like a price and we have it sent in from the other colonies."
"Surely we ought to grow it as cheap as they can," I answered.
" And so we do, by the acre but not by the ton; and this very article of hay is an excellent example of what I mean. So long as the seasons are good and the supply plentiful, the hay keeps at a reasonable figure and none is imported, but let a hard year come, early hot winds to parch it up or late rains to throw it down or rot it, and then up goes the price and in comes the hay from other places that have not been affected in this way. They can always sell cheaper than us, because they get heavier crops, and are more certain of them than we are."
" That is the reason, I should imagine, that you would give, for the more regular supply of wheat that is raised in Adelaide as compared with New South Wales."
" Yes, that and the fact that the poor devils have bought their land, have laid out on it all they possessed in the world, and are compelled to work the ground, or to turn to something else and begin the world afresh. But, bless you, they don't make much more than their tucker out of it, after all the outlay they have gone to and though some of 'em may have made money in the gold days, that's all over now."
"I don't know," I put in dubiously. "Seven to ten shillings a bushel, the price at which wheat has been ranging for some time past, seems to me to be a paying figure."
" So it would be if they got it, but they don't. Why, bless your innocence, you're not half awake. Did you never notice that just before the harvest wheat always takes a fall, very gradual and very comfortable. Now, what do you think that's for? You don't know, well, I'll tell you. Suppose a free selectionist to sit down on a piece of ground, and to get in a good patch of wheat, by the time his twenty or thirty acres are in, if he has not got a very long purse, he will be pretty well run out of funds very possibly, for it isn't got in for nothing, he may be in debt. However, suppose he can weather out the harvest, there is the cost of harvesting, threshing, and preparing, for and carrying to market ; suppose he can find cash for all this without borrowing, he won't be able to leave his wheat lying in his barn, waiting for a rise in the market, but must sell at once and the millers know it, and have the price down, ready for him; keeping it down, down, steadily, until they fancy that all that they are likely to get has come in, when, presto! up goes tile price again. And that's the way they work it."
" Then, if a man can hold on, he can get a good price," I asked, hopefully, for there seemed to be a chance for free selection after all?"
" Yes, if his crop isn't cut up with a hot wind, or rusted with the wet, or smutted with fungus, or pinched up with the drought. But in nine cases out of ten, the small settlers, the stringy barkers, as we used to call them, have their crops mortgaged as soon as they show through the ground, selling at the harvest market price, and taking an advance, either from a miller or storekeeper, each of whom knows how to work the matter to his own advantage. "
"It strikes me, however, even on your own showing, that you, who could afford to wait for the higher price, might very well grow your own wheat." I thought I had him here, but he managed to slip away from me.
“No. I shouldn't save on the price of the year round, for I always lay in my stock when flour is new. And, besides, to grow for market, I shouldn't make enough in the year to cover the wear and tear of temper that it would entail. It is so hard to get good then. I never got one, yet. You have to take anything in the shape of a man to help you, and then just as you break him in and make him useful off he goes to turn his knowledge to account somewhere else. Only about three weeks ago I hired a man in Sydney, and asked him particularly, ' Can you plough?' ' Oh yes,' says he, 'Of course I can.' Well, I brought him out here, and gave him my own horse to ride upon, whilst I walked home. The next morning, I sent him with the two horses into the paddock to go on with the ploughing that I had begun. Well, he got to work, but somehow I wasn't easy, so down I goes to the paddock, and there I see a furrow not merely running crooked, but turning up the ground so unevenly as to be next to no ploughing at all. Sometimes the plough seemed to be buried in the ground, and then there had been a struggle to get it out, leaving a hole as if a stump had been taken from it ; and then again another place would be just skimmed over not three inches of the soil being disturbed. I was riled and no mistake. I waited till he came down to the head land, and then I said to him, 'What kind of ploughing do you call this?' He looked at me with all the impudence in life and said, 'What kind of ploughing ? ' ' Yes, what kind of ploughing ? ' I repeated. 'Why, ain't it good enough for you ?' he answered. ' Good enough for me ! ' I cried, for I was certainly losing my temper, 'it's not fit for anything ! ' "Well!' said he in the coolest manner possible, ' you'd better do it yourself!' and with that as the horses turned round the head land to take up the returning furrow, my noble ploughman instead of carrying the plough round as he ought to have done, threw it over on to its side, and the sudden jerk broke one of the stilts. On seeing this, I fairly boiled over, and I rather fancy that I must have said some hard words to him, for he looked skeered and frightened, whilst I seeing a hoe resting against the side of a fence ran up and took hold of it, and then made towards him with the intention of giving him a sound drubbing. However, he didn't wait for that, but made off as fast as his legs would carry him, and I must say that if he could have ploughed as well as he could run, we should never have had any disagreeables. He took along the paddock with me at his heels, and when he came to the fence tumbled over it like a rigger. By that time my pelter was pretty well worn out, and as I saw him skirl over the fence, I fairly burst out laughing and let him go. I thought he would be back to the house at dinner time, and intended to have made it up with him but I never set eyes on him again. He went off without beat of drum," and left even his baggage behind him-for his bundle is hanging up in the skillion now, just where he tied it when he came in."
" But," said I, "this has scarcely a bearing on the question, because free selection is intended to give the poor man a chance, and he will be hardly likely to employ labour." I was almost ashamed to bring up the "poor man," who has been so frightfully paraded of late in the aforesaid sessions, elections, &e., but I was getting fast driven into a corner, and was obliged to take up this, the trump card of the suit.
"Poor man! My grandmother!" he was really getting wrathy. "What in the name of common sense would a poor man do on a piece of land, even if he got it for nothing ? How is he to clear and fence it, especially if it is a bit of heavily timbered brush land, the only really valuable land in the colony? And, above all, how is he to keep himself out of the clutches of sharking storekeepers and dealers, and to lay by for a good price for his produce? When I tell you that I, who am well off, can't make cultivation pay, how is a poor devil, with nothing but his own stout heart and strong arms to help him to do so ?"
"He may, however, grow enough for the subsistence, of himself and family and so be independent."
"He may, but if a bad season should come, and I can remember many such, during the forty years of my life, in which nothing would grow, he and his family would be left to starve. No, it requires money, and a pretty good lot of it, too, to cultivate with any success, und then it is a very precarious investment."
"If that is the case," I now rejoined, " I wonder at your cultivating at all."
“Why, you see, I must have some kind of food for my horses and milkers when feed runs short in the bush, and so for them I grow sorghum and barley. And then the horses want a feed of corn now and then, and the poultry require to be fed, so I grow a bit of maize ; and these, with a few vegetables for the old woman, are all I raise."
“Still it strikes me that a man might get on comfortably enough on his own land, with some exertion of course, and perhaps with a considerable deal of self-denial in the first instance."
“Take my word for it," he answered, “that it will never do. There are many things that he can't do without that he can't grow himself, and to provide these he must grow more than he wants and take it to market. To do this, to grow for a market, he must have labour to assist him, and then comes in the difficulty-he must pay for it-and pay for it too at a price the article is not worth. There is the mischief that lays at the root of all. Just look round at the old farms of the colony; just think a bit o-rer all the splendid properties that you must remember to have seen all, every acre, under cultivation ; and see what they are now-all overgrown with couch, turned into pasture, or left to lie idle and neglected, the fences broken down, the barns falling in, and the threshing floors rotting. And why is this? Only because the proceeds of cultivation won't bear the cost of labour. When we had Government men here, and the work was done by assigned servants whose labour cost nothing, cultivation paid well enough. And mind you, I am only pointing to this to show the correctness of my argument, and not with any fondness for those days which, thank goodness, have now passed for ever. But you see how the thing worked. When transportation ceased, and assigned servants gradually obtained their liberty, the great proprietors found by degrees that they could not afford to pay for labour so, bit by bit, they gave up cultivation, until now the majority of their estates are comparatively untilled."
“There is something in this, no doubt," I observed; but you will scarcely say that land is valueless, and that a living is not to be got off it."
"No, I don't pretend to go so far as that," he replied. “Look at me. I grow no more than I require to feed the animals I make use of. I have a good herd of cattle, and they turn me out a tidy amount of butter every week. Then there are my pigs and my poultry, all furnishing good marketable commodities, and not requiring the employment of labour to anything like the extent that cultivation would do. In fact, I keep myself to that which I can produce with the least possible employment of labour, so that all I require my own family can very nearly do."
"But surely the free selector may do the same”
"To be sure he can; but then what becomes of your poor man ? He can't buy a herd of cattle, fit up a dairy, and purchase a stock of pigs and poultry, or keep a team on the road to carry his produce into market weekly. Here again you see it requires capital and no small amount either, I can tell you, when you come to pay for all."
“Then you consider that the poor man,” I almost blushed at dragging him in again, " has no chance?"
" Not a bit ! And the poor man knows it, and a good many of those who talk about him know it ; whilst a good many more, who make long speeches on the subject, know nothing about the matter, and only get laughed at by me and others like me who do know, for talking about what they don't understand. I only wish I had some of these spouting gentlemen up here for a day or two, if I wouldn't open their eyts for them, it would be a caution."
"Take them out candleing?" I said this somewhat savagely, to cover my ignominious defeat.
“Yes ! ha ! ha ! ha ! " and he laughed heartily, " and that puts me in mind of a jolly lark I had one night with a parcel of Sydney swells, who being down here wanted to see our fun of candleing. So of course I took them. Ha! ha ! I gave my chaps the office, and made them keep behind, whilst I went a head with the torch, which I took care to keep flashing continually in their faces, pretending to be careful to show them the way but really in order that they should not be able to see. I guided them over the gaps and round the pools very cautiously until I had them as docile as a lot of pups, and got them to the edge of the reef . " Now,” I says, “ jump down!”'
I flashed the light oin their eyes so they couldn’t see an inch before their noses and then in I jumped and in every one of them went after me. Ha! Ha ! Ha! Oh, if you had seen them kicking and spluttering and swearing, and clinging to the edge of the reef, you would have died with laughter. It was as much us I could do to swim for laughing "
" But, my dear sir,' and I spoke in highly indignant tones, ' you might have drowned them.”
“No fear," he answered, "there was a lower ledge where I brought them to, with about four feet of water on it, whilst I had jumped in purposely beyond the ledge. They were all right and scrambled out m no time, but jolly well ducked and no mistake.”
"Um," said I, but I thought, "Catch me candleing with you, my joke loving friend, and you have my full permission to duck me too '
This idea made me moody and taciturn, and though our host now began to enter upon a topic that above all others had an absorbing interest for him, namely, the shameful state of the road between his place and Manly, I paid but little attention to him at the time, and gave him but curt answers. Luckily Tom and Nat again entered upon the scene, and relieved me from the embarrassment into which I was fast falling by my brief and often random answers Almost at the same time the female part of the household bagan to make ready for the supper, and thus our seance was over. Once again huge piles of fish were placed upon the table, cold this time, disappearing with marvellously rapidity under our joint and energetic attack, whilst delicious butter, fresh from the churn, was a delicacy that we could all fully appreciate.
The meal over, preparations wore soon made for going to rest. Farrell and his wife-in fact, the whole household-had been up through the greater part of the preceding night on the candleing expedition and required rest, particularly as a visit to the rocks was proposed for tonight. At the same time, the rain pouring down as it did in torrents gave but small prospect of an opportunity being afforded for it. Thus, then, we all retired to rest, at about the time when, in the height of the session, hon members are getting liveliest just after the close of the refreshment hour, Nat and I in one room, and Tom on the sofa in the common keeping room, where a bed was made up for him, by reason of the other apartments being all taken up.
I was hardly in bed before I was asleep, and therefore can t say what transpired between Tom and his boots, but alone and unaided in that solitary chamber, I know that the scene must have been fearful, for in the morning three chairs were discovered upset, one of which was broken, and the table had been driven over from the centre into one corner of the apartment.
But I am anticipating. I slept calmly and placidly, like a quiet elderly gentleman with an easy conscience ought to sleep, when towards the midnight hour, my slumbers were disturbed by a terrible outcry proceeding from Tom’s chamber. I started up m bed, and heard the words " murder," " don’t”, “avaunt," evidently in the loudest tones of Tom’s voice followed by what I imagined to be an attempt to say prayers that he didn’t remember. I, of course, jumped out of bed and rushed at once to the rescue, running against Nat, who was bound on the same errand. There was Tom 'Oh-ing ' and shouting, but it was so dark that we couldn’t see what was the matter. Luckily, Nat had his box of matches and lit one, and then the whole thing was explained. There was Tom sitting up in bed, his face wearing the appearance of mortal agony, his hands before him as if to protect him, and jabbering away at such butt ends of prayers as happened to come into his head. Standing on the bed, and immediately before him, was a large goat which was playfully butting his horns against Tom’s outstretched hands causing him to shriek out at every touch.
With the light however, Tom’s unbalanced mind regained its equipoise, and staring first with stupid astonishment at the goat for a few seconds, he gave it a lick of the head with his fist that knocked it off the perch it had assumed. Then, turning to me with a voice still trembling with agitation he said, Eh, Charlie, lad, I thought it war the dei!”
We couldn’t help laughing at Tom, though he had had a terrible fright. He had been wakened, he said, by a great big hairy monster trying to lay down beside him, and putting out his hands, they had encountered the horns, then the hoofs had made themselves felt as the animal stood on him, and when he sat up, all he could see was too great eyes as big as saucers flaming at him whilst the horns were poked into his face. His thoughts had at once reverted to the Father of Evil and his fears led him to believe that he was "wanted”. I couldn’t t help crying out, Charlie, for I thought I was a gone coon he said, in piteous accents, to which we responded by a roar that we couldn’t keep down. Farrell, who had joined us now explained that the animal which was one of a large herd of goats that he kept about the place, had, when a kid, been made a pet by the children, and that even now that it had grown to goats estate was in the habit of sneaking into the house when it got the chance, and of jumping into bed with the children or any body else that it could get to.
This was an elucidation that put all things to rights. The goat was turned out and Tom and ourselves turned in, not to sleep the less comfortable from hearing Farrell’s words on retiring “The rain seems to keep on as hard as ever. I think we’ll give up candleing for to-night .”
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, August 19). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 6. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13066290
(From the Sydney Mail, August 24)
The following morning dawned upon as fine a day as ever traveller or tourist would wish to see. The sky was clear and cloudless, the air, soft and balmy, fairly invigorated the body as it was inhaled into the lungs and when the sun rose, all nature seemed to rejoice in the warmth of his rays. We were all up and out with the first dawn, but early as we were, we were all but as sluggards compared with our host who was out in the milking yard long before daylight. We didn't see much of him until breakfast-time, for he was too busy with his milkers, his horses, his pigs, and his poultry, the wants of all which, like a good farmer, he attended to before he took count of his own.
It may be fairly surmised that in such a household the morning meal was not long delayed, and we all sat down to it just as old Sol had risen high enough so throw his rays fully and fairly in a direct line into the open windows. Again heaps of fash, this time boiled, and lightly salted, were set before us, only to leave behind a huge pile of debris on the plate of each of the parties engaged in the work ef demo.
Whilst calmly smoking the after-breakfast pipe, I amused myself by making ingenious speculations as to where our lot would next be cost, and what would be the nature of our provender. Hitherto, a singular unity of feeding had fallen upon us in our different positions. First it had been biscuit, simply biscuit sans meat, sans butter, sans everything. Then it had been beef and pumpkins-morning, noon, and night, beef and pumpkins; and now it was fish and potatoes, potatoes and fish, and fish and potatoes for dinner, supper, and breakfast. This was maintaining the unities and no mistake, and I puzzled my brain to conceive some other mode of feeding during three meals in keeping with the fatality that seemed to pursue us. Let me see. Biscuit, beef, pumpkins, fish and potatoes had been used up,-for I could not but imagine that, like Washington Irving's poor schoolmaster, we were the Genii of Famine coming down upon this primitive land. What then remained? I could think of nothing at the moment, but honey and turnips, and the thought was by no means encouraging. Before I could come to any satisfactory conclusion, our host approached me, and my speculations were scattered to the winds.
"I'm sorry " said he, " that you won't stop to-day, and have a go in at candleing. I should like you to see the fun."
" So am I sorry, “-this was false, for I wasn’t sorry; on the contrary, I quite exulted in my heart at having escaped from it in the way I had done-"but you see,” I continued, "that our time is limited."
“Yes. Tom explained all that to me. However, you won't forget to do what you promised about our road."
Had I promised anything? if so, what had I promised ? I was perfectly aghast. I knew that on the preceding afternoon he had talked to me about the roads, and that I had made random answers of "yes" and " no." How had I committed myself ? Had I promised to write crushing leaders on the subject, or had I undertaken to get a vote from Parliament, or had I pledged myself into soft sawdering the Minis try to place a sum on the estimates? Unhappy man that I was, what had I done? I concealed my uneasiness in order to ascertain how far I was committed.
" Oh, yes," I said, " You may depend I won't forget it. By the by, where do you conceive the worst place to be?"
"Why, it's pretty well all worst, but the most dangerous place is between here and Lush's, where you see those deep ruts in the road. My cart never goes along there but I expect a capsize, especially as we have to travel it before daylight and after dark.
" It's a strange thing that when the Government were making that nice piece of road that is cut out of the side of the hill, they didn't come on a bit further, and level the part you speak of, which I now remember is dangerous."
"The Government!" he exclaimed in the most contemptuous accents. " Why the Government have never laid out a shilling on our road. We did that ourselves!”
"And the bridge over the creek," I asked.
“That I built myself, and the causeway over the swampy land on each side, and this bridge, too, in front of the house. I've done all that myself, and I never go along the road that I don't throw some pieces of timber into some one or other of the ruts on the track. If I didn't it would soon be impassable."
“But you say the Government has done nothing, -when I remember they took a vote last session of some £200 or £300 for the repair of this road. Hasn't that been expended ?"
"I don't know," he answered, " and that is what I Want you to find out for us. We up here are more concerned about this matter than those nearer to Manly, and to all the enquiries and the applications for assistance we have made, the answer has been that the money has been expended, If it has, I, want to know where, for I have my team on the road between here and Manly every week, and neither I nor any of my men have ever seen any person at work on the road, or seen anything in the shape of work done. Why, even when the Deewy bridge was carried away, and a portion of the money voted by Parliament was applied for to repair it, it was actually refused. Now it strikes me that as the money was voted for the whole fine, we, beyond Manly, ought to have had some share of it, if only to patch up the bad places. And let me tell you that there are a very great many settlers who use this line down to Manly, on account of the convenience of the steamer running regularly, and very many more would use it if the road was only made,-I don't mean to say comfortable, but only not dangerous."
So it seemed from this that I had promised to ascertain, in the elegant language of the questions placed on the notice-paper by hon. members, "whether the sum voted for the road between Manly Beach and Pitt Water had been expended, and, if so, how ?" That being the case, I began to explain to Farrell that I was not on terms of close intimacy with either of the members of the Ministry, but that, on the contrary, I had rather cut them latterly, since they had taken to such low company as they had done and that, consequently, I did not wish to give them the chance, which I assured him they would only too readily jump at, of once more getting on good terms with me. I could see an air of admiration and respect stealing over the jolly countenance of our host as I tried on this little bit of bounce, which, by the by, I had borrowed for the nonce from Tom. What I would do for him, however, was this; I would make his grievance-the common grievance of all the district-known to all the world,-that is, such small portion of it as might have the patience to wade through my twaddle-I didn't tell him this last sentence be it understood-and he would then see the result. This conclusion was also borrowed from Tom, and told remarkably well upon Farrell, who at once looked upon the thing as done.
"I don't wish to be selfish in this matter," he replied, "although I have more particularly drawn your attention to the part of the road that interests me. But, if you think the road hitherto bad. I don't know what you will say to the rest of it, between here and Barranjuee."
I promised to take notes of the track as I went along, and to publish my experiences, at which he evinced the liveliest gratitude. But it was now time to move, and, to my utter astonishment, Tom came forward fully booted and prepared. I had noticed him going off into the barn, in company with two of the farm-labourers, and it seems that by their assistance aided by a threshing machine, or a chaff-cutter, or some other of the mysterious instruments that were scattered about in the barn, those awful boots had been conned. We took leave of our host and his numerous family of children, dogs, and goats-with a full sense of the kindliness and heartiness with which our arrival had been welcomed, and of the hospitality that had pressed a longer stay.
Following the road, we mounted and crossed the range which terminates in the bluff headland, at the base of which I had been so completely drenched on the proceeding day, and then followed a gradually descending track which wound round the hill side into a deep indentation of the land, until it came down to the level of the sandy ridges which bordered the beach, and then dived into a thickly wooded dell, which though so close to the borders of the seam was one tangled mass of vegetation. It was in fact the embouchure of a long gulley, that, separating two extensive and lofty spurs from the main range was so far sheltered by each from the cutting breezes of ocean, as to allow of the growth of every description of plant in we same profusion as in the gullies I have previously described. Through the midst of it ran a tolerably broad sheet of water, the ordinary brooklet of clear, bright, and sparkling water having been transformed by the late rains into a miniature torrent, turgid and bellowing and carrying down before it small boughs and debris from the hills above, in humble imitation of larger streams. By the aid of a fallen tree we managed to cross the stream dry footed, but it was only by breaking down and walking over the branches of the bangolas and by taking advantage of such tufts of grass or such dead timber as offered that we could manage to cross the centre of the gully which the brook had covered with a mimic inundation.
Once through this jungle of a gully, and we had a gently rising road, creeping steadily up the face of the range, by easy graduation until at last it had gained the crest. Then we had a monotonous walk along the top of the ridge, in full view of the vast Pacific to our right, whose waves were now beating almost lazily along the beach at our feet and whose waters had barely swell enough on them to keel over the tiny fleet of coasters that had put out from different ports of shelter on the coast with the first slant of the favouring wind, and were now lying almost motionless, with scarce wind enough to lift their sails. To the left, the hills, covered with the low close scrub common to our coast ranges, bounded our view, the inland ridges, with their heavily timbered sides being hidden from our sight.Suddenly, however, the road took a curve round to the left, crossed a knoll of the range, and then swept down, in some fifty different tracks, on to a broad swampy plain, or flat, which seemed to us to be inundated, for we could see the water sparkling and glistening in the sun over its whole face. I pulled up short here.
" It won't do to go down there, Tom," said I.
"Oh, but we must," he replied. "This is the Priest's Flat, and there, where you see those shears erected, with the two tents alongside of them, is where they are boring for coal. We must go and report progress."
I looked ruefully at Nat, who made no reply, but, grinning viciously, bent down and turned up his trousers to the knees.
“Do you think there are any leeches there ?” I asked. Nat's trousers were instantly turned down again, and this time he didn't grin,
"Oh, no," Tom answered, "there's too much water there for them, and not enough shelter.
I was easier in my mind, though I had my misgivings; but as these Antipodean leeches seemed to be ruled by laws, and to have amongst themselves habits and customs totally at variance with those of leeches in civilised communities, possibly Tom might be correct; so, tucking up my trousers, I prepared to descend. And, after all, when we got down to the flat it was not so bad as it had appeared to us from the hill. The ground was somewhat honeycombed and the water lay in pools, between which however, we managed to find sufficient footing without actually walking in water.
Arrived at the tents, warning of our approach was given by a solitary dejected bark, ending in a melancholy and prolonged howl, from some unseen dog, that was evidently too broken down and low-spirited to repeat the challenge and it was only after we had approached the shears, and had commenced our examination of the boring, which, to tell truth, none of us could make head or tail of, that a tall sailor looking man, who appeared as if he had but just that instant been uncoiled full-rigged from between the blankets, came out to the entrance of one of the tents, and regarded us with an air of blank and sleepy astonishment. Just after him followed his watchful canine guardian, whose short bark and long ululation had effected his master's awakening, but so far behind as not to be within kicking distance; his cowering watchful look, and his tail hard down between his legs, evidently saying as plain as could be said, " I don't know whether I have done right, so I must stand by for squalls."
It took a good deal to waken up our friend to a full sense of the information we required from him, and it was only by the casual mention of Farrell's name that he was brought to his full mental perceptions. A grin spread over his countenance when we said where we had just come from.
“Did you go candling with him ?" he asked. We explained how it was that we had not done so.'
“Oh, isn't it prime fun !" He was fast getting lively.
He had been of the party the night before our arrival, had got wet through, had disported himself like a grampus in the pool, and had got home with an exulted notion of the sport. Of course we did not undeceive him; but having now got him up to the proper communicative pitch, we proceeded to worm out of him, by dint of much questioning, and much labour in bringing him back to the subject in hand for he would insist upon darting off from it at a tangent to give us collateral evidence upon matters in which we had not the slightest interest-all that he knew of the boring.
From the information thus acquired, as well as from enquiries subsequently made, I learnt that the spot now being bored was about the centre of a very fine property of some 1200 acres in area, granted many years ago to the Rev. Father Therry, and extending across the Barranjuee peninsula from the shores of the Atlantic to those of Creel Bay; the one being its eastern, the other its western boundary. Hence the plain had been christened the Priest's Flat. It had been for some time surmised, taking into account the dip of the coal basin, which crops up to the north at Newcastle, and to the south at Wollongong, that at this spot, which lies so near the northern cropping point, the coal seam might be struck at such a medium depth as would allow of payable working. Somewhere about twelve months ago, the reverend proprietor determined upon trying the experiment, and he has continued perseveringly at the work in spite of every discouragement that has beset him; and certainly he has had in this matter to bear up against contrarieties sufficient to have wearied out the majority of ordinary persons.
At no time have the men employed ever injured themselves by hard work, for the testimony of the natives goes to show that they hung it on most amazingly, and when obliged to do something for their money, rather than sink deeper they would break the auger. On another, occasion, an overseer that was employed bolted with the month's pay of the men, and, not satisfied with that, took also the reverend father's horse, though this was subsequently recovered, but only after paying a pretty Bullish sum for stabling expenses. Just as we visited the spot the 'works were again at a stand-still by the breakage of the apparatus, and the newly-appointed overseer was away in Sydney getting it repaired, whilst the hands were scattered hither and thither. They had at that time got to a depth of 186 feet, but had come upon no indications of coal, if we except the passage of the auger through a 6-inch pipe of coal at a depth of 123 feet. (Since these articles were commenced, I have learnt that the boring has reached a depth of 220 feet), when the work was suddenly brought to a close by the breaking of the auger, and, what was worse, by the cutting portion of it being left firmly embedded in the rock that was then being pierced.
Whilst upon this subject, it may-not be out of place to mention that I visited, though somewhat subsequently to the time now alluded to, the bluff headland almost in an easterly line with the boring, and named by the reverend proprietor St. Michael's Head; and there, at about eight feet above high water mark, and quite open to view, is a thin seam, or, as miners term it, pipe of coal, scarcely an inch in thickness. On examination I found also that very much of the shale, both above and below the seam, bore carboniferous indications-leaves, ferns, &c, being distinctly traceable on the face of the cleavages. Another great discouragement that must have operated very strongly upon the rev. owner has been the expense that the work has entailed on him, in consequence of the bungling inexperience and roguery of the persons who have, until lately, been entrusted with it. On this point I speak only on hearsay, and my information is consequently liable to correction ; but I was told with an air of authority that the cost of sinking had, up to that time, reached very nearly £800, being at the rate of rather more than £4 per foot, whilst the time occupied in sinking had been over nine months, or about twenty feet per month not a foot per diem ! If this was not enough to put an extinguisher upon ordinary enterprise, I can't conceive anything that would be. Under the present management I am informed that the work promises to progress more favourably.
We were not very long in pumping perfectly dry the maritime-looking individual who had charge of the works pro tem ; and, by the way, I would here ask how it is that nearly all the males we have encountered in our tracks have so decidedly nautical an appearance? Can it be that, like the islands in the Pacific have been said to have been, this particular portion of the territory of New South Wales has been peopled by the sole survivors of awful wrecks, by men supposed by anxious friends to have been drowned years ago, and who now turn up mysteriously in this unknown land? or, are the inhabitants of the Peninsula like the Arabs on the African coast, and do they seize and treat as slaves the shipwrecked mariners that are cast amongst them by the Pacific, in its un-pacific moods? or have they fled to these wilds to escape the too fond and anxious enquiries, through the water police, of disappointed shipmasters or deluded agents ? The question is one that perhaps some future Australian physiologist may be tempted to solve.
We parted with our friend with but scant ceremony, he turning on his heel and walking into his tent when we told him, "that was all;" whilst we shouldered our loads and walked ahead. Pushing along the edge of the flat, we crossed the foot of the hill we had not long previously descended, and, passing along an inner one of well-grassed sandbanks, that formed the landmost barrier against any encroachment of the waves, we came after a walk of half a mile to a paddock fence, through a slip panel of which the road evidently ran. Entering the paddock we found the upper part overgrown with young timber, principally wattles, that had sprang up since the cultivation of the toil had been discontinued, whilst about half-way across it we encountered a beautiful stream of running water, bright and clear as crystal, and crossed by a very rustic, and at the same time, very dilapidated-looking bridge. Nat was in the van at the moment, and I was astonished to see him, when he reached the brook, throw down his load and descend the bank to the water. Arrived there, he began hastily selecting some of the darkest leaves of a plant which I now observed grew very thickly on the margin of, and even in the water.
"What's the row ?" said I.
" Watercresses," replied he. "Stunning!"
" I'm there," cried Tom; whilst I made no answer, but slipped my shoulders out of my load, and commenced an attack upon this favourite pungent water plant. We amused ourselves for some five minutes over them, and then, filling our billy with the choicest stems we could find, once more made tracks.
After crossing the creek, we came in sight of a homestead, small but neat, having evidently been only recently whitewashed. The paddock was now clear of all undergrowth, and, as a goodly cluster of large trees, the remnants of the former occupants of the soil, had been left standing round the house, it had an exceedingly pretty and picturesque appearance, its white sides gleaming out markedly from amongst the bright green of the shrubs around it, and the dark and sombre verdure of the forest monarchs that overshadowed it.
"This," said Tom, "is Tom Collins, and he's the man that will show us the cave."
“The cave ?" asked I. "What cave ?".
" You'll see," he answered, "a rum 'un; such a one as you won't find anywhere else within a day's ride of Sydney, I can tell you."
Here was a surprise indeed. I had never, during the whole of my lengthened sojourn in Sydney, heard of this cave, and I don't believe that fifty persons in the metropolis are to this day cognisant of its existence; thus, with a feeling something near akin to that of a first discoverer, I hastened up to Collins domicile.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, August 26). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13059581
(From the Sydney Mail, August 31.)
A tap at the door brought out the mistress of the house, accompanied by her brood of little ones, all fat, chubby, and rosy faced, bearing on their countenances the imprimatur of good health. Having mentioned our errand, we were invited to enter, and we found the interior of the domicile even more neat, and white, and bright, than the exterior, for it was the very beau ideal of cleanliness, and care. The tin-ware which hung from the shelves was polished till it shone like silver, whilst the shelves themselves being of deal, were scoured almost to whiteness. The floor, though an earthern one, was swept so clean that it more resembled a single large slab of stone than what it really was; and the fire in the huge bush fireplace was nicely kept in the centre, each side being swept as carefully as the floor itself had been. The hut had been recently whitewashed throughout, and the whole had such a light and cleanly air as strongly to remind me of some of the farmhouses it has been my lot to visit in the mother country, where, perchance, some notable housewife would take such a pride in polishing that even to the iron hoops of the churn, the piggins or the milk coolers would be burnished up till they resembled steel.
Unfortunately our man, Tom Collins, who knew all about the cave, and who was, in fact, its first discoverer, was absent from home; his brother, however, would very willingly guide us to the spot, so said Mrs. Collins, and waiting the arrival of her brother-in-law, she brought forth a huge jug of milk, from which she desired us to help ourselves; and if Tom and Nat didn't do so to a pretty considerable extent, they made a very good attempt at it, that's all. I verily believe that they would have had impudence enough to have asked for another quart, had not the arrival of Collins frer turned their attention to another quarter. He at once expressed his willingness to conduct us, and furnished himself with a piece of candle, the interior part of the cave being so dark as to require a light for guidance amongst the fallen rocks that encumber it.
He led us off in a straight line from the front of the house to the sea, to a spot where the high wall of rock which is here presented to the waves sinks rather slightly, and a little to the north of the well-known rock, "The Hole in the Wall." Bringing us to the edge of the cliff, he pointed to a bit of a track, down which there had evidently been some slipping and shuffling. This went down for about five feet, and then we could see no more. All beyond that appeared to us, from where we stood, to be blank space; and I had a kind of faint idea that, like Farrell's candleing, this was some more of the peninsularies' fun, and that they let themselves slip down here, shot out into space, and chanced the rest. Tom looked at the track and turned pale. Nat inspected it, and turned up the bottoms of his trousers, a sure sign with him of determination, and about equivalent to the turning up of the coat cuffs by the school boy when he has made up his mind to dare some bigger boy to combat. I have already said what my feelings were, but in the position I occupied, as leader and originator of the expedition, it was necessary that I should set an example of decision, if not of courage. There was a small ledge or platform about three feet down on which the whole four of us could have stood easily ; so down on to this I leaped, with something of the same kind of feeling as Marcus Curtius must have had when he took his leap that everybody has heard so much about. Nat followed very readily, but Tom still hung fire.
"It's only just a little bit that's awkward," said Collins, "after that there's as good walking as there is up above."
But Tom was not to be tempted, and that "little bit" struck terror even to my heart, though I was determined upon prosecuting my discovery to the utmost. From the ledge on which we stood, we could only see just two or three feet' of downright slippery descent, and beyond that nothing but the black rocks two hundred feet below, and the crested waves breaking on them in white foam.
"Follow me," said Collins, as griping a projecting point of rock, he slid down the track, dislodging the stones and pebbles, and sending them rattling down upon the rocks below in a regular shower. In another second he had disappeared, and I heard no smash, no cry of torture, so taking heart of grace, I laid hold of the point of rock - oh, if I didn't hold it tight - slipped down the path, shot round a corner, almost breaking my spine with the twist, found my feet laid hold of by somebody, who placed them firmly upon a stone, and then, looking round, perceived that the worst was really over, and that now there was a good plain track running down to the rocks.
My admiration, however, was somewhat marred by a pair of thick boots which, cocking rapidly down from above, struck me somewhat rudely over the head, and as Nat's feet happened to be in them, and, as wanting the guiding hands that had placed me on the friendly rock, they were thrown wildly about, the blows were rather more than I had calculated upon. Nat soon got his footing, and then began to abuse me for getting in his way instead of apologising for his carelessness. We now shouted to Tom that we were all right and bade him follow. As he saw that the thing was done so easily, he hardly liked to jib, so he sang out to us to wait for him, as he was coming. We looked upwards for him with some anxiety, and in the course of a couple of minutes we had a full view of "the boots." They and they alone stopped in sight for a full minute, and we began to fear that Tom had caught somewhere, when suddenly down came the boots and Tom too, all in a lump, sliding down on the hunkers' after the same fashion as I have seen children slither down a slanting board. He had taken the notion that if instead of griping the cliff as we had done, he stooped down in the way I have described he could guide and check his progress with hands and feet. Here he made a woeful mistake, for the breaks in the descent were too heavy, and poor Tom came jumping down kangaroo fashion, bumping and thumping against the rocks, and so completely done up, that if Collins hadn't caught hold of him, he would certainly have gone bumping and thumping to the bottom.
We now descended to the rocks by a comparatively easy path, and passing along to the southward of the point whence we had started, we followed the rocks round a small projecting headland, on the south eastern face of which the cave is situated.
It is about eighty feet above high water mark, and about twice that distance from the summit of the headland. When we had mounted to it, and stood at its entrance, we found that a kind of bank or platform had been formed in front of it, covered with coarse grass and with an extensive growth of wild parsley, that seemed to flourish here in great luxuriance. The entrance forms a kind of rude irregular gothic arch, about twenty or five-and-twenty feet high in the centre, - the interior of the cave, that is, its first compartment, being about twice that height, in consequence rather of the descent of the flooring of the cavern than of the rising of its roof. It has evidently at some former period been considerably deeper than it now is, as vast masses of rock that have fallen from the roof above lay strewn about, and heaped upon each other, particularly in the centre, to be gradually, but surely, covered by the fine sand that drifts in with every southerly breeze through the entrance, and also by the guano, if such it may be termed, deposited here by the myriads of bats that make this cavern their home. The first thing that strikes the visitor on entering is a long flaw or rent in the sandstone which is here the prevailing rock. This flaw runs along the centre of the whole length of the roof of the cavern, being about three feet in width, and in a perpendicular position, and is filled up with a highly ferruginous sandstone, sounding particularly hard and metallic when struck.
At about eighty feet from the mouth, the floor is covered with immense boulders of stone that have fallen from the roof of the cavern, and almost block up the way to the second compartment. A great part of these has fallen during the bad weather of the last year or two, a continuous rain, followed by a thunderstorm, being sure to bring down some one or more of the huge projecting masses that bulge out from the roof, and threaten to fall at the smallest provocation. Passing round this heap of debris, we now light our candle, for the mass of wreck so far shuts out the light of day as to render artificial light necessary. We now find ourselves in what may he termed the second compartment, which has a more regularly arched and compact appearance than the first, though it is somewhat smaller, being about twenty feet in height and the same width across, whilst the first is at least forty feet high and as many feet in width. Here we can more clearly perceive the ferruginous character of the interloping seam or flaw that has doubtless been the primary cause of this peculiar formation. The drippings from this perpendicular inset between the native rocks hang down in long rust-coloured pendants of oxide of iron, whilst the rocks on either side are formed in regular horizontal layers, the edges of the different strata, and in fact every protruding point of this part of the cave being covered with a white efflorescence from the phosphate of lime that has gathered on them ; whilst here and there other emanations from the rocks have settled in small chrystals upon its face, and reflect back the rays of the candle in all the gorgeous colours of the prism.
This compartment is the favourite resort of the bats and birds, the lighting of the candle creating a regular commotion amongst the denizens of the place. That they have occupied it for many long years possibly for centuries, is probable from the fact that in rooting among the sand and guano that cover the floor to an unknown depth, Collins informed me that he had met with large masses of an ammoniacal salt, that it must have taken the simple laboratory of nature very many years to bring to the state in which it is found.
Somewhere about ninety feet from the heap which I take as forming the boundary between the first and second compartment the cavern narrows very considerably, and we enter by a passage about wide enough to admit four persons abreast into the last chamber of this extraordinary place. As the sides come closer together, so also does the roof descend, and a tall man would here be able, by a good stretch of his arms, to touch the top; and so it runs in for another twenty or thirty feet, sides and top gradually collapsing, until at last there is but the width of the flaw, and scarcely height sufficient for a man to sit down. Here the iron percolations prevail, as in the second compartment those of the lime are most abundant ; and we strike against the interjected seam, and, by dint of much labour and perseverance, chip off from it a piece of rock which has all the appearance of being actually iron in a rude state of preparation. We also see portions of it lying in long seams upon the sandstone rock it has divided, and which appear burnt and charred as though it had been subjected to powerful electric action. We also look back now to the way by which we have entered, and just over the heap of rubbish and natural ruins that impede our sight, we mark the bright light of day, which, from the distance we are placed at, is chastened and subdued almost to a twilight. Everything seems solemn and suppressed; all outward sound is shut out, and there is not even a drip from the roof above to break the pervading stillness. We speak in our ordinary tone, but our voices, crushed down by the massiveness around, sound as if we were conversing in whispers. We are in no grand echoing hall, the work of mans' hands that sycophantly sends back the compliments that are given to his skill. We see before us the work of the Great Architect of the Universe, who labours not by the hand, but employs the meanest and the humblest instruments to do His bidding, and who, with the drop of water or the grain of sand, hollows out mighty caverns, or builds up giant mountains. Nature seems to acknowledge the Almighty presence, and to stand silent and awestruck as she watches the never ceasing work.
Something like these thoughts passed through my mind as I sat at the extremity of the cavern and looked out towards its entrance, a distance of over two hundred feet, and I could see that my companions were also somewhat similarly affected. We consequently retraced our steps with feelings very much sobered from those with which we had entered. Having collected a few specimens from the rocks around, we beat a retreat, and it was like coming into another world when we had emerged from the cave, and the hoarse roar of the waves beating upon the rocks, the songs of the birds, and the numerous and inexplicable sounds of nature and of life, struck vividly upon ears fresh from the oppressive stillness of the cave. We journeyed for some distance round amongst the vast heaps of rocks, on which the waves were breaking lazily though unceasingly, until we had reached St. Michael's Head, where the narrow seam of coal, alluded to in my last, was shown to me, together with the strata of carboniferous shale lying above and below it.
When we had seen all that was to be seen here-abouts, we retraced our steps, the point at which we had descended being the only one by which an ascent could be effected ; and no sooner were we on the back track than we missed Tom. Enquiries were mutually made, and then it was remembered that none of us had seen him since leaving the cavern. I was uneasy. I was fearful that he had fallen down some of the immense crevices that yawned between the vast masses of stone that we had had to traverse on our way; and on our retreat I peered down these as I passed them with a kind of nervous dread on each occasion that I should see his crushed and mangled body lying inanimate at the bottom. We didn't find him in any of these, but just as we were mounting the track up to the first slippery point of descent, we heard Spanker's bark, and looking in that direction saw Tom stalking along the rocks half a mile away, looking for the pathway that he had passed.
A cooey from us showed him his mistake and he was not long in rejoining us, whilst Spanker was so elated that he made a spring up the ascending path in the exuberance of his spirits, but happening to jump rather short, and not being gifted with hands to secure a hold, he came rolling back amongst us, and nearly sent us toppling off the narrow pathway, which we were mounting in Indian file, something after the manner in which children knock down the long files of suppositious soldiers represented by bent cards. By dint of some little muscular exertion, and some pushing and pulling at each other, the ascent was successfully accomplished, and we once more stood upon terra firma, for the vast boulders of rock over which our way had been made was certainly not entitled to that designation. Tom was so elated at finding himself once more safe and sound from an adventure over which, from the very first, as he afterwards confessed, he had had the most painful misgivings, that he fired at and killed the first bird that came across him, the victim in this instance being an unfortunate gill-mocker, who had attracted Tom's attention by several times telling him to " Go back," a piece of advice that, in Tom's then state of mind, must have savoured strongly of sarcasm.
Having thanked Collins for his kindness and attention, we once more pushed ahead, the road now leading us across a long level piece of country that intervened betweeen the sea and the waters of Creel Bay, until it brought us down to the margin of the latter. Arrived here, we had before us as pretty a marine picture as ever painter sketched, and as directly opposite to the one we had but so recently left as could be well conceived. The flat level land had here narrowed to some sixty rods in width, being backed by a heavily wooded range, the base of which was here and there encumbered by large masses of rock, from which the incumbent soil had been washed, and which now protruded in huge boulders, or lay out bare and detached from their native beds. On the margin of the bay were three little whitewashed slab huts with bark roofs, the passion- ate squalling of an infant that proceeded from one of them would have given evidence of their being inha- bited, even if we had not seen two or three barelegged and barefooted children peering at us round the corner of the house.
Through the narrow belt of low swamp oaks that edged the margin of the bay, the clear smooth waters of Creel glistened in the sun, as the gentle breeze swept over its face and slightly ruffled its surface. On the sands, midway between the shore and the retreating water, for it was nearly low tide, two boys were busied collecting shells, by filling an old basket with the sand, and then agitating it in a water-hole, made for the purpose, until the sand was washed away, and nothing was left but the shells that had been mingled with it. These, when washed clean, were thrown into a boat that lay down helplessly on its side close to them. Out on the waters of the bay, floated a smart little cutter, which, though probably only a shell boat, looked from the clear atmosphere, and perhaps also from the fact that she was the only vessel in view, smart and dapper as a yacht, the red shirt and striped cap of the one man on board, adding still farther to the picturesque appearance of the vessel. Behind her again stretched out the waters of the bay, until they encountered the ranges of the other side, which coming down in many a ridge and gully, and forming many a deep indentation or projecting point, gave a gorgeous variety of tints and lights to a background that under a less brilliant sun or less pure atmosphere would have been sombre and monotonous.
Manly to Broken Bay. (1893, November 11). Australian Town and Country Journal (NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 19. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71191632
We halted here just long enough to admire the scene, and to have a shot at one of a number of blue cranes, that were stalking about most consequentially and at the same time most warily upon the sands. It was only by dint of a good deal of manoeuvring and dodging that Nat was enabled to get even within possible shooting distance of the rearmost of the lot; and after all, when he fired, he didn't kill his bird. He however succeeded in frightening it, and not only it but all its companions, for they one and all took to flight with a wild cry. But if he had in one quarter caused a fright and a cry he had in another caused a fright and quietness for the report of the gun had stilled the squalling in the hut so effectually that it was not resumed, so long at least as we remained within hearing.
The track, a mere bridle path, now led along the flat, then across a dank luxuriant gully, down which a little stream roared and brattled and foamed with as much fuss and bother as would have been sufficient for a volume of water twenty times its quantity; afterwards,up a wet sloppy hill from which the water exuded in every direction, round the point of the range, down a correspondingly wet and sloppy descent on the other side; and then on to another flat the very counterpart of the one we had just quitted. Another luxuriant and overgrown gully, another wet hill teeming with springs, and then we come down, upon a somewhat broader flat, at the extremity of which we see two tents a short distance apart that we at once recognise, from the description we had received of them, as being the Chinamen's place.
(To be continued.)
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, September 2). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13057913
Panorama of a bush track in the Careel Bay area, Pittwater, New South Wales: Careel Bay EB Studios pano - section showing terrain - nla.pic-vn6154592, courtesy National Library of Australia.
MY HOLIDAY. I
(From the Sydney Mail, September 7.)
Long before our arrival at the tents, if we had had any doubt with respect to the correctness of our surmise, our noses would have at once dispelled it; for the strong smell of the fish, cured à la Chinoise, that saluted our olfactories was so overpowering as to cause us to hesitate whether we should run the gauntlet of the tents, or whether we should give them a wide berth by making a detour. As it happened, however, that we required to replenish our stock of tea and sugar, it became absolutely necessary that we should visit the tent, these enterprising foreigners keeping the only depot on the Peninsula for the sale of these articles; and, consequently, "the ancient fish-like smell" had to be encountered.
Chinaman's or Snapperman Beach and Observation Point, Palm Beach, Newport Digital Order Number: a106120 circa 1912, Broadhurst Image, courtesy State Library of NSW.
As we approached we met with all the materiel of a fishery. First, a long and apparently valuable seine was spread out on the grass a little above the beach to dry, and a boat hauled up on the sand showed that it had been recently used. Another, and a somewhat smaller, boat was moored out in deep water ready for use. A little further on, about ten or a dozen bushels of guardfish were spread out on the grass to cure, with small hopes, as I should imagine, of their drying under the influence of the weak and wintry sun. Next a small tent full of barrels of all kinds, but principally the light American oak flour barrels, showed the preparations for packing the fish obtained and dried during the summer season. Ten or a dozen yards further on was another tent,-the fish store-in which were piled up heaps of snapper and large-sized bream, all cured and ready for the Celestial consumption for which they had been prepared; and here we found the two Chinese, master and man, who owned the location. The master appeared a tolerably decent looking and intelligent man, who spoke English sufficiently well to be understood, and who very readily gave us all the information in regard to his fishery that we demanded from him.
Their mode of procedure is this:-they fit out boats for persons willing to fish for them, of course keeping an account against them, for materials, rations, &c, supplied, and taking from them all the fish they catch suitable for curing, at a certain fixed price. The smaller fish they allow them to take into the Sydney market. In the season they have from fifteen to twenty boats at work fur them, principally manned by Europeans, besides which they buy from all who choose to come to them, offering to the fishermen the further convenience of the store they carry on, and from which they supply tea, sugar, and biscuit at a very small advance upon Sydney prices. We bought, at 3s. per lb., some really fine black tea, very much superior to any that is to be procured ordinarily at the grocers' shops of the metropolis. Sugar was 6d. per lb., similar to that for which 5d. is paid in Sydney ; whilst Wilkie's best cabin biscuits are retailed at 4d. per lb. As soon as the fish are procured they are cut open and gutted, lightly rubbed with salt, and then spread out in the sun to dry. In the summer this is very speedily and effectually done, although not without the fish obtaining that peculiarly rank and offensive smell that all who have passed by a Chinese store must have noticed. The supply of fish is allowed to accumulate during the summer, heaped in a tent devoted to the purpose, the heaps being occasionally turned, and every care taken against damp and wet; and so soon as the drying season is over-when the sun ís too far from the zenith as to have lost his power-the packing is commenced. No further trouble is taken in the packing, than to lay them in the barrels as closely as they can be got, and to press them down as hard as can be done with the hands. They are then headed up and forwarded to Sydney, to be distributed all over the interior wherever Chinese most do congregate. This season they had obtained about two hundred barrels of fish.
Besides this fishing station on Pitt Water, there are also others at Brisbane Water, on Tuggerah Beach Lake, and on Lake Macquarie, all carried on by Chinese. There are several others also to the south-ward of Port Jackson, though my Chinese informant could not give me the names of the places where they ore established. All these fisheries have been formed by Chinese merchants resident in Sydney; that at Pitt Water belongs to a Chinese merchant in George street, whose name I could not make out, although I tried very hard to do so. The Chinese from whom I had these details was a kind of superintendent or manager of the fishery, keeping accounts against the fishermen with perfect correctness, and keeping the books of the station in the same way as an English storekeeper would do. He showed his board of colored beads by which he did all his reckoning, his multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction ; but after about half-a-dozen explanations, which he went through with most exemplary patience, neither of us could make head or tail of it, albeit Nat, who considers himself exceedingly clever at accounts, said he thought he saw what the plan was.
Having purchased our stores, and obtained all the information we could from the boss, we filled our billy with water, and, obtaining the permission of the locataires, put it over their fire. When they found that we were going to take our midday repast, they brought out biscuit and butter and spread them before us, and when our pot boiled, produced their own tea and sugar for our use, thus performing the right of hospitality in true bush fashion. We were rather pleased at this, as we had previously imagined that the very last place to go to for a feed would be a Chinese tent. We made an excellent meal of biscuit, butter, and watercresses, and I think rather astonished master John at the quantity of comestibles that we managed to stow away. They had pressed us very hard to try some of their fish, and they certainly had a string of very fine fat mullet hanging up in their private tent, no doubt as a special delicacy, but neither of us could stand the odour, which nothing but long habit or absolute starvation could have overcome.
All the stronger for our meal-snack, Tom called it-we lighted our pipes, resumed our loads, and bade adieu to our entertainers, thanking them for the kind hospitality which they had furnished, the more particularly as it had been unsought on our part.
Crossing a bright clear brooklet that ran close to the rear of the tents, a couple of hundred yards brought us to a rocky headland forming the northern boundary of the cove on which the Chinamen were located. This we crossed by a miserable track knee deep in mud, and, arrived on the other side, we had Barranjuee full in front of us, about three quarters of a mile distant, with a long cleared flat, that had the appearance of having been at one time cultivated, lying between us and the mountain. This flat, which now intervened between us and Barranjuee, was scarcely two hundred yards across at the widest part dividing the Pacific from Pitt Water, and joining Barranjuee to the main.
It is very low, and is fully exposed to whole sweep of the south-eastern gales that at some seasons prevail upon the coast, throwing up the waves in watery mountains upon the long beach that faces seaward, and scattering the spray in drenching showers right across into the bay. A dense scrub of ti tree and honeysuckle grows on the seaward side of the flat, forming a thick protecting belt almost up to the mountain, and this Nat and I determined to push through, whilst Tom went on ahead to the Customs station, whose white cottage we could see glistening brightly against the dark back ground of the vast cliffs of the mountain.
We had been led to expect that on the edge of this scrub we should put up any quantity of wonga wongas, and as Nat and I were desirous of making a triumphal entry into the station with a brace or two of these fine birds hanging at our girdles, we determined upon trying our luck. Carefully, and in a most sportsmanlike manner did we stalk along through the fern, which here grew as high as our waists, and formed an excellent cover for birds if they would but have come there. I fully expected every minute to put up, if not a wonga wonga, at all events a brace of quail; but we went on and on, and still nothing appeared. Nat audibly gave vent to his dissatisfaction, and stated as his private and particular opinion, that we had been humbugged. He uncocked his piece and threw it over his shoulder, whilst I was in the act of doing the same thing, when whirr !-up with a loud flapping of wings, that from its suddenness quite unnerved me and threw me off my guard, rose a magnificent wonga wonga, which in my agitation appeared to me as big as a turkey. It heeled round leisurely in front of me and lodged in the branches of a honey- suckle, full in sight, though out of gun-shot from where we stood, whilst I stood with mouth and eyes open, incapable of doing anything but watching its flight.
"What the mischief was that?" said Nat, in evident astonishment at the sound.
“Didn’t you see it? " I asked.
" Not a bit," he replied.
"It was a wonga, and as large a one as ever I saw. See, there he is on the honeysuckle vender, the fourth bough from the top."
"I see him," shouted Nat, as he darted off into the bush.
He fumbled about for nearly ten minutes, but once in the scrub, couldn't make out the particular tree. I directed him as wqell as I could, every now and then sending him to the right or left, according to the position whence his voice came. At last, tired of this finger-post business, I determined upon trying for the tree myself, and having carefully laid down marks and directions entered the bush. Two or three twists and turns round clusters of Ti tree, or out of the way of dead timber, and then all my marks and points and guides, had vanished, and I knew that I was done. So I wisely retreated to the clearing, shouldered my piece, and walked away off in the direction of the station. Nat soon joined me, rumbling and growling at not having been able to find the bird, and abusing me for not shooting it when I had the chance. I only wish it had risen up under his nose instead of under mine, to have seen whether his nerves would have stood such a shock.
As we came up to the place we observed Tom, and what we conceived to be two other persons, standing on a high sandy ridge near the house. One of these was Mr. Ross, the Custom-house officer, stationed here, but who was the other ? He appeared to be a military officer, for he had he orthodox scarlet swallow-tail, and infantry shacko; yet what puzzled us was that he held in his hand a long pole at the end of which was a most unmistakable vane. How an officer and a gentleman should so demean himself as to be guilty of conduct unbecoming to him in either capacity, by turning himself into a weathercock, I could not understand, neither could Nat; but as he would never trouble himself to think about anything and never cared to understand anything that was not at once and immediately appreciable, I didn't think much about that. However, Tom shouted to us, and we took off our hats in salute. Mr. Ross returned the compliment, but the red coated gentleman seemed too intent upon his vane to take any notice of us, and I at once determined to treat him as cavalierly as he had treated me.
We mounted the bank, being met half-way by Mr. Ross and Tom, the former gentleman shaking us by the hand and welcoming us heartily to Barranjuee. We had some little conversation, and Mr. Ross pressed us to hurry up to the house. Now, it struck me, that as we were to pass the evening here, it would be quite as well that at all events the ice should be broken between us and the military gentleman, who I regretted to find, did not come up to join us, so I gently put it to Mr. Ross.
"H'm, don't you think-wouldn't it be as well to introduce us to your friend ?"
Poor Ross looked at a loss to understand me, whilst Tom opened his eyes to their utmost stretch.
"My friend? What friend?" asked Ross.
"The military gentleman that was with you," I answered, not at all comprehending all this hesitation.
The words were scarcely out of my mouth than Tom uttered a yell, and fell back rolling in the grass ; whilst Ross, who is by no means demonstrative, gave a quiet, but withal so palpable a smile, that told me much more plainly than all Tom's outrageous laughter that I had somehow made a blunder.
''I'll introduce you to my friend," said Ross at last, " with much pleasure," and he turned back up the hill, whilst I followed him, raising my cap in order to give me an opportunity of running my fingers lightly through my hair, in order to make as favourable a first appearance as could be done under the circumstance.
A dozen or so of paces brought us on the top of the sand hill, and there to my intense surprise and disgust, I found that Ross's military friend was nothing more than a painted log of wood ! I heard Tom's wild yells of mirth, and even Nat's sardonic grunts of satisfaction at my discomfiture reached my ears, whilst saw the serio-comic expression of Ross's face, as he watched me scanning with astonishment the pudding-faced effigy of one of Briton's bold defenders. I could stand no more, so clubbing my piece I rushed on the scarlet- coated deception, and should most certainly have smashed it, or more probably my fowling piece, if Ross had not thrown himself across my path and stayed my murderous hand.
Left Illustration from; Tricks of the Smuggler. (1936, May 29). The Land(Sydney, NSW : 1911 - 1954), p. 14. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article104230976
“Don’t hurt it," he said, “for I had a good deal of trouble getting that piece of wood." And here he showed me that it was almost the natural form of the wood that made the figure, one log of the particular shape required forming the head, body, and legs, and the arms being short boughs inserted into larger holes bored for the purpose. The whole, having been painted to represent the red coat, white trousers, and black moustaches of the military, had been surmounted by an old black hat, and formed as good a representation of a soldier as need be.
Out of respect to our host I contrived to calm my flurried spirits, although at every opportunity that offered I shook my fist at the effigy, and once, when Ross' back was turned, with savage delight I knocked off the old black hat that covered its top, and left its head exposed in all its white and ghastly nakedness. This somewhat relieved me, and I was able now to descend the hill and encounter Tom, who you may depend did not spare me a bit. However we walked on to the cottage, and then the appearance of Mrs. Ross, who came out to welcome us, saved me from further torment.
No sooner had we arrived than with the ordinary country custom, the table was laid, and a repast was set before us and despite all we could urge relative to our having only about an hour previously made a hearty meal, we were, nolens volens, compelled to take another.
"I told you," said Tom, as he began to attack the provender as freshly as if he hadn't fed for the last four and twenty hours. “I told you that was only a snack,"
Nat grinned diabolically, though he said nothing; relieving his mind by cutting off a huge slice of fat beef, which, with amazing skill and rapidity, he proceeded to put out of sight. As to myself, my modesty forbids me to say what I disposed of. I can only remark, therefore, that our joint endeavours must have given Mr. and Mrs. Ross a very severe caution against harbouring stragglers. However, there is an end to all things, and even the appetites of hungry travellers must eventually give way; so we wound up by letting out a couple of holes of our belts, and lighting our pipes, and then outside we all went to have a closer and at the same time a more complete view of the station.
Ross' house had a pretty rustic appearance with its neatly painted front, and leaf covered verandah, but, as he informed me, the beauty was all in appearance, since the house, a timber erection, had been built so many years ago, that slabs and posts and weatherboards were now so far decayed as to make it doubtful on the occasion of every gale of wind, whether it would stand it out, or succumb before the blast. However, by dint of constant painting and repairing, it is kept in an apparently comfortable state, despite the rottenness that lurks below the surface, and what is worse, the leakage from the roof above. In front of the house is a small, but well kept garden, on a terrace, built up on the side of the hill evidently after a considerable amount of labour, and overlooking from the farther side the men's hut and the beach beyond. From the side of the house, a wicket gate opens upon a broad pathway leading down to the beach, formed into broad low steps, by means of protecting logs, behind which gravel and stones have been laid just sufficiently off the level to secure drainage.
Barrenjuey [i.e. Barrenjoey], Broken Bay 1869 Jan. 16 by George Penkivil Slade. nla.pic-an6454687, courtesy National Library of Australia.
The men's hut is a large slab house with a shingled roof, admitting wind and rain everywhere, since the lower ends of the slabs have completely rotted away, and they rock away crazily in the wind in all the helplessness of extreme old age; whilst the boat's crew have their slumbers protected from the pelting rain that would otherwise penetrate the leaky rotten roof, only by the large tarpaulin, or sail, or whatever it is, that is thrown over it.
A large boat-house, under which was stored the new and crack boat of the station, stands to the right of the men's hut, with a work-shop, in which was a very good and complete supply of tools, attached to it ; and at the back, under a shed or lean-to, a little punt, sufficient to accommodate three or four persons, was in course of construction, for use on fishing expeditions.
Above: Wharf, Barrenjoey, Hawkesbury River, 1900-1910. Pic No: a116421, Courtesy of The State Library of NSW
Running out from the beach immediately in front of these is a long and well-constructed jetty, built on piles, and carried into good deep water at the lowest tides. At the back of the cottage we were shown, with evident pride, the arrangements that had been made for supplying the station with water. These were effected by bringing the water of a beautifully clear and crystal spring, by means of long troughs from a dank rocky gully in the mountain's side, whence it took its source, down to the back of the premises, and within easy reach of the domestics. This stream, which has never been known to fail, even in the dryest season, in said to be deliciously, cold, and refreshing in hot weather, and to have cooling properties almost equal to those of ice.
Everywhere about the place, in the paved yards, the carefully kept paths in every direction, the painted and secure fences, the constantly repaired houses, and the well tended garden, are shown the marks of minute and ever watchful care, such as is seldom met with in the locations of the bush. All looks as neat, and as clean, and as pretty, as if it were a doll's house, newly turned out of the toy-shop and yet, close upon it tower up the rude bluff rocks of Barranjuee, heaped one upon another in massive and Titanic tiers, until the eye gets giddy in following them. Here again, Ross' never-tiring hand has been at work, and he has contrived to cut a very creditable pathway up the side of the mountain from the corner of his fencing to a gap that occurs between two of the hummocks on its summit. Here he has a rustic seat, guarded by a military dummy, counterpart of the one to whom I had been introduced on the hill below; and here, spy glass in hand, he takes tent of the numerous vessel- that pass or that come into Broken Bay.
And truly it is a magnificent view that is spread out before me, as I recline in that seat on the summit of Barranjuee, and smoke my pipe Away to the left I can see the mouth of the Hawkesbury, and can trace that river up a considerable distance until it is shut in by numerous woody headlands. Almost in front of it is Mount Elliott receiving its name from is very remarkable resemblance to a lion couchant, the emblem of the Elliotts To the north of that again, and extending away to the right, is a long sandy beach upon which the sea breaks in heavy and ceaseless rollers for nearly a mile from the shore. This beach stretches away right to the entrance of Brisbane Water, and forms ore side of that entrance, the other being a peaked and pyramidal looking hill, which looks gray and indistinct in the distance. More in the foreground there stands Little Box Head, and from where I stand, the sea appears to break right across from this headland almost to Mount Elliott, and although there is a channel constantly shifting, I cannot see it at so great a distance.
From Little Box Head to the North Head of Broken Buy a distance of six or seven miles, there is a constant succession of headlands and long sandy beaches, with here and there a bluff faced wall of rock with a long reef running out from it, as though Old Ocean had made some more savage attack than ordinary upon this particular spot and had shaved it down to the ordinary marine level.
Here we sat and gazed and gazed, at each instant finding out something new, some mellow light, some deep shadow, until at last the setting sun threw his last crimson glow upon the western hills, and then the prospect began to fade gradually away, the more distant parts receding piece-meal from view, retreating behind the veil of haze that seemed to come down before them and to advance slowly step by step as the twilight deepened into night. At the same time, the wind came upon us cold and bleak, off the vast expanse of water, and with something like a longing for the snug parlour and the cheery fireside, we hurried down the hill to the cottage -(To be continued )
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, September 9). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13063749
MY HOLIDAY. [CONCLUDED,]
THE evening passed over swiftly, many a wild legend of which Barranjue was the scene of action, being recounted. There were tales of bushrangers who had made this mountain their resort and the receptacle of their plunder. Much of the latter is said to be still concealed in the crevices and caverns of the rock and many have been the infatuated individuals who have come no one knew whence, and have gone none have known Whither, who for days and weeks have haunted the spot, searching amongst the ghibber for the fancied hidden richness of the now passed away outlaws, or groping about the sands in the expectation of-finding some of the "plants" of the smugglers, who, prior to the establishment of the custom-house station at Barranjuee, made the many coves of Broken Bay a regular place of resort.
There were also stirring descriptions of savage strife and conflict, between the Colo men, one of the largest and most warlike of the aboriginal tribes, and -the native-denizens of Barranjuee; the former being In the habit of enlivening their fishing expeditions to the bay with an occasional foray into the lands of their bitterest enemies, the Barranjuees, until at last, by dint of these continuous struggles, the latter tribe had been all but annihilated, and their women carried away captive. Seeing that my gentle public has dealt so favourably with me as to patiently suffer the infliction of these my rambling recollections, I may, perhaps, at some future hour of leisure, place before them, the choicest of these tales of bygone days for their amusement. Barranjuee is peculiarly rich in legends, connecting it with the lawless and crime-stained history of the past, and demands a chronicler to bring forward its claims to the notice-of the present, and to withdraw it from the neglect and oblivion into which it has sunk in these days of law and order. Though my feeble pen may not be the worthiest to frame the record yet, wanting the abler chronicler, perchance the willing one may be acceptable.
The next morning we set our faces homewards. Seeing that we were now at the extreme verge of the peninsula, and .that no further advance could be made, it followed as a matter of necessity that we should counter-march, or, in such parlance, take the back track. With regret we bid farewell to the denizens of the station, as we could willingly, if time had been allowed this; have passed several days in exploring the hoary monarch of the range of Barranjuee. But it was not to be. Our time was up; and, to paraphrase the language of that celebrated ghost from whom I have before quoted:--
Mine hour had almost come
When I to lengthy and tormenting speeches
Must render up myself.
We followed along the back track as far as Collins', bidding John Chinaman good morning as we passed, and having a shot at another crane at the head of the bay by the huts, this time inducing the infantine squalling instead of allaying it as on the first occasion.
Arrived at Collins', we passed the back of his hut, crossed a deep sluggish creek by means of a half rotten log, that bent and swayed and threatened at each step to break and give us a ducking, and then dashed into the bush towards the main line of range that we knew extended from Lush's up this point. It was weary work, with our loads on our backs, to toil through the thick scrub and up the steep face of the mountain range, in the warm sun, that now shone down upon us, hot and unclouded; but we had our reputation at stake. We had wandered and travelled, and shot, and had nothing to take home in evidence of our prowess and our wood craft; and this dive into the mountains was a sort of forlorn hope, the last recourse we had to protect us against the unmitigated chaffing that we knew we should receive if we returned empty handed. At last we gained the crest of the ridge, and then steadily and laboriously did we pursue our way; beating up the hill sides and gullies, in the hope of coming across some wallabi more daring than his fellows, who would brave our redoubtable gun-barrels. Yet neither bush, nor brake, nor jungle hollow, nor rocky crest, was inclined to stand to us, for not a tail of wallabi did we see, though at times we could hear them beating off in the distance before our advance. In this way we ran along the range for at least eight or nine miles, passing on our way many a deserted location, on which the huts and fencing were fast falling to decay, and the orchard trees were running to wildness by luxuriance. Many a sawyer's pit and shingle splitter's stand were, also seen, the only marks of recent life to be found near them being the wallabi tracks which on every side surrounded them.
Shingle splitting Middle Harbour, ca. 1870s. Pic. No: a280003, courtesy State Library of NSW.
At last a curling smoke ahead showed us to be near a habitation, and we consequently hurried on with renewed vigour, the dinner hour being fast approaching. What was our horror, however, on finding, when we had reached the edge of the gully and could look down upon the clearing, that we had come upon the scene of our unfortunate wallabi shooting adventure, and that we had ventured almost within range of the tongue of the ancient dame to whom we had not given the bottle of grog. Shall I tell with what wonderful unanimity we all turned upon our heels at this sight, or with what lengthened strides we once more faced up the hill and headed the long gulley which separated and protected us from our dreaded enemy? No my reader, if he has sympathised with my misadventure, will easily conceive all this. Having crossed the range, we made our way down the other side, and soon struck the path leading to Lush's, reaching that hospitable mansion without accident of any kind, and without our propinquity being made known to our foe by even so much as the barking of a dog.
Here we took our dinner and a spell of rest, and thence once more enrcaie for Sydney. We travelled over precisely the same line as we had followed in coming up, and this time waded through Narrabeen without that amount of torture that I had been put to on my first passage, although there was now about three times the expanse of water that there had been on the former occasion. The same identical lot of sand pipers seemed to be disporting themselves on the sand, and I dare say the same lot will be seen by any one who may be crossing there fifty years hence-just as numerous, just as acute in running, and just as unapproachable.
After crossing the lagoon, we found that the bank on the southern side was very wet and muddy, making it altogether impossible to put on one's boots, on account of our not being able to wash the mud off out feet, so we determined to travel on to the next waterhole barefooted, there to perform our pedal ablutions and boot in comfort. I had forgotten to mention that, the last two days having been fine and dry, Tom had not had the vast amount of difficulty about his boots that he had had at the outset of our campaign, the more particularly as he had through- out been exceedingly attentive to the lubricating process in connection with them. He had consequently taken them off with comparative ease, prior to entering Narrabeen! By comparative ease, I mean that by a lone; pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether by Nat, Tom, and I, they had come off ; and then Tom had consigned them to Nat, whilst he waded up stream to look after the sandpipers. Of course he might as well hove crossed at once, for the sandpipers ran away very much foster than he could follow. But, with regard to the boots: when we decided to go on, Tom was somewhat in the rear, and so soon as we had passed over the mud and got on to the grass, Nat threw the boots down upon the track, singing out to Tom to announce his having done so. Hearing Tom shout in reply, we thought au was right, and trudged on, as comfortably as men with bare feet could be expected to do, on the look out for a waterhole. We had to go fully a mile and a-half, that is up to the old cultivation ground on the edge of which we had camped the first night of our expedition, before we found a suitable spot to cleanse and dry our feet. Arrived here, this part of the ceremony was soon performed, and we then lay back on the grass, and smoked our pipes, awaiting Tom's return. After the lapse of a quarter of an hour, he come limping up in most agonising style, and then seated himself surlily by the waterhole, giving only very short gruff answers to the questions put to him. This did not astonish us, as we knew that he was not very lively upon his pins when his extremities were not cased in leather.
"Come, Tom," at last, I said, "on with your boots, man. Its getting late." ,
" My boots ! " he replied, " and where are they?"
"Where are they ! Havn't you got them ? "-put Nat.
" No," Tom answered, " didn't I give them to you to carry?" '
"And didn't I put them down when we crossed the lagoon, and didn't I tell you of it ?" responded
Upon this followed amass of explanation, intermingled with growling and strong expressions of opinion on the part of Tom, with regard to conduct such as that of which Nat had been guilty. It seemed that Tom had not paid attention to the shout informing him of the deposition of the boots, that he had consequently left them on the track, and that he thought we had gone on ahead with them, for the purpose of trotting him out a bit, and that that had been the cause of the grumpy mood in which he had come up to us.
The explanations ultimately ended in giving satisfaction to everybody, except only that they did not bring back the boots. They were left behind on the track, and somebody must get them. Tom couldn't, for he was already too crippled with his walk and. Nat, consigning the boots to the bottomless pit, declared most emphatically that he wouldn't go. There was nothing left for it then but that I must go; so, making the best of a bad bargain, I stipulated with Nat that if I fetched them he should alone aid foin, to put them on. This being agreed to, 'I started off, breathing to myself anathemas upon this constant source of trouble and annoyance. At last I reached the spot where Nat had deposited them, and there they stood, as quiet and as imperturbable as if they hadn't given me a three-mile walk, that I had no right to take. I felt bitter towards those boots, and I admit that I pelted them savagely with lumps of mud, for there were no stones at hand, and that I kicked them along before me for two or three hundred yards until I perfectly tired myself with the exertion. I then took them up and made the best of my way to where Tom and Nat awaited me, my mind very considerably relieved by the satisfaction I had taken out of the uppers.
When I came up, I threw the offending articles down at Tom's feet, shouldered my swag, and, with a grim smile of recrimination at Nat, told him that I should walk on whilst he helped Tom to put them on. His intense look of horror and alarm is not to be described by words; even the pencil of a Doyle or a Leech, or a Gill would fail in conveying its full force. Stern in my resolves of vengeance, I marched away, leaving Tom and Nat to struggle alone with fate and the boots. I had passed Miss Jenkins', and had even crossed the Deewy bridge before my companions came, in sight, and then the scowls that appeared upon their visages told of what they had gone through. It was a long while before peace was restored amongst us, but, at last, they gave in, and laughed as heartily as I did myself at their thorough discomfiture. In fact, Nat honestly confessed that he would rather have walked back for the boots half a dozen times than have undergone the penalty of assisting in putting them on.
"And, as for me," said Tom, "they're on now; and they don't leave my feet again till I get home."
"What about the Curl Curl lagoon," I asked.
"I'll chance it ! " replied Tom ; " they don't come off again."
We both applauded Tom's spirit, for we had already had in apprehension a scene on the other side of-Curl Curl similar to that which had been enacted after the passage of Narrabeen. We were now relieved of this dread, and, as we had now had definitely the last of the boots, the final remnants of annoyance vanished, and, with laugh and joke and many a reminiscence of our past days of travel, we went over the ground already described in our up-journey, and passed through the confused farm yard and by the piggeries to the Curl Curl, or Manly lagoon, which Tom, true to his promise, entered boots and all, and I made his way to the other side, whilst we, with a less troublesome choussure preferred to have our boots dry, and so removed them before entering the water.
Curl Curl Lagoon near Manly, circa 1900-1910, Image no.: a116482, courtesy State Library of NSW
Mounting the hill on the southern bank of the lagoon, our eyes were once more gladdened with the sight of the giant coffee-pot-I beg pardon-Kangaroo, which we now looked upon as an old friend, as well as a beacon set up to lead us and to welcome us back to the civilisation which we had so long quitted for a territory wild, barbarous, unvisited, and unknown.
Here, by rights, my adventures end, for it boots not to tell of how I got on board the steamer and came back to Sydney, nor of the wild Indian yell with which I was greeted by my youngsters on entering my own door. I cannot however, thus abruptly dismiss the gentle reader, who has followed me so far,-for gentle, indeed, and kind of heart must he have been to have allowed me to lead him through so much discursive and little interesting matter-I cannot part with him without thanking him for his patience in wading through these idle scribblings, and without hoping that though he may have gained but little profit by his reading, he may at least have derived from it some few moments of amusement.
MY HOLIDAY. (1861, September 16). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 3. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13055659
Charles Edward de Boos, (1819–1900)
We regret to have to record this morning the death of Mr. Charles Edward de Boos, who in the course of his long life did much to benefit the country of his adoption, and who incidentally made existence happier and smoother for his contemporaries. Mr. de Boos died yesterday morning at Congewoi, Ryde, the residence of his son-in-law, Mr. C. C. Watson. The very mention of the name of the house in which he breathed his last will send the memory of old residents back to the days when the "Correspondence of John Smith of Congewoi" was enjoyed by every reader of the Sydney Morning Herald of a quarter of a century or so ago. Mr. de Boos was one of those few individuals who are endowed by Nature with the supreme gift of humour, tempered by a due regard for proportion and a strict observance of fact. He was the happy possessor of a vein of humour which seemed inexhaustible — the humour which is more effective than satire or direct denunciation in the reformation of manners. Not that he wrote with a purpose. The man bubbled over with healthy humour. He would see a thing patent to the eyes of all men, and his playful fancy would surround it with unexpected charms. His faculty of perception marked him as a great humourist, and it is now only to be regretted that his work lies buried in old times of newspapers. But it is refreshing even now to turn up old files of the Herald and to read "Random Notes" or "Collective Wisdom." The very title of the last-named series was an inspiration. It was the title Mr. de Boos gave to his sketches of the Parliamentary giants of his days — days in which Martin and Parkes and Jennings were flourishing, and in which one heard something of succeeding lights now better known to fame.
But Mr. de Boos was not solely or mainly a humourist. He was also a hardworking journalist, engaged on the Parliamentary staff of the Herald. Besides his work in "the gallery" he was employed in the writing of special articles on various subjects. One series of these was that headed "Random Notes," in which he recorded his impressions of various parts of the colony which he visited. But his work was particularly valuable not only to the Herald readers, but to the colony generally, when he wrote his interesting series of articles on the mining industry of New South Wales. These had the effect of impressing on the minds of people that there was a rich treasure within the borders of the colony which only required working. Probably it would not be the case with New South Wales that she would leap at a bound into fame as a gold-producing country, but the gold was there and would repay the endeavour necessary to securing it. It would not become us to say how far the articles written by Mr. de Boos for the Herald and published in these columns had the effect of directing effort to this profitable work. It is, however, fair to say that they operated in that direction, and when Mr. de Boos was appointed a warden of the goldfields in 1874 it was generally felt that the Government of the day had selected a man who had shown his fitness for the position. In the discharge of that work Mr. de Boos more than justified the appointment.
His life history may be told in a few words. Born in London on May 24, 1819, Charles Edward de Boos was to the day a contemporary of Queen Victoria. Educated at Addiscombe, he served as a volunteer in the Cartist war in Spain before he had got out of his teens, and then, finding little to attract him in the old country, he came to Australia. This was in 1839. In those days the theory was that an energetic Englishman had only to take up pastoral pursuits in order to make a fortune, wherewith he could return in a few years to his ancestral home. Amongst the persons who realised that this theory does not always hold water was young de Boos, who found that the country he had taken up in the Hunter River district brought him no means of livelihood. Then he joined the press in Sydney, being employed on the Monitor and the Gazette. In 1851 he became Government shorthand writer in Melbourne, a position that he held for four or five years. Thereafter we find him again in Sydney, a member of the staff of the Herald, where he did the good work to which allusion has already been made. A striking tribute to the value of his writings is that even those of them which were written on ephemeral subjects, and which had politicians now forgotten as their heroes, may now be read with interest. The men are dead, and the writer is now dead, and the subjects, then of absorbing moment, have fallen into the waters of oblivion, but the humour of the sketches survives and the good workmanship appreciated by the Herald readers of years ago will appeal to all judges of style in literature to-day. In 1874 Mr. de Boos was appointed magistrate and goldfields warden, and in this capacity be did good service to the State.
For the last 15 years Mr de Boos, who was a prominent member of the Masonic body, and belonged to the New Brunswick Grand Lodge, lived in a retired manner. His wife died about 20 years ago, and he leaves issue: two sons, who reside at Temora, and three daughters — Mrs. Meikle (Waverley), Mrs. E. H. O. Smith (Chatswood), Mrs. C. C. Watson (Ryde). Another son, who was a solicitor, died a few years ago. The funeral will take place to-day, the place of interment being Rookwood.
DEATH OF MR. DE BOOS. (1900, October 31). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 7. Retrieved fromhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14355558
Ocean Beach, Manly / Kerry Photo. Sydney, circa 1890's - showing planted Norfolk Pines. Image No.: a089677, courtesy State Library of NSW.
HENRY GILBERT SMITH
But it is Mr. Henry Gilbert Smith who may be called the "father of Manly," since he bought 100 acres on the flat at a nominal rate, and set to work to build. The Government had previously surveyed a township — Balgowlah — on the Sydney road, and streets had been pegged out, but the land lying in the valley was more come-at-able from Sydney, and the nucleus of a village sprang up. The Steyne, Pier, and Clarendon hotels were built by this gentleman, whose imported iron house, where he lived, stood on the beach close to what is now the Pier Hotel. He fixed the hundred feet from high water mark on both beaches, with an idea of a main central avenue. But there was no communication with Sydney except by private boats, Mr. Skinner, the father of the present manager of the municipal baths, being the boatman who took Mr. Smith to town and back in his dingey. Thirty acres were added to Mr. Smith's estate from the Barker grant and a grant to Thompson to 1842, and the Skally and Andrews estates made up the Fairlight property, now so beautified and improved. The Basset-Darley property was so called from land owned by Miss Wentworth, daughter of W. C. Wentworth, who married first a Mr. Basset and then Captain Darley. Previously to this entrance of civilisation, in 1836, in Governor Bourke's time, the parish of Manly was computed to contain 43 souls, including 14 Government men clearing the quarantine ground. "In 1850,"says a writer, "the district was nearly as wild as when Captain Phillip first found it."
Steynes' Hotel, Manly Beach, Government Printing Office 1 - 05447, courtesy State Library of NSW.
Charles De Boos says, "the beginnings were all in tyranny, blood, and crime;" but these things have all passed away with happier and more settled conditions. A sort of "cattle duffing," amounting to bushranging, prevailed, some murders being committed, which even living residents remember, and much "dark work" going on in those wild and lawless days, it being too far away and ungetatable for Sydney to exercise much control.
The names of some of the early settlers were the Whalans, Collins, Parker, Mildwater, Miles, Wilson, Fell, Smith, and Symons, many of whose relations are still an the district, though none of the originals remain to tell of Manly prior to the settlement by Mr. Henry Gilbert Smith, about 1852 (some sources state Mr. Smith became a landowner in 1846). The Skinners, Mr. Adam Russell (for 21 years overseer of works), Mr. Bagnall (an early builder for Messrs. Elphinston), and Mr. Badmington, senior (also a builder) are among the oldest living residents. The Ivanhoe Park was laid out under Mr. Smith's direction; also the planting of Port Jackson fig trees and Norfolk Island pines in the esplanades and the Corso. "The Brothers" was a little boat that, in '54, was owned by Mr. George Hall, and came irregularly to Manly, succeeded by the Phantom, brought from Melbourne, in 1858. For many years there were only three trips a day, the return fare being 2s 6d. When Manly was boomed into a fashionable seaside resort, the big ocean steamers to Newcastle brought excursionists down in the mornings on holidays, but at night only the usual small boats would come over to return the picnickers to their homes, the consequence being that many an all-night's outing was included in the picnic. Parties of forlorn pleasure-seekers might be seen sitting in the ti-tree scrub that at the time bordered the beaches.
Old residents tell of the "hot potato club," when the Phantom made a late trip from town during election or other exciting evenings in thecity. The early arrivals at the Sydney Wharf, where (should the night be stormy)was provided no shelter, went at once onboard, and did the potato roasting in the engine fires, having hot coffee and bread and butter ready for supper during the trip. Songs and speeches made the journey pass quickly. Mr. Robert Grant is the best-remembered among the club presidents. When the Breadalbane was put on the engine was forbidden for cookery purposes, and the club ceased to be. The kangaroo, on the hillock of that name, now a reserve, was designed by Mr. H. G. Smith as a memento of the great wallaby chases that were a feature of Manly in days gone by. The intention of the carver was good, though the libel on our national animal is almost unforgivable. The camera obscura, also standing, was another effort of the same gentleman to boom Manly, as also was the maze, erected on what is now part of Ivanhoe Park, behind the Pier Hotel. Tradition says that it was at a wallaby hunt that the idea of the incorporation started. At all events, the borough was proclaimed in 1877, Mr. Thomas Rowe being first Mayor, in 1877 and1878; Mr. G. W. Barker followed; then Mr. J. J. Lough, Mr. C.H. Hayes in 1883 (three times elected), the present Mayor being Alderman E. W. Quirk, M.L.A., J.P. THE SUBURBS OF SYDNEY VIII. Beautiful Manly by Mary Salmon. (1904, June 25). Evening News(Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 3 Supplement: EVENING NEWS SUPPLEMENT. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article113903625
HENRY GILBERT SMITH.
There came to Manly then a man to whose imagination, endeavor, and spirit of citizenship the Manly of to-day owes more than it can ever repay. He was Henry Gilbert Smith. This man gazed at' the long yellow curve of the beach, at the beauty of the surroundings, at the glorious blue Pacific pounding lazily and luxuriously along the sand. And he saw a picture. It was a picture strangely like the Manly of to-day — a holiday haven, a place of sunshine and sand and surf and beauty. Smith became an investor. He built the Pier Hotel, in the exact spot where the Hotel Manly now stands. He created Kangaroo Park, Town Hall Park, Central Park, and Gilbert Park. He planted trees — tiny pines which have now grown and, stretching their whispering arms far up into the blue sky, give to Manly's streets the elegance and beauty which so distinguishes them.
A FERRY SERVICE. The years went by, leaving behind a Manly that grew remarkably. A ferry service came into existence, doing away with the old tug you had to hire to take you across the harbor. This was in 1854. Henry Gilbert Smith— that pioneer again — chartered The Brothers, and ran her when occasion demanded, until later, three paddle-wheel steamers— the Emu, Pelican, and Black Swan — were put into regular commission. The trip took an hour, and the fare was three shillings return. Then came the Rapid and the Victoria, until the Phantom, the first of the Port Jackson's now magnificent fleet of ferries, began to ply to the Village. ' This was about1876. THE STORY OF MANLY. (1930, January 19). Sunday Times(Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1930), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article132064169