Part 6 out of 11
"What do you think, Helena?" asked Glenarvan.
"What we all think, dear Edward," replied Lady Helena, turning toward
her companions; "let us be off at once."
CHAPTER VIII PREPARATION FOR THE JOURNEY
GLENARVAN never lost much time between adopting an idea and carrying
it out. As soon as he consented to Paganel's proposition, he gave
immediate orders to make arrangements for the journey with as little delay
as possible. The time of starting was fixed for the 22d of December,
the next day but one.
What results might not come out of this journey. The presence
of Harry Grant had become an indisputable fact, and the chances
of finding him had increased. Not that anyone expected to discover
the captain exactly on the 37th parallel, which they intended strictly
to follow, but they might come upon his track, and at all events,
they were going to the actual spot where the wreck had occurred.
That was the principal point.
Besides, if Ayrton consented to join them and act as their guide
through the forests of the province of Victoria and right to
the eastern coast, they would have a fresh chance of success.
Glenarvan was sensible of this, and asked his host whether he would
have any great objection to his asking Ayrton to accompany them,
for he felt particularly desirous of securing the assistance
of Harry Grant's old companion.
Paddy O'Moore consented, though he would regret the loss
of his excellent servant.
"Well, then, Ayrton, will you come with us in our search expedition?"
Ayrton did not reply immediately. He even showed signs of hesitation;
but at last, after due reflection, said, "Yes, my Lord, I will go
with you, and if I can not take you to Captain Grant, I can at least
take you to the very place where his ship struck."
"One question, my Lord."
"Where will you meet the DUNCAN again?"
"At Melbourne, unless we traverse the whole continent from
coast to coast."
"But the captain?"
"The captain will await my instructions in the port of Melbourne."
"You may depend on me then, my Lord."
"I will, Ayrton."
The quartermaster was warmly thanked by the passengers
of the DUNCAN, and the children loaded him with caresses.
Everyone rejoiced in his decision except the Irishman,
who lost in him an intelligent and faithful helper.
But Paddy understood the importance Glenarvan attached to
the presence of the man, and submitted. The whole party then
returned to the ship, after arranging a rendezvous with Ayrton,
and ordering him to procure the necessary means of conveyance
across the country.
When John Mangles supported the proposition of Paganel,
he took for granted that he should accompany the expedition.
He began to speak to Glenarvan at once about it, and adduced all
sorts of arguments to advance his cause--his devotion to Lady Helena
and his Lordship, how useful could he be in organizing the party,
and how useless on board the DUNCAN; everything, in fact,
but the main reason, and that he had no need to bring forward.
"I'll only ask you one question, John," said Glenarvan. "Have you
entire confidence in your chief officer?"
"Absolute," replied Mangles, "Tom Austin is a good sailor.
He will take the ship to her destination, see that the repairs
are skilfully executed, and bring her back on the appointed day.
Tom is a slave to duty and discipline. Never would he take it
upon himself to alter or retard the execution of an order.
Your Lordship may rely on him as on myself."
"Very well then, John," replied Glenarvan. "You shall go with us,
for it would be advisable," he added, smiling, "that you should be
there when we find Mary Grant's father."
"Oh! your Lordship," murmured John, turning pale. He could say no more,
but grasped Lord Glenarvan's hand.
Next day, John Mangles and the ship's carpenter, accompanied by
sailors carrying provisions, went back to Paddy O'Moore's house
to consult the Irishman about the best method of transport.
All the family met him, ready to give their best help.
Ayrton was there, and gave the benefit of his experience.
On one point both he and Paddy agreed, that the journey should be made
in a bullock-wagon by the ladies, and that the gentlemen should ride
on horseback. Paddy could furnish both bullocks and vehicle.
The vehicle was a cart twenty feet long, covered over by a tilt,
and resting on four large wheels without spokes or felloes, or iron tires--
in a word, plain wooden discs. The front and hinder part were connected
by means of a rude mechanical contrivance, which did not allow of
the vehicle turning quickly. There was a pole in front thirty-five
feet long, to which the bullocks were to be yoked in couples.
These animals were able to draw both with head and neck, as their
yoke was fastened on the nape of the neck, and to this a collar
was attached by an iron peg. It required great skill to drive such
a long, narrow, shaky concern, and to guide such a team by a goad;
but Ayrton had served his apprenticeship to it on the Irishman's farm,
and Paddy could answer for his com-petency. The role of conductor
was therefore assigned to him.
There were no springs to the wagon, and, consequently, it was not likely
to be very comfortable; but, such as it was, they had to take it.
But if the rough construction could not be altered, John Mangles
resolved that the interior should be made as easy as possible.
His first care was to divide it into two compartments by a
wooden partition. The back one was intended for the provisions
and luggage, and M. Olbinett's portable kitchen. The front was set
apart especially for the ladies, and, under the carpenter's hands,
was to be speedily converted into a comfortable room,
covered with a thick carpet, and fitted up with a toilet table
and two couches. Thick leather curtains shut in this apartment,
and protected the occupants from the chilliness of the nights.
In case of necessity, the gentlemen might shelter themselves here,
when the violent rains came on, but a tent was to be their
usual resting-place when the caravan camped for the night.
John Mangles exercised all his ingenuity in furnishing the small
space with everything that the two ladies could possibly require,
and he succeeded so well, that neither Lady Helena nor Mary had much
reason to regret leaving their cosy cabins on board the DUNCAN.
For the rest of the party, the preparations were soon made,
for they needed much less. Strong horses were provided for
Lord Glenarvan, Paganel, Robert Grant, McNabbs, and John Mangles;
also for the two sailors, Wilson and Mulrady, who were
to accompany their captain. Ayrton's place was, of course,
to be in front of the wagon, and M. Olbinett, who did not much care
for equitation, was to make room for himself among the baggage.
Horses and bullocks were grazing in the Irishman's meadows,
ready to fetch at a moment's notice.
After all arrangements were made, and the carpenter set to work,
John Mangles escorted the Irishman and his family back to the vessel,
for Paddy wished to return the visit of Lord Glenarvan. Ayrton thought
proper to go too, and about four o'clock the party came over the side
of the DUNCAN.
They were received with open arms. Glenarvan would not be outstripped
in politeness, and invited his visitors to stop and dine.
His hospitality was willingly accepted. Paddy was quite amazed
at the splendor of the saloon, and was loud in admiration
of the fitting up of the cabins, and the carpets and hangings,
as well as of the polished maple-wood of the upper deck.
Ayrton's approbation was much less hearty, for he considered
it mere costly superfluity.
But when he examined the yacht with a sailor's eye, the quartermaster
of the BRITANNIA was as enthusiastic about it as Paddy. He went down into
the hold, inspected the screw department and the engine-room, examining
the engine thoroughly, and inquired about its power and consumption.
He explored the coal-bunkers, the store-room, the powder-store,
and armory, in which last he seemed to be particularly attracted
by a cannon mounted on the forecastle. Glenarvan saw he had to do with
a man who understood such matters, as was evident from his questions.
Ayrton concluded his investigations by a survey of the masts and rigging.
"You have a fine vessel, my Lord," he said after his
curiosity was satisfied.
"A good one, and that is best," replied Glenarvan.
"And what is her tonnage?"
"Two hundred and ten tons."
"I don't think I am far out," continued Ayrton, "in judging her speed
at fifteen knots. I should say she could do that easily."
"Say seventeen," put in John Mangles, "and you've hit the mark."
"Seventeen!" exclaimed the quartermaster. "Why, not a man-of-war--
not the best among them, I mean--could chase her!"
"Not one," replied Mangles. "The DUNCAN is a regular racing yacht,
and would never let herself be beaten."
"Even at sailing?" asked Ayrton.
"Even at sailing."
"Well, my Lord, and you too, captain," returned Ayrton,
"allow a sailor who knows what a ship is worth, to compliment
you on yours."
"Stay on board of her, then, Ayrton," said Glenarvan;
"it rests with yourself to call it yours."
"I will think of it, my Lord," was all Ayrton's reply.
Just then M. Olbinett came to announce dinner, and his Lordship
repaired with his guests to the saloon.
"That Ayrton is an intelligent man," said Paganel to the Major.
"Too intelligent!" muttered McNabbs, who, without any apparent reason,
had taken a great dislike to the face and manners of the quartermaster.
During the dinner, Ayrton gave some interesting details
about the Australian continent, which he knew perfectly.
He asked how many sailors were going to accompany the expedition,
and seemed astonished to hear that only two were going.
He advised Glenarvan to take all his best men, and even urged
him to do it, which advice, by the way, ought to have removed
the Major's suspicion.
"But," said Glenarvan, "our journey is not dangerous, is it?"
"Not at all," replied Ayrton, quickly.
"Well then, we'll have all the men we can on board.
Hands will be wanted to work the ship, and to help in the repairs.
Besides, it is of the utmost importance that she should meet us
to the very day, at whatever place may be ultimately selected.
Consequently, we must not lessen her crew."
Ayrton said nothing more, as if convinced his Lordship was right.
When evening came, Scotch and Irish separated.
Ayrton and Paddy O'Moore and family returned home.
Horses and wagons were to be ready the next day, and eight
o'clock in the morning was fixed for starting.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant soon made their preparations.
They had less to do than Jacques Paganel, for he spent half the night
in arranging, and wiping, and rubbing up the lenses of his telescope.
Of course, next morning he slept on till the Major's stentorian
voice roused him.
The luggage was already conveyed to the farm, thanks to
John Mangles, and a boat was waiting to take the passengers.
They were soon seated, and the young captain gave his final
orders to Tom Austin, his chief officer. He impressed upon him
that he was to wait at Melbourne for Lord Glenarvan's commands,
and to obey them scrupulously, whatever they might be.
The old sailor told John he might rely on him, and, in the name
of the men, begged to offer his Lordship their best wishes
for the success of this new expedition.
A storm of hurrahs burst forth from the yacht as the boat
rowed off. In ten minutes the shore was reached,
and a quarter of an hour afterward the Irishman's farm.
All was ready. Lady Helena was enchanted with her installation.
The huge chariot, with its primitive wheels and massive planks,
pleased her particularly. The six bullocks, yoked in pairs,
had a patriarchal air about them which took her fancy.
Ayrton, goad in hand, stood waiting the orders of this new master.
"My word," said Paganel, "this is a famous vehicle;
it beats all the mail-coaches in the world. I don't know
a better fashion of traveling than in a mountebank's caravan--
a movable house, which goes or stops wherever you please.
What can one wish better? The Samaratians understood that,
and never traveled in any other way."
"Monsieur Paganel," said Lady Helena, "I hope I shall have the pleasure
of seeing you in my SALONS."
"Assuredly, madam, I should count it an honor. Have you fixed the day?"
"I shall be at home every day to my friends," replied Lady Helena;
"and you are--"
"The most devoted among them all," interrupted Paganel, gaily.
These mutual compliments were interrupted by the arrival of the
seven horses, saddled and ready. They were brought by Paddy's sons,
and Lord Glenarvan paid the sum stipulated for his various purchases,
adding his cordial thanks, which the worthy Irishman valued at least
as much as his golden guineas.
The signal was given to start, and Lady Helena and Mary took their
places in the reserved compartment. Ayrton seated himself in front,
and Olbinett scrambled in among the luggage. The rest of the party,
well armed with carbines and revolvers, mounted their horses.
Ayrton gave a peculiar cry, and his team set off. The wagon shook
and the planks creaked, and the axles grated in the naves of the wheels;
and before long the hospitable farm of the Irishman was out of sight.
CHAPTER IX A COUNTRY OF PARADOXES
IT was the 23d of December, 1864, a dull, damp, dreary month
in the northern hemisphere; but on the Australian continent
it might be called June. The hottest season of the year had
already commenced, and the sun's rays were almost tropical,
when Lord Glenarvan started on his new expedition.
Most fortunately the 37th parallel did not cross the immense deserts,
inaccessible regions, which have cost many martyrs to science already.
Glenarvan could never have encountered them. He had only to do
with the southern part of Australia--viz., with a narrow portion of
the province of Adelaide, with the whole of Victoria, and with the top
of the reversed triangle which forms New South Wales.
It is scarcely sixty-two miles from Cape Bernouilli to the frontiers
of Victoria. It was not above a two days' march, and Ayrton
reckoned on their sleeping next night at Apsley, the most westerly
town of Victoria.
The commencement of a journey is always marked by ardor,
both in the horses and the horsemen. This is well enough
in the horsemen, but if the horses are to go far,
their speed must be moderated and their strength husbanded.
It was, therefore, fixed that the average journey every day
should not be more than from twenty-five to thirty miles.
Besides, the pace of the horses must be regulated by the slower pace
of the bullocks, truly mechanical engines which lose in time what they
gain in power. The wagon, with its passengers and provisions,
was the very center of the caravan, the moving fortress.
The horsemen might act as scouts, but must never be far away from it.
As no special marching order had been agreed upon, everybody was
at liberty to follow his inclinations within certain limits.
The hunters could scour the plain, amiable folks could
talk to the fair occupants of the wagon, and philosophers
could philosophize. Paganel, who was all three combined,
had to be and was everywhere at once.
The march across Adelaide presented nothing of any particular interest.
A succession of low hills rich in dust, a long stretch of what they call
in Australia "bush," several prairies covered with a small prickly bush,
considered a great dainty by the ovine tribe, embraced many miles.
Here and there they noticed a species of sheep peculiar to New Holland--
sheep with pig's heads, feeding between the posts of the telegraph line
recently made between Adelaide and the coast.
Up to this time there had been a singular resemblance in the country
to the monotonous plains of the Argentine Pampas. There was
the same grassy flat soil, the same sharply-defined horizon against
the sky. McNabbs declared they had never changed countries;
but Paganel told him to wait, and he would soon see a difference.
And on the faith of this assurance marvelous things were expected
by the whole party.
In this fashion, after a march of sixty miles in two days,
the caravan reached the parish of Apsley, the first town
in the Province of Victoria in the Wimerra district.
The wagon was put up at the Crown Inn. Supper was soon smoking on
the table. It consisted solely of mutton served up in various ways.
They all ate heartily, but talked more than they ate, eagerly asking
Paganel questions about the wonders of the country they were just
beginning to traverse. The amiable geographer needed no pressing,
and told them first that this part of it was called Australia Felix.
"Wrongly named!" he continued. "It had better have been
called rich, for it is true of countries, as individuals,
that riches do not make happiness. Thanks to her gold mines,
Australia has been abandoned to wild devastating adventurers.
You will come across them when we reach the gold fields."
"Is not the colony of Victoria of but a recent origin?"
asked Lady Glenarvan.
"Yes, madam, it only numbers thirty years of existence.
It was on the 6th of June, 1835, on a Tuesday--"
"At a quarter past seven in the evening," put in the Major,
who delighted in teasing the Frenchman about his precise dates.
"No, at ten minutes past seven," replied the geographer, gravely,
"that Batman and Falckner first began a settlement at Port Phillip,
the bay on which the large city of Melbourne now stands.
For fifteen years the colony was part of New South Wales,
and recognized Sydney as the capital; but in 1851, she was
declared independent, and took the name of Victoria."
"And has greatly increased in prosperity since then,
I believe," said Glenarvan.
"Judge for yourself, my noble friend," replied Paganel. "Here are
the numbers given by the last statistics; and let McNabbs say as he likes,
I know nothing more eloquent than statistics."
"Go on," said the Major.
"Well, then, in 1836, the colony of Port Phillip had 224 inhabitants.
To-day the province of Victoria numbers 550,000. Seven
millions of vines produce annually 121,- 000 gallons of wine.
There are 103,000 horses spreading over the plains, and 675,272
horned cattle graze in her wide-stretching pastures."
"Is there not also a certain number of pigs?" inquired McNabbs.
"Yes, Major, 79,625."
"And how many sheep?"
"Including the one we are eating at this moment."
"No, without counting that, since it is three parts devoured."
"Bravo, Monsieur Paganel," exclaimed Lady Helena, laughing heartily.
"It must be owned you are posted up in geographical questions,
and my cousin McNabbs need not try and find you tripping."
"It is my calling, Madam, to know this sort of thing,
and to give you the benefit of my information when you please.
You may therefore believe me when I tell you that wonderful
things are in store for you in this strange country."
"It does not look like it at present," said McNabbs, on purpose
to tease Paganel.
"Just wait, impatient Major," was his rejoinder. "You have hardly
put your foot on the frontier, when you turn round and abuse it.
Well, I say and say again, and will always maintain that this is
the most curious country on the earth. Its formation, and nature,
and products, and climate, and even its future disappearance
have amazed, and are now amazing, and will amaze, all the SAVANTS
in the world. Think, my friends, of a continent, the margin
of which, instead of the center, rose out of the waves originally
like a gigantic ring, which encloses, perhaps, in its center,
a sea partly evaporated, the waves of which are drying up daily;
where humidity does not exist either in the air or in the soil;
where the trees lose their bark every year, instead of their leaves;
where the leaves present their sides to the sun and not their face,
and consequently give no shade; where the wood is often incombustible,
where good-sized stones are dissolved by the rain; where the forests
are low and the grasses gigantic; where the animals are strange;
where quadrupeds have beaks, like the echidna, or ornithorhynchus,
and naturalists have been obliged to create a special order for them,
called monotremes; where the kangaroos leap on unequal legs,
and sheep have pigs' heads; where foxes fly about from tree to tree;
where the swans are black; where rats make nests; where the bower-bird
opens her reception-rooms to receive visits from her feathered friends;
where the birds astonish the imagination by the variety of their notes
and their aptness; where one bird serves for a clock, and another
makes a sound like a postilion cracking of a whip, and a third
imitates a knife-grinder, and a fourth the motion of a pendulum;
where one laughs when the sun rises, and another cries when the sun sets!
Oh, strange, illogical country, land of paradoxes and anomalies,
if ever there was one on earth--the learned botanist Grimard was
right when he said, 'There is that Australia, a sort of parody,
or rather a defiance of universal laws in the face of the rest
of the world.'"
Paganel's tirade was poured forth in the most impetuous manner,
and seemed as if it were never coming to an end.
The eloquent secretary of the Geographical Society was no longer
master of himself. He went on and on, gesticulating furiously,
and brandishing his fork to the imminent danger of his neighbors.
But at last his voice was drowned in a thunder of applause,
and he managed to stop.
Certainly after such an enumeration of Australian peculiarities, he might
have been left in peace but the Major said in the coolest tone possible:
"And is that all, Paganel?"
"No, indeed not," rejoined the Frenchman, with renewed vehemence.
"What!" exclaimed Lady Helena; "there are more wonders
still in Australia?"
"Yes, Madam, its climate. It is even stranger than its productions."
"Is it possible?" they all said.
"I am not speaking of the hygienic qualities of the climate,"
continued Paganel, "rich as it is in oxygen and poor in azote.
There are no damp winds, because the trade winds blow regularly on
the coasts, and most diseases are unknown, from typhus to measles,
and chronic affections."
"Still, that is no small advantage," said Glenarvan.
"No doubt; but I am not referring to that, but to one quality
it has which is incomparable."
"And what is that?"
"You will never believe me."
"Yes, we will," exclaimed his auditors, their curiosity aroused
by this preamble.
"Well, it is--"
"It is what?"
"It is a moral regeneration."
"A moral regeneration?"
"Yes," replied the SAVANT, in a tone of conviction. "Here metals do
not get rust on them by exposure to the air, nor men. Here the pure,
dry atmosphere whitens everything rapidly, both linen and souls.
The virtue of the climate must have been well known in England when they
determined to send their criminals here to be reformed."
"What! do you mean to say the climate has really any such influence?"
said Lady Helena.
"Yes, Madam, both on animals and men."
"You are not joking, Monsieur Paganel?"
"I am not, Madam. The horses and the cattle here are of
incomparable docility. You see it?"
"It is impossible!"
"But it is a fact. And the convicts transported into this
reviving, salubrious air, become regenerated in a few years.
Philanthropists know this. In Australia all natures grow better."
"But what is to become of you then, Monsieur Paganel,
in this privileged country--you who are so good already?"
said Lady Helena. "What will you turn out?"
"Excellent, Madam, just excellent, and that's all."
CHAPTER X AN ACCIDENT
THE next day, the 24th of December, they started at daybreak.
The heat was already considerable, but not unbearable, and the road
was smooth and good, and allowed the cavalcade to make speedy progress.
In the evening they camped on the banks of the White Lake, the waters
of which are brackish and undrinkable.
Jacques Paganel was obliged to own that the name of this
lake was a complete misnomer, for the waters were no more
white than the Black Sea is black, or the Red Sea red,
or the Yellow River yellow, or the Blue Mountains blue.
However, he argued and disputed the point with all the _amour
propre_ of a geographer, but his reasoning made no impression.
M. Olbinett prepared the evening meal with his accustomed punctuality,
and after this was dispatched, the travelers disposed themselves
for the night in the wagon and in the tent, and were soon sleeping
soundly, notwithstanding the melancholy howling of the "dingoes,"
the jackals of Australia.
A magnificent plain, thickly covered with chrysanthemums, stretched out
beyond the lake, and Glenarvan and his friends would gladly have explored
its beauties when they awoke next morning, but they had to start. As far
as the eye could reach, nothing was visible but one stretch of prairie,
enameled with flower, in all the freshness and abundance of spring.
The blue flowers of the slender-leaved flax, combined with the bright
hues of the scarlet acanthus, a flower peculiar to the country.
A few cassowaries were bounding over the plain, but it was
impossible to get near them. The Major was fortunate enough,
however, to hit one very rare animal with a ball in the leg.
This was the jabiru, a species which is fast disappearing,
the gigantic crane of the English colonies. This winged
creature was five feet high, and his wide, conical,
extremely pointed beak, measured eighteen inches in length.
The violet and purple tints of his head contrasted vividly
with the glossy green of his neck, and the dazzling whiteness
of his throat, and the bright red of his long legs.
Nature seems to have exhausted in its favor all the primitive
colors on her palette.
V. IV Verne
Great admiration was bestowed on this bird, and the Major's spoil
would have borne the honors of the day, had not Robert come
across an animal a few miles further on, and bravely killed it.
It was a shapeless creature, half porcupine, half ant-eater, a sort
of unfinished animal belonging to the first stage of creation.
A long glutinous extensible tongue hung out of his jaws in search
of the ants, which formed its principal food.
"It is an echidna," said Paganel. "Have you ever seen such a creature?"
"It is horrible," replied Glenarvan.
"Horrible enough, but curious, and, what's more, peculiar
to Australia. One might search for it in vain in any other part
of the world."
Naturally enough, the geographer wished to preserve this interesting
specimen of monotremata, and wanted to stow it away in the luggage;
but M. Olbinett resented the idea so indignantly, that the SAVANT
was obliged to abandon his project.
About four o'clock in the afternoon, John Mangles descried an enormous
column of smoke about three miles off, gradually overspreading
the whole horizon. What could be the cause of this phenomenon?
Paganel was inclined to think it was some description of meteor,
and his lively imagination was already in search of an explanation,
when Ayrton cut short all his conjectures summarily, by announcing
that the cloud of dust was caused by a drove of cattle on the road.
The quartermaster proved right, for as the cloud came nearer,
quite a chorus of bleatings and neighings, and bel-lowings
escaped from it, mingled with the loud tones of a human voice,
in the shape of cries, and whistles, and vo-ciferations.
Presently a man came out of the cloud. This was the leader-in-chief
of the four-footed army. Glenarvan advanced toward him,
and friendly relations were speedily established between them.
The leader, or to give him his proper designation, the stock-keeper,
was part owner of the drove. His name was Sam Machell, and he was
on his way from the eastern provinces to Portland Bay.
The drove numbered 12,075 head in all, or l,000 bullocks, 11,000 sheep,
and 75 horses. All these had been bought in the Blue Mountains in a poor,
lean condition, and were going to be fatted up on the rich pasture
lands of Southern Australia, and sold again at a great profit.
Sam Machell expected to get pounds 2 on each bullock, and 10s.
on every sheep, which would bring him in pounds 3,750. This was doing
good business; but what patience and energy were required to conduct
such a restive, stubborn lot to their destination, and what fatigues
must have to be endured. Truly the gain was hardly earned.
Sam Machell told his history in a few words, while the drove
continued their march among the groves of mimosas.
Lady Helena and Mary and the rest of the party seated themselves
under the shade of a wide-spreading gum-tree, and listened
to his recital.
It was seven months since Sam Machell had started. He had gone
at the rate of ten miles a day, and his interminable journey would
last three months longer. His assistants in the laborious task
comprised twenty dogs and thirty men, five of whom were blacks,
and very serviceable in tracking up any strayed beasts.
Six wagons made the rear-guard. All the men were armed
with stockwhips, the handles of which are eighteen inches long,
and the lash nine feet, and they move about among the ranks,
bringing refractory animals back into order, while the dogs,
the light cavalry of the regiment, preserved discipline
in the wings.
The travelers were struck with the admirable arrangement
of the drove. The different stock were kept apart, for wild
sheep and bullocks would not have got on together at all.
The bullocks would never have grazed where the sheep had passed along,
and consequently they had to go first, divided into two battalions.
Five regiments of sheep followed, in charge of twenty men,
and last of all came the horses.
Sam Machell drew the attention of his auditors to the fact that
the real guides of the drove were neither the men nor the dogs,
but the oxen themselves, beasts of superior intelligence,
recognized as leaders by their congenitors. They advanced in
front with perfect gravity, choosing the best route by instinct,
and fully alive to their claim to respect. Indeed, they were
obliged to be studied and humored in everything, for the whole drove
obeyed them implicitly. If they took it into their heads to stop,
it was a matter of necessity to yield to their good pleasure,
for not a single animal would move a step till these leaders gave
the signal to set off.
Sundry details, added by the stock-keeper, completed the history
of this expedition, worthy of being written, if not commended
by Xenophon himself. As long as the troop marched over the plains
it was well enough, there was little difficulty or fatigue.
The animals fed as they went along, and slaked their thirst at
the numerous creeks that watered the plains, sleeping at night
and making good progress in the day, always obedient and tractable
to the dogs. But when they had to go through great forests
and groves of eucalyptus and mimosas, the difficulties increased.
Platoons, battalions and regiments got all mixed together
or scattered, and it was a work of time to collect them again.
Should a "leader" unfortunately go astray, he had to be found,
cost what it might, on pain of a general disbandment,
and the blacks were often long days in quest of him, before their
search was successful. During the heavy rains the lazy beasts
refused to stir, and when violent storms chanced to occur,
the creatures became almost mad with terror, and were seized
with a wild, disorderly panic.
However, by dint of energy and ambition, the stock-keeper triumphed
over these difficulties, incessantly renewed though they were.
He kept steadily on; mile after mile of plains and woods,
and mountains, lay behind. But in addition to all his other qualities,
there was one higher than all that he specially needed when they
came to rivers. This was patience--patience that could stand
any trial, and not only could hold out for hours and days,
but for weeks. The stock-keeper would be himself forced to wait
on the banks of a stream that might have been crossed at once.
There was nothing to hinder but the obstinacy of the herd.
The bullocks would taste the water and turn back. The sheep
fled in all directions, afraid to brave the liquid element.
The stock-keeper hoped when night came he might manage them better,
but they still refused to go forward. The rams were dragged in by force,
but the sheep would not follow. They tried what thirst would do,
by keeping them without drink for several days, but when they
were brought to the river again, they simply quenched their thirst,
and declined a more intimate acquaintance with the water.
The next expedient employed was to carry all the lambs over,
hoping the mothers would be drawn after them, moved by their cries.
But the lambs might bleat as pitifully as they liked,
the mothers never stirred. Sometimes this state of affairs
would last a whole month, and the stock-keeper would be driven
to his wits' end by his bleating, bellowing, neighing army.
Then all of a sudden, one fine day, without rhyme or reason,
a detachment would take it into their heads to make a start across,
and the only difficulty now was to keep the whole herd from rushing
helter-skelter after them. The wildest confusion set in among
the ranks, and numbers of the animals were drowned in the passage.
Such was the narrative of Sam Machell. During its recital,
a considerable part of the troop had filed past in good order.
It was time for him to return to his place at their head,
that he might be able to choose the best pasturage.
Taking leave of Lord Glenarvan, he sprang on a capital horse
of the native breed, that one of his men held waiting for him,
and after shaking hands cordially with everybody all round,
took his departure. A few minutes later, nothing was visible
of the stock-keeper and his troop but a cloud of dust.
The wagon resumed its course in the opposite direction,
and did not stop again till they halted for the night at the foot
of Mount Talbot.
Paganel made the judicious observation that it was the 25th
of December, the Christmas Day so dear to English hearts.
But the steward had not forgotten it, and an appetizing meal was
soon ready under the tent, for which he deserved and received warm
compliments from the guests. Indeed, M. Olbinett had quite excelled
himself on this occasion. He produced from his stores such an array
of European dishes as is seldom seen in the Australian desert.
Reindeer hams, slices of salt beef, smoked salmon, oat cakes,
and barley meal scones; tea _ad libitum_, and whisky in abundance,
and several bottles of port, composed this astonishing meal.
The little party might have thought themselves in the grand dining-hall
of Malcolm Castle, in the heart of the Highlands of Scotland.
The next day, at 11 A. M., the wagon reached the banks of the Wimerra
on the 143d meridian.
The river, half a mile in width, wound its limpid course between
tall rows of gum-trees and acacias. Magnificent specimens
of the MYRTACEA, among others, the _metroside-ros speciosa_,
fifteen feet high, with long drooping branches, adorned with
red flowers. Thousands of birds, the lories, and greenfinches,
and gold-winged pigeons, not to speak of the noisy paroquets,
flew about in the green branches. Below, on the bosom of
the water, were a couple of shy and unapproachable black swans.
This _rara avis_ of the Australian rivers soon disappeared
among the windings of the Wimerra, which water the charming
landscape in the most capricious manner.
The wagon stopped on a grassy bank, the long fringes of which dipped
in the rapid current. There was neither raft nor bridge, but cross
over they must. Ayrton looked about for a practicable ford.
About a quarter of a mile up the water seemed shallower,
and it was here they determined to try to pass over.
The soundings in different parts showed a depth of three feet only,
so that the wagon might safely enough venture.
"I suppose there is no other way of fording the river?"
said Glenarvan to the quartermaster.
"No, my Lord; but the passage does not seem dangerous.
We shall manage it."
"Shall Lady Glenarvan and Miss Grant get out of the wagon?"
"Not at all. My bullocks are surefooted, and you may rely on me
for keeping them straight."
"Very well, Ayrton; I can trust you."
The horsemen surrounded the ponderous vehicle, and all stepped boldly
into the current. Generally, when wagons have to ford rivers,
they have empty casks slung all round them, to keep them floating
on the water; but they had no such swimming belt with them
on this occasion, and they could only depend on the sagacity
of the animals and the prudence of Ayrton, who directed the team.
The Major and the two sailors were some feet in advance.
Glenarvan and John Mangles went at the sides of the wagon,
ready to lend any assistance the fair travelers might require,
and Paganel and Robert brought up the rear.
All went well till they reached the middle of the Wimerra,
but then the hollow deepened, and the water rose to the middle
of the wheels. The bullocks were in danger of losing
their footing, and dragging with them the oscillating vehicle.
Ayrton devoted himself to his task courageously.
He jumped into the water, and hanging on by the bullocks'
horns, dragged them back into the right course.
Suddenly the wagon made a jolt that it was impossible to prevent;
a crack was heard, and the vehicle began to lean over in a most
precarious manner. The water now rose to the ladies' feet; the whole
concern began to float, though John Mangles and Lord Glenarvan hung
on to the side. It was an anxious moment.
Fortunately a vigorous effort drove the wagon toward the opposite shore,
and the bank began to slope upward, so that the horses and bullocks
were able to regain their footing, and soon the whole party found
themselves on the other side, glad enough, though wet enough too.
The fore part of the wagon, however, was broken by the jolt,
and Glenarvan's horse had lost a shoe.
This was an accident that needed to be promptly repaired.
They looked at each other hardly knowing what to do, till Ayrton
proposed he should go to Black Point Station, twenty miles
further north, and bring back a blacksmith with him.
"Yes, go, my good fellow," said Glenarvan. "How long will it
take you to get there and back?"
"About fifteen hours," replied Ayrton, "but not longer."
"Start at once, then, and we will camp here, on the banks of the Wimerra,
till you return."
CHAPTER XI CRIME OR CALAMITY
IT was not without apprehension that the Major saw Ayrton
quit the Wimerra camp to go and look for a blacksmith
at the Black Point Station. But he did not breathe a word
of his private misgivings, and contented himself with watching
the neighborhood of the river; nothing disturbed the repose
of those tranquil glades, and after a short night the sun
reappeared on the horizon.
As to Glenarvan, his only fear was lest Ayrton should return alone.
If they fail to find a workman, the wagon could not resume the journey.
This might end in a delay of many days, and Glenarvan, impatient to
succeed, could brook no delay, in his eagerness to attain his object.
Ayrton luckily had lost neither his time nor his trouble.
He appeared next morning at daybreak, accompanied by a man who gave
himself out as the blacksmith from BlackPoint Station. He was
a powerful fellow, and tall, but his features were of a low,
brutal type, which did not prepossess anyone in his favor.
But that was nothing, provided he knew his business.
He scarcely spoke, and certainly he did not waste his breath
in useless words.
"Is he a good workman?" said John Mangles to the quartermaster.
"I know no more about him than you do, captain," said Ayrton.
"But we shall see."
The blacksmith set to work. Evidently that was his trade, as they
could plainly see from the way he set about repairing the forepart
of the wagon. He worked skilfully and with uncommon energy.
The Major observed that the flesh of his wrists was deeply furrowed,
showing a ring of extravasated blood. It was the mark of a recent injury,
which the sleeve of an old woolen shirt could not conceal.
McNabbs questioned the blacksmith about those sores which looked
so painful. The man continued his work without answering.
Two hours more and the damage the carriage had sustained was
made good. As to Glenarvan's horse, it was soon disposed of.
The blacksmith had had the forethought to bring the shoes with him.
These shoes had a peculiarity which did not escape the Major;
it was a trefoil clumsily cut on the back part. McNabbs pointed
it out to Ayrton.
"It is the Black-Point brand," said the quartermaster.
"That enables them to track any horses that may stray from
the station, and prevents their being mixed with other herds."
The horse was soon shod. The blacksmith claimed his wage,
and went off without uttering four words.
Half an hour later, the travelers were on the road.
Beyond the grove of mimosas was a stretch of sparsely
timbered country, which quite deserved its name of "open plain."
Some fragments of quartz and ferruginous rock lay among the scrub
and the tall grass, where numerous flocks were feeding.
Some miles farther the wheels of the wagon plowed deep into
the alluvial soil, where irregular creeks murmured in their beds,
half hidden among giant reeds. By-and-by they skirted vast
salt lakes, rapidly evaporating. The journey was accomplished
without trouble, and, indeed, without fatigue.
Lady Helena invited the horsemen of the party to pay her a visit in turns,
as her reception-room was but small, and in pleasant converse with this
amiable woman they forgot the fatigue of their day's ride.
Lady Helena, seconded by Miss Mary, did the honors of their
ambulatory house with perfect grace. John Mangles was not
forgotten in these daily invitations, and his somewhat serious
conversation was not unpleasing.
The party crossed, in a diagonal direction, the mail-coach
road from Crowland to Horsham, which was a very dusty one,
and little used by pedestrians.
The spurs of some low hills were skirted at the boundary of Talbot County,
and in the evening the travelers reached a point about three miles
from Maryborough. The fine rain was falling, which, in any other country,
would have soaked the ground; but here the air absorbed the moisture
so wonderfully that the camp did not suffer in the least.
Next day, the 29th of December, the march was delayed somewhat by a
succession of little hills, resembling a miniature Switzerland. It was
a constant repetition of up and down hill, and many a jolt besides,
all of which were scarcely pleasant. The travelers walked part
of the way, and thought it no hardship.
At eleven o'clock they arrived at Carisbrook, rather an
important municipality. Ayrton was for passing outside the town
without going through it, in order, he said, to save time.
Glenarvan concurred with him, but Paganel, always eager
for novelties, was for visiting Carisbrook. They gave him his way,
and the wagon went on slowly.
Paganel, as was his custom, took Robert with him. His visit
to the town was very short, but it sufficed to give him an exact
idea of Australian towns. There was a bank, a court-house,
a market, a church, and a hundred or so of brick houses,
all exactly alike. The whole town was laid out in squares,
crossed with parallel streets in the English fashion.
Nothing could be more simple, nothing less attractive.
As the town grows, they lengthen the streets as we lengthen
the trousers of a growing child, and thus the original
symmetry is undisturbed.
Carisbrook was full of activity, a remarkable feature in these towns
of yesterday. It seems in Australia as if towns shot up like trees,
owing to the heat of the sun. Men of business were hurrying along
the streets; gold buyers were hastening to meet the in-coming escort;
the precious metal, guarded by the local police, was coming from
the mines at Bendigo and Mount Alexander. All the little world was
so absorbed in its own interests, that the strangers passed unobserved
amid the laborious inhabitants.
After an hour devoted to visiting Carisbrook, the two visitors
rejoined their companions, and crossed a highly cultivated district.
Long stretches of prairie, known as the "Low Level Plains,"
next met their gaze, dotted with countless sheep, and shepherds' huts.
And then came a sandy tract, without any transition, but with
the abruptness of change so characteristic of Australian scenery.
Mount Simpson and Mount Terrengower marked the southern point
where the boundary of the Loddon district cuts the 144th meridian.
As yet they had not met with any of the aboriginal tribes living
in the savage state. Glenarvan wondered if the Australians
were wanting in Australia, as the Indians had been wanting in
the Pampas of the Argentine district; but Paganel told him that,
in that latitude, the natives frequented chiefly the Murray Plains,
about one hundred miles to the eastward.
"We are now approaching the gold district," said he,
"in a day or two we shall cross the rich region of
Mount Alexander. It was here that the swarm of diggers
alighted in 1852; the natives had to fly to the interior.
We are in civilized districts without seeing any sign of it;
but our road will, before the day is over, cross the railway
which connects the Murray with the sea. Well, I must confess,
a railway in Australia does seem to me an astonishing thing!"
"And pray, why, Paganel?" said Glenarvan.
"Why? because it jars on one's ideas. Oh! I know you English are so used
to colonizing distant possessions. You, who have electric telegraphs and
universal exhibitions in New Zealand, you think it is all quite natural.
But it dumb-founders the mind of a Frenchman like myself, and confuses
all one's notions of Australia!"
"Because you look at the past, and not at the present,"
said John Mangles.
A loud whistle interrupted the discussion. The party were
within a mile of the railway. Quite a number of persons
were hastening toward the railway bridge. The people from
the neighboring stations left their houses, and the shepherds
their flocks, and crowded the approaches to the railway.
Every now and then there was a shout, "The railway! the railway!"
Something serious must have occurred to produce such an agitation.
Perhaps some terrible accident.
Glenarvan, followed by the rest, urged on his horse.
In a few minutes he arrived at Camden Bridge and then he became
aware of the cause of such an excitement.
A fearful accident had occurred; not a collision, but a train
had gone off the line, and then there had been a fall.
The affair recalled the worst disasters of American railways.
The river crossed by the railway was full of broken carriages
and the engine. Whether the weight of the train had been too much
for the bridge, or whether the train had gone off the rails,
the fact remained that five carriages out of six fell into the bed
of the Loddon, dragged down by the locomotive. The sixth carriage,
miraculously preserved by the breaking of the coupling chain,
remained on the rails, six feet from the abyss. Below nothing was
discernible but a melancholy heap of twisted and blackened axles,
shattered wagons, bent rails, charred sleepers; the boiler,
burst by the shock, had scattered its plates to enormous distances.
From this shapeless mass of ruins flames and black smoke still rose.
After the fearful fall came fire, more fearful still!
Great tracks of blood, scattered limbs, charred trunks of bodies,
showed here and there; none could guess how many victims lay dead
and mangled under those ruins.
Glenarvan, Paganel, the Major, Mangles, mixing with the crowd,
heard the current talk. Everyone tried to account for the accident,
while doing his utmost to save what could be saved.
"The bridge must have broken," said one.
"Not a bit of it. The bridge is whole enough; they must
have forgotten to close it to let the train pass.
That is all."
It was, in fact, a swing bridge, which opened for the convenience
of the boats. Had the guard, by an unpardonable oversight,
omitted to close it for the passage of the train, so that the train,
coming on at full speed, was precipitated into the Loddon?
This hypothesis seemed very admissible; for although one-half
of the bridge lay beneath the ruins of the train, the other half,
drawn up to the opposite shore, hung, still unharmed, by its chains.
No one could doubt that an oversight on the part of the guard
had caused the catastrophe.
The accident had occurred in the night, to the express train
which left Melbourne at 11:45 in the evening. About a quarter past
three in the morning, twenty-five minutes after leaving Castlemaine,
it arrived at Camden Bridge, where the terrible disaster befell.
The passengers and guards of the last and only remaining
carriage at once tried to obtain help. But the telegraph,
whose posts were lying on the ground, could not be worked.
It was three hours before the authorities from Castlemaine reached
the scene of the accident, and it was six o'clock in the morning when
the salvage party was organized, under the direction of Mr. Mitchell,
the surveyor-general of the colony, and a detachment of police,
commanded by an inspector. The squatters and their "hands" lent
their aid, and directed their efforts first to extinguishing the fire
which raged in the ruined heap with unconquerable violence.
A few unrecognizable bodies lay on the slope of the embankment,
but from that blazing mass no living thing could be saved.
The fire had done its work too speedily. Of the passengers ten
only survived--those in the last carriage. The railway authorities
sent a locomotive to bring them back to Castlemaine.
Lord Glenarvan, having introduced himself to the surveyor-general,
entered into conversation with him and the inspector of police.
The latter was a tall, thin man, im-perturbably cool, and, whatever he
may have felt, allowed no trace of it to appear on his features.
He contemplated this calamity as a mathematician does a problem;
he was seeking to solve it, and to find the unknown; and when
Glenarvan observed, "This is a great misfortune," he quietly replied,
"Better than that, my Lord."
"Better than that?" cried Glenarvan. "I do not understand you."
"It is better than a misfortune, it is a crime!" he replied,
in the same quiet tone.
Glenarvan looked inquiringly at Mr. Mitchell for a solution.
"Yes, my Lord," replied the surveyor-general, "our inquiries
have resulted in the conclusion that the catastrophe is the result
of a crime. The last luggage-van has been robbed. The surviving
passengers were attacked by a gang of five or six villains.
The bridge was intentionally opened, and not left open
by the negligence of the guard; and connecting with this fact
the guard's disappearance, we may conclude that the wretched
fellow was an accomplice of these ruffians."
The police-officer shook his head at this inference.
"You do not agree with me?" said Mr. Mitchell.
"No, not as to the complicity of the guard."
"Well, but granting that complicity, we may attribute the crime
to the natives who haunt the Murray. Without him the blacks
could never have opened a swing-bridge; they know nothing
of its mechanism."
"Exactly so," said the police-inspector.
"Well," added Mr. Mitchell, "we have the evidence of a boatman
whose boat passed Camden Bridge at 10:40 P. M., that the bridge
was properly shut after he passed."
"Well, after that I cannot see any doubt as to the complicity
of the guard."
The police-officer shook his head gently, but continuously.
"Then you don't attribute the crime to the natives?"
"Not at all."
"To whom then?"
Just at this moment a noise was heard from about half a mile up
the river. A crowd had gathered, and quickly increased. They soon
reached the station, and in their midst were two men carrying a corpse.
It was the body of the guard, quite cold, stabbed to the heart.
The murderers had no doubt hoped, by dragging their victim to a distance,
that the police would be put on a wrong scent in their first inquiries.
This discovery, at any rate, justified the doubts of the police-inspector.
The poor blacks had had no hand in the matter.
"Those who dealt that blow," said he, "were already well used to this
little instrument"; and so saying he produced a pair of "darbies,"
a kind of handcuff made of a double ring of iron secured by a lock.
"I shall soon have the pleasure of presenting them with these bracelets
as a New Year's gift."
"Then you suspect--"
"Some folks who came out free in Her Majesty's ships."
"What! convicts?" cried Paganel, who recognized the formula employed
in the Australian colonies.
"I thought," said Glenarvan, "convicts had no right in the
province of Victoria."
"Bah!" said the inspector, "if they have no right, they take it!
They escape sometimes, and, if I am not greatly mistaken,
this lot have come straight from Perth, and, take my word for it,
they will soon be there again."
Mr. Mitchell nodded acquiescence in the words of the police-inspector.
At this moment the wagon arrived at the level crossing of the railway.
Glenarvan wished to spare the ladies the horrible spectacle at
Camden Bridge. He took courteous leave of the surveyor-general,
and made a sign to the rest to follow him. "There is no reason,"
said he, "for delaying our journey."
When they reached the wagon, Glenarvan merely mentioned to Lady Helena
that there had been a railway accident, without a hint of the crime
that had played so great a part in it; neither did he make mention
of the presence of a band of convicts in the neighborhood,
reserving that piece of information solely for Ayrton's ear.
The little procession now crossed the railway some two hundred
yards below the bridge, and then resumed their eastward course.
CHAPTER XII TOLINE OF THE LACHLAN
ABOUT two miles from the railway, the plain terminated in a range
of low hills, and it was not long before the wagon entered a succession
of narrow gorges and capricious windings, out of which it emerged into
a most charming region, where grand trees, not closely planted, but in
scattered groups, were growing with absolutely tropical luxuriance.
As the party drove on they stumbled upon a little native boy
lying fast asleep beneath the shade of a magnificent banksia.
He was dressed in European garb, and seemed about eight years of age.
There was no mistaking the characteristic features of his race;
the crisped hair, the nearly black skin, the flattened nose,
the thick lips, the unusual length of the arms, immediately classed him
among the aborigines of the interior. But a degree of intelligence
appeared in his face that showed some educational influences must
have been at work on his savage, untamed nature.
Lady Helena, whose interest was greatly excited by this spectacle,
got out of the wagon, followed by Mary, and presently the whole
company surrounded the peaceful little sleeper. "Poor child!"
said Mary Grant. "Is he lost, I wonder, in this desert?"
"I suppose," said Lady Helena, "he has come a long way to visit
this part. No doubt some he loves are here."
"But he can't be left here," added Robert. "We must--"
His compassionate sentence remained unfinished, for, just at that
moment the child turned over in his sleep, and, to the extreme
surprise of everybody, there was a large label on his shoulders,
on which the following was written:
To be conducted to Echuca.
Care of Jeffries Smith, Railway Porter.
"That's the English all over!" exclaimed Paganel. "They send off
a child just as they would luggage, and book him like a parcel.
I heard it was done, certainly; but I could not believe it before."
"Poor child!" said Lady Helena. "Could he have been in the train
that got off the line at Camden Bridge? Perhaps his parents are killed,
and he is left alone in the world!"
"I don't think so, madam," replied John Mangles. "That card rather
goes to prove he was traveling alone."
"He is waking up!" said Mary.
And so he was. His eyes slowly opened and then closed again,
pained by the glare of light. But Lady Helena took his hand,
and he jumped up at once and looked about him in bewilderment
at the sight of so many strangers. He seemed half frightened
at first, but the presence of Lady Helena reassured him.
"Do you understand English, my little man?" asked the young lady.
"I understand it and speak it," replied the child in fluent
enough English, but with a marked accent. His pronunciation
was like a Frenchman's.
"What is your name?" asked Lady Helena.
"Toline," replied the little native.
"Toline!" exclaimed Paganel. "Ah! I think that means 'bark
of a tree' in Australian."
Toline nodded, and looked again at the travelers.
"Where do you come from?" inquired Lady Helena.
"From Melbourne, by the railway from Sandhurst."
"Were you in the accident at Camden Bridge?" said Glenarvan.
"Yes, sir," was Toline's reply; "but the God of the Bible protected me."
"Are you traveling alone?"
"Yes, alone; the Reverend Paxton put me in charge of Jeffries Smith;
but unfortunately the poor man was killed."
"And you did not know any one else on the train?"
"No one, madam; but God watches over children and never forsakes them."
Toline said this in soft, quiet tones, which went to the heart.
When he mentioned the name of God his voice was grave and his eyes
beamed with all the fervor that animated his young soul.
This religious enthusiasm at so tender an age was easily explained.
The child was one of the aborigines baptized by the English missionaries,
and trained by them in all the rigid principles of the Methodist Church.
His calm replies, proper behavior, and even his somber garb made him
look like a little reverend already.
But where was he going all alone in these solitudes and why had he left
Camden Bridge? Lady Helena asked him about this.
"I was returning to my tribe in the Lachlan," he replied.
"I wished to see my family again."
"Are they Australians?" inquired John Mangles.
"Yes, Australians of the Lachlan," replied Toline.
"Have you a father and mother?" said Robert Grant.
"Yes, my brother," replied Toline, holding out his hand
to little Grant. Robert was so touched by the word brother
that he kissed the black child, and they were friends forthwith.
The whole party were so interested in these replies of the little
Australian savage that they all sat round him in a listening group.
But the sun had meantime sunk behind the tall trees,
and as a few miles would not greatly retard their progress,
and the spot they were in would be suitable for a halt,
Glenarvan gave orders to prepare their camp for the night at once.
Ayrton unfastened the bullocks and turned them out to feed at will.
The tent was pitched, and Olbinett got the supper ready.
Toline consented, after some difficulty, to share it,
though he was hungry enough. He took his seat beside Robert,
who chose out all the titbits for his new friend.
Toline accepted them with a shy grace that was very charming.
The conversation with him, however, was still kept up,
for everyone felt an interest in the child, and wanted
to talk to him and hear his history. It was simple enough.
He was one of the poor native children confided to the care
of charitable societies by the neighboring tribes.
The Australian aborigines are gentle and inoffensive,
never exhibiting the fierce hatred toward their conquerors
which characterizes the New Zealanders, and possibly a few
of the races of Northern Australia. They often go to the
large towns, such as Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne, and walk
about in very primitive costume. They go to barter their few
articles of industry, hunting and fishing implements, weapons,
etc., and some of the chiefs, from pecuniary motives, no doubt,
willingly leave their children to profit by the advantages
of a gratuitous education in English.
V. IV Verne
This was how Toline's parents had acted. They were true
Australian savages living in the Lachlan, a vast region lying
beyond the Murray. The child had been in Melbourne five years,
and during that time had never once seen any of his own people.
And yet the imperishable feeling of kindred was still so strong
in his heart that he had dared to brave this journey over the wilds
to visit his tribe once more, scattered though perchance it might be,
and his family, even should he find it decimated.
"And after you have kissed your parents, are you coming back
to Melbourne?" asked Lady Glenarvan.
"Yes, Madam," replied Toline, looking at the lady with
a loving expression.
"And what are you going to be some day?" she continued.
"I am going to snatch my brothers from misery and ignorance.
I am going to teach them, to bring them to know and love God. I am
going to be a missionary."
Words like those, spoken with such animation from a child of only
eight years, might have provoked a smile in light, scoffing auditors,
but they were understood and appreciated by the grave Scotch, who admired
the courage of this young disciple, already armed for the battle.
Even Paganel was stirred to the depths of his heart, and felt his warmer
sympathy awakened for the poor child.
To speak the truth, up to that moment he did not care much for a
savage in European attire. He had not come to Australia to see
Australians in coats and trousers. He preferred them simply tattooed,
and this conventional dress jarred on his preconceived notions.
But the child's genuine religious fervor won him over completely.
Indeed, the wind-up of the conversation converted the worthy
geographer into his best friend.
It was in reply to a question Lady Helena had asked, that Toline
said he was studying at the Normal School in Melbourne,
and that the principal was the Reverend Mr. Paxton.
"And what do they teach you?" she went on to say.
"They teach me the Bible, and mathematics, and geography."
Paganel pricked up his ears at this, and said, "Indeed, geography!"
"Yes, sir," said Toline; "and I had the first prize for geography
before the Christmas holidays."
"You had the first prize for geography, my boy?"
"Yes, sir. Here it is," returned Toline, pulling a book out
of his pocket.
It was a bible, 32mo size, and well bound. On the first page
was written the words: "Normal School, Melbourne. First Prize
for Geography. Toline of the Lachlan."
Paganel was beside himself. An Australian well versed in geography.
This was marvelous, and he could not help kissing Toline on
both cheeks, just as if he had been the Reverend Mr. Paxton
himself, on the day of the distribution of prizes.
Paganel need not have been so amazed at this circumstance,
however, for it is frequent enough in Australian schools.
The little savages are very quick in learning geography.
They learn it eagerly, and on the other hand, are perfectly
averse to the science of arithmetic.
Toline could not understand this outburst of affection on the part
of the Frenchman, and looked so puzzled that Lady Helena thought
she had better inform him that Paganel was a celebrated geographer
and a distinguished professor on occasion.
"A professor of geography!" cried Toline. "Oh, sir, do question me!"
"Question you? Well, I'd like nothing better. Indeed, I was going
to do it without your leave. I should very much like to see how they
teach geography in the Normal School of Melbourne."
"And suppose Toline trips you up, Paganel!" said McNabbs.
"What a likely idea!" exclaimed the geographer. "Trip up the Secretary
of the Geographical Society of France."
Their examination then commenced, after Paganel had settled his
spectacles firmly on his nose, drawn himself up to his full height,
and put on a solemn voice becoming to a professor.
"Pupil Toline, stand up."
As Toline was already standing, he could not get any higher,
but he waited modestly for the geographer's questions.
"Pupil Toline, what are the five divisions of the globe?"
"Oceanica, Asia, Africa, America, and Europe."
"Perfectly so. Now we'll take Oceanica first; where are we
at this moment? What are the principal divisions?"
"Australia, belonging to the English; New Zealand, belonging to
the English; Tasmania, belonging to the English. The islands
of Chatham, Auckland, Macquarie, Kermadec, Makin, Maraki, are also
belonging to the English."
"Very good, and New Caledonia, the Sandwich Islands,
the Mendana, the Pomotou?"
"They are islands under the Protectorate of Great Britain."
"What!" cried Paganel, "under the Protectorate of Great Britain. I rather
think on the contrary, that France--"
"France," said the child, with an astonished look.
"Well, well," said Paganel; "is that what they teach you
in the Melbourne Normal School?"
"Yes, sir. Isn't it right?"
"Oh, yes, yes, perfectly right. All Oceanica belongs to
the English. That's an understood thing. Go on."
Paganel's face betrayed both surprise and annoyance, to the great
delight of the Major.
"Let us go on to Asia," said the geographer.
"Asia," replied Toline, "is an immense country.
Capital--Calcutta. Chief Towns--Bombay, Madras, Calicut, Aden,
Malacca, Singapore, Pegu, Colombo. The Lacca-dive Islands,
the Maldives, the Chagos, etc., belonging to the English."
"Very good, pupil Toline. And now for Africa."
"Africa comprises two chief colonies--the Cape on the south,
capital Capetown; and on the west the English settlements,
chief city, Sierra Leone."
"Capital!" said Paganel, beginning to enter into this
perfectly taught but Anglo-colored fanciful geography.
"As to Algeria, Morocco, Egypt--they are all struck out of
the Britannic cities."
"Let us pass on, pray, to America."
"It is divided," said Toline, promptly, "into North
and South America. The former belongs to the English
in Canada, New Brunswick, New Scotland, and the United States,
under the government of President Johnson."
"President Johnson," cried Paganel, "the successor of
the great and good Lincoln, assassinated by a mad fanatic
of the slave party. Capital; nothing could be better.
And as to South America, with its Guiana, its archipelago of
South Shetland, its Georgia, Jamaica, Trinidad, etc., that belongs
to the English, too! Well, I'll not be the one to dispute that point!
But, Toline, I should like to know your opinion of Europe,
or rather your professor's."
"Europe?" said Toline not at all understanding Paganel's excitement.
"Yes, Europe! Who does Europe belong to?"
"Why, to the English," replied Toline, as if the fact was quite settled.
"I much doubt it," returned Paganel. "But how's that, Toline, for I
want to know that?"
"England, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Jersey and Guern-sey,
the Ionian Islands, the Hebrides, the Shetlands, and the Orkneys."
"Yes, yes, my lad; but there are other states you forgot to mention."
"What are they?" replied the child, not the least disconcerted.
"Spain, Russia, Austria, Prussia, France," answered Paganel.
"They are provinces, not states," said Toline.
"Well, that beats all!" exclaimed Paganel, tearing off his spectacles.
"Yes," continued the child. "Spain--capital, Gibraltar."
"Admirable! perfect! sublime! And France, for I am French,
and I should like to know to whom I belong."
"France," said Toline, quietly, "is an English province;
chief city, Calais."
"Calais!" cried Paganel. "So you think Calais still belongs
to the English?"
"And that it is the capital of France?"
"Yes, sir; and it is there that the Governor, Lord Napo-leon, lives."
This was too much for Paganel's risible faculties.
He burst out laughing. Toline did not know what to make of him.
He had done his best to answer every question put to him.
But the singularity of the answers were not his blame; indeed, he never
imagined anything singular about them. However, he took it
all quietly, and waited for the professor to recover himself.
These peals of laughter were quite incomprehensible to him.
"You see," said Major McNabbs, laughing, "I was right.
The pupil could enlighten you after all."
"Most assuredly, friend Major," replied the geographer. "So that's the
way they teach geography in Melbourne! They do it well, these professors
in the Normal School! Europe, Asia, Africa, America, Oceanica, the whole
world belongs to the English. My conscience! with such an ingenious
education it is no wonder the natives submit. Ah, well, Toline, my boy,
does the moon belong to England, too?"
"She will, some day," replied the young savage, gravely.
This was the climax. Paganel could not stand any more.
He was obliged to go away and take his laugh out, for he was
actually exploding with mirth, and he went fully a quarter of a
mile from the encampment before his equilibrium was restored.
Meanwhile, Glenarvan looked up a geography they had brought among
their books. It was "Richardson's Compendium," a work in great repute
in England, and more in agreement with modern science than the manual
in use in the Normal School in Melbourne.
"Here, my child," he said to Toline, "take this book and keep it.
You have a few wrong ideas about geography, which it would be well
for you to rectify. I will give you this as a keepsake from me."
Toline took the book silently; but, after examining it attentively,
he shook his head with an air of incredulity, and could not even make
up his mind to put it in his pocket.
By this time night had closed in; it was 10 P. M. and time to think
of rest, if they were to start betimes next day. Robert offered
his friend Toline half his bed, and the little fellow accepted it.
Lady Helena and Mary Grant withdrew to the wagon, and the others lay
down in the tent, Paganel's merry peals still mingling with the low,
sweet song of the wild magpie.
But in the morning at six o'clock, when the sunshine wakened the sleepers,
they looked in vain for the little Australian. Toline had disappeared.
Was he in haste to get to the Lachlan district? or was he hurt by
Paganel's laughter? No one could say.
But when Lady Helena opened her eyes she discovered a fresh branch
of mimosa leaves lying across her, and Paganel found a book in his
vest pocket, which turned out to be "Richardson's Geography."
CHAPTER XIII A WARNING
ON the 2d of January, at sunrise, the travelers forded the Colban and
the Caupespe rivers. The half of their journey was now accomplished.
In fifteen days more, should their journey continue to be prosperous,
the little party would reach Twofold Bay.
They were all in good health. All that Paganel said
of the hygienic qualities of the climate was realized.
There was little or no humidity, and the heat was quite bearable.
Neither horses nor bullocks could complain of it any more than
human beings. The order of the march had been changed in one respect
since the affair of Camden Bridge. That criminal catastrophe on
the railway made Ayrton take sundry precautions, which had hitherto
been unnecessary. The hunters never lost sight of the wagon,
and whenever they camped, one was always placed on watch.
Morning and evening the firearms were primed afresh.
It was certain that a gang of ruffians was prowling about
the country, and though there was no cause for actual fear,
it was well to be ready for whatever might happen.
It need hardly be said these precautions were adopted without
the knowledge of Lady Helena and Mary Grant, as Lord Glenarvan
did not wish to alarm them.
They were by no means unnecessary, however, for any imprudence
or carelessness might have cost the travelers dear.
Others beside Glenarvan were on their guard. In lonely settlements
and on stations, the inhabitants and the squatters prepared carefully
against any attack or surprise. Houses are closed at nightfall;
the dogs let loose inside the fences, barked at the slightest sound.
Not a single shepherd on horseback gathered his numerous flocks
together at close of day, without having a carbine slung
from his saddle.
The outrage at Camden Bridge was the reason for all this,
and many a colonist fastened himself in with bolts and bars
now at dusk, who used to sleep with open doors and windows.
The Government itself displayed zeal and prudence, especially in
the Post-office department. On this very day, just as Glenarvan
and his party were on their way from Kilmore to Heathcote, the mail
dashed by at full speed; but though the horses were at a gallop,
Glenarvan caught sight of the glittering weapons of the mounted
police that rode by its side, as they swept past in a cloud of dust.
The travelers might have fancied themselves back in those lawless times
when the discovery of the first gold-fields deluged the Australian
continent with the scum of Europe.
A mile beyond the road to Kilmore, the wagon, for the first time
since leaving Cape Bernouilli, struck into one of those forests
of gigantic trees which extend over a super-fices of several degrees.
A cry of admiration escaped the travelers at the sight of the eucalyptus
trees, two hundred feet high, with tough bark five inches thick.
The trunks, measuring twenty feet round, and furrowed with foamy streaks
of an odorous resin, rose one hundred and fifty feet above the soil.
Not a branch, not a twig, not a stray shoot, not even a knot,
spoilt the regularity of their outline. They could not have come
out smoother from the hands of a turner. They stood like pillars
all molded exactly alike, and could be counted by hundreds.
At an enormous height they spread out in chaplets of branches,
rounded and adorned at their extremity with alternate leaves.
At the axle of these leaves solitary flowers drooped down,
the calyx of which resembles an inverted urn.
Under this leafy dome, which never lost its greenness, the air
circulated freely, and dried up the dampness of the ground.
Horses, cattle, and wagon could easily pass between the trees,
for they were standing in wide rows, and parceled out like a wood
that was being felled. This was neither like the densely-packed
woods choked up with brambles, nor the virgin forest barricaded
with the trunks of fallen trees, and overgrown with inextricable
tangles of creepers, where only iron and fire could open up a track.
A grassy carpet at the foot of the trees, and a canopy of verdure above,
long perspectives of bold colors, little shade, little freshness
at all, a peculiar light, as if the rays came through a thin veil,
dappled lights and shades sharply reflected on the ground, made up
a whole, and constituted a peculiar spectacle rich in novel effects.
The forests of the Oceanic continent do not in the least
resemble the forests of the New World; and the Eucalyptus,
the "Tara" of the aborigines, belonging to the family of MYRTACEA,
the different varieties of which can hardly be enumerated,
is the tree _par excellence_ of the Australian flora.
The reason of the shade not being deep, nor the darkness profound,
under these domes of verdure, was that these trees presented a curious
anomaly in the disposition of the leaves. Instead of presenting
their broad surface to the sunlight, only the side is turned.
Only the profile of the leaves is seen in this singular foliage.
Consequently the sun's rays slant down them to the earth,
as if through the open slants of a Venetian blind.
Glenarvan expressed his surprise at this circumstance, and wondered
what could be the cause of it. Paganel, who was never at a loss
for an answer, immediately replied:
"What astonishes me is not the caprice of nature. She knows what she
is about, but botanists don't always know what they are saying.
Nature made no mistake in giving this peculiar foliage to the tree,
but men have erred in calling them EUCALYPTUS."
"What does the word mean?" asked Mary Grant.
"It comes from a Greek word, meaning I _cover well_. They took care
to commit the mistake in Greek, that it might not be so self-evident,
for anyone can see that the ecualyptus covers badly."
"I agree with you there," said Glenarvan; "but now tell us, Paganel,
how it is that the leaves grow in this fashion?"
"From a purely physical cause, friends," said Paganel, "and one
that you will easily understand. In this country where the air
is dry and rain seldom falls, and the ground is parched, the trees
have no need of wind or sun. Moisture lacking, sap is lacking also.
Hence these narrow leaves, which seek to defend themselves
against the light, and prevent too great evaporation. This is why
they present the profile and not the face to the sun's rays.
There is nothing more intelligent than a leaf."
"And nothing more selfish," added the Major. "These only thought
of themselves, and not at all of travelers."
Everyone inclined to the opinion of McNabbs except Paganel,
who congratulated himself on walking under shadeless trees,
though all the time he was wiping the perspiration from his forehead.
However, this disposition of foliage was certainly to be regretted,
for the journey through the forest was often long and painful,
as the traveler had no protection whatever against the sun's fierce rays.
The whole of this day the wagon continued to roll along through
interminable rows of eucalyptus, without meeting either quadruped
or native. A few cockatoos lived in the tops of the trees,
but at such a height they could scarcely be distinguished,
and their noisy chatter was changed into an imperceptible murmur.
Occasionally a swarm of par-roquets flew along a distant path,
and lighted it up for an instant with gay colors; but otherwise,
solemn silence reigned in this vast green temple, and the tramp
of the horses, a few words exchanged with each other by the riders,
the grinding noise of the wheels, and from time to time a cry
from Ayrton to stir up his lazy team, were the only sounds
which disturbed this immense solitude.
When night came they camped at the foot of some eucalyptus,
which bore marks of a comparatively recent fire. They looked like
tall factory chimneys, for the flame had completely hollowed them
out their whole length. With the thick bark still covering them,
they looked none the worse. However, this bad habit of squatters
or natives will end in the destruction of these magnificent trees,
and they will disappear like the cedars of Lebanon, those world
monuments burnt by unlucky camp fires.
Olbinett, acting on Paganel's advice, lighted his fire to
prepare supper in one of these tubular trunks. He found it
drew capitally, and the smoke was lost in the dark foliage above.
The requisite precautions were taken for the night,
and Ayrton, Mulrady, Wilson and John Mangles undertook in turn
to keep watch until sunrise.
On the 3d of January, all day long, they came to nothing but the same
symmetrical avenues of trees; it seemed as if they never were going
to end. However, toward evening the ranks of trees began to thin,
and on a little plain a few miles off an assemblage of regular houses.
"Seymour!" cried Paganel; "that is the last town we come
to in the province of Victoria."
"Is it an important one?" asked Lady Helena.
"It is a mere village, madam, but on the way to become a municipality."
"Shall we find a respectable hotel there?" asked Glenarvan.
"I hope so," replied Paganel.
"Very well; let us get on to the town, for our fair travelers,
with all their courage, will not be sorry, I fancy, to have
a good night's rest."
"My dear Edward, Mary and I will accept it gladly, but only on
the condition that it will cause no delay, or take us the least
out of the road."
"It will do neither," replied Lord Glenarvan. "Besides, our bullocks
are fatigued, and we will start to-morrow at daybreak."
It was now nine o'clock; the moon was just beginning to rise,
but her rays were only slanting yet, and lost in the mist.
It was gradually getting dark when the little party entered the wide
streets of Seymour, under Paganel's guidance, who seemed always
to know what he had never seen; but his instinct led him right,
and he walked straight to Campbell's North British Hotel.
The Major without even leaving the hotel, was soon aware
that fear absorbed the inhabitants of the little town.
Ten minutes' conversation with Dickson, the loquacious landlord,
made him completely acquainted with the actual state of affairs;
but he never breathed a word to any one.
When supper was over, though, and Lady Glenarvan, and Mary,
and Robert had retired, the Major detained his companions a little,
and said, "They have found out the perpetrators of the crime
on the Sandhurst railroad."
"And are they arrested?" asked Ayrton, eagerly.
"No," replied McNabbs, without apparently noticing the EMPRESSMENT
of the quartermaster--an EMPRESSMENT which, moreover, was reasonable
enough under the circumstances.
"So much the worse," replied Ayrton.
"Well," said Glenarvan, "who are the authors of the crime?"
"Read," replied the Major, offering Glenarvan a copy of
the _Australian and New Zealand Gazette_, "and you
will see that the inspector of the police was not mistaken."
Glenarvan read aloud the following message:
SYDNEY, Jan. 2, 1866.
It will be remembered that on the night of the 29th or 30th
of last December there was an accident at Camden Bridge,
five miles beyond the station at Castlemaine, on the railway
from Melbourne to Sandhurst. The night express, 11.45, dashing
along at full speed, was precipitated into the Loddon River.
Camden Bridge had been left open. The numerous robberies committed
after the accident, the body of the guard picked up about half a mile
from Camden Bridge, proved that this catastrophe was the result
of a crime.
Indeed, the coroner's inquest decided that the crime must
be attributed to the band of convicts which escaped six
months ago from the Penitentiary at Perth, Western Australia,
just as they were about to be transferred to Norfolk Island.
The gang numbers twenty-nine men; they are under the command
of a certain Ben Joyce, a criminal of the most dangerous class,
who arrived in Australia a few months ago, by what ship is not known,
and who has hitherto succeeded in evading the hands of justice.
The inhabitants of towns, colonists and squatters at stations,
are hereby cautioned to be on their guard, and to communicate
to the Surveyor-General any information that may aid his search.
J. P. MITCHELL, S. G.
When Glenarvan had finished reading this article, McNabbs turned
to the geographer and said, "You see, Paganel, there can be
convicts in Australia."
"Escaped convicts, that is evident," replied Paganel, "but not regularly
transported criminals. Those fellows have no business here."
"Well, they are here, at any rate," said Glenarvan; "but I
don't suppose the fact need materially alter our arrangements.
What do you think, John?"
John Mangles did not reply immediately; he hesitated between
the sorrow it would cause the two children to give up the search,
and the fear of compromising the expedition.
"If Lady Glenarvan, and Miss Grant were not with us," he said,
"I should not give myself much concern about these wretches."
Glenarvan understood him and added, "Of course I need
not say that it is not a question of giving up our task;
but would it perhaps be prudent, for the sake of our companions,
to rejoin the DUNCAN at Melbourne, and proceed with our
search for traces of Harry Grant on the eastern side.
What do you think of it, McNabbs?"
"Before I give my opinion," replied the Major, "I should like
to hear Ayrton's."
At this direct appeal, the quartermaster looked at Glenarvan,
and said, "I think we are two hundred miles from Melbourne,
and that the danger, if it exists, is as great on the route to
the south as on the route to the east. Both are little frequented,
and both will serve us. Besides, I do not think that thirty
scoundrels can frighten eight well-armed, determined men.
My advice, then, is to go forward."
"And good advice too, Ayrton," replied Paganel. "By going on we
may come across the traces of Captain Grant. In returning south,
on the contrary, we turn our backs to them. I think with you,
then, and I don't care a snap for these escaped fellows.
A brave man wouldn't care a bit for them!"
Upon this they agreed with the one voice to follow
their original programme.
"Just one thing, my Lord," said Ayrton, when they were about to separate.
"Say on, Ayrton."
"Wouldn't it be advisable to send orders to the DUNCAN to be
at the coast?"
"What good would that be," replied John Mangles. "When we reach
Twofold Bay it will be time enough for that. If any unexpected event
should oblige us to go to Melbourne, we might be sorry not to find
the DUNCAN there. Besides, her injuries can not be repaired yet.
For these reasons, then, I think it would be better to wait."
"All right," said Ayrton, and forbore to press the matter further.
CHAPTER XIV WEALTH IN THE WILDERNESS
ON January 6, at 7 A. M., after a tranquil night passed in longitude
146 degrees 15", the travelers continued their journey across
the vast district. They directed their course steadily toward
the rising sun, and made a straight line across the plain.
Twice over they came upon the traces of squatters going toward
the north, and their different footprints became confused,
and Glenarvan's horse no longer left on the dust the Blackpoint mark,
recognizable by its double shamrock.
The plain was furrowed in some places by fantastic winding creeks
surrounded by box, and whose waters were rather temporary than permanent.
They originated in the slopes of the Buffalo Ranges, a chain of
mountains of moderate height, the undulating line of which was visible
on the horizon. It was resolved to camp there the same night.
Ayrton goaded on his team, and after a journey of thirty-five miles,
the bullocks arrived, somewhat fatigued. The tent was pitched beneath
the great trees, and as night had drawn on supper was served as quickly
as possible, for all the party cared more for sleeping than eating,
after such a day's march.
Paganel who had the first watch did not lie down, but shouldered
his rifle and walked up and down before the camp, to keep himself
from going to sleep. In spite of the absence of the moon, the night
was almost luminous with the light of the southern constellations.
The SAVANT amused himself with reading the great book of the firmament,
a book which is always open, and full of interest to those who can
read it. The profound silence of sleeping nature was only interrupted
by the clanking of the hobbles on the horses' feet.
Paganel was engrossed in his astronomical meditations, and thinking
more about the celestial than the terrestrial world, when a distant
sound aroused him from his reverie. He listened attentively,
and to his great amaze, fancied he heard the sounds of a piano.
He could not be mistaken, for he distinctly heard chords struck.
"A piano in the wilds!" said Paganel to himself.
"I can never believe it is that."
It certainly was very surprising, but Paganel found it easier
to believe it was some Australian bird imitating the sounds
of a Pleyel or Erard, as others do the sounds of a clock or mill.
But at this very moment, the notes of a clear ringing voice
rose on the air. The PIANIST was accompanied by singing.
Still Paganel was unwilling to be convinced. However, next minute
he was forced to admit the fact, for there fell on his ear
the sublime strains of Mozart's "Il mio tesoro tanto"
from Don Juan.
"Well, now," said the geographer to himself, "let the Australian
birds be as queer as they may, and even granting the paroquets
are the most musical in the world, they can't sing Mozart!"
He listened to the sublime inspiration of the great master to the end.
The effect of this soft melody on the still clear night
was indescribable. Paganel remained as if spellbound for a time;
the voice ceased and all was silence. When Wilson came to relieve
the watch, he found the geographer plunged into a deep reverie.
Paganel made no remark, however, to the sailor, but reserved
his information for Glenarvan in the morning, and went into
the tent to bed.
Next day, they were all aroused from sleep by the sudden
loud barking of dogs, Glenarvan got up forthwith.
Two magnificent pointers, admirable specimens of English
hunting dogs, were bounding in front of the little wood,
into which they had retreated at the approach of the travelers,
redoubling their clamor.
"There is some station in this desert, then," said Glenarvan,
"and hunters too, for these are regular setters."
Paganel was just about to recount his nocturnal experiences,
when two young men appeared, mounted on horses of the most
perfect breed, true "hunters."
The two gentlemen dressed in elegant hunting costume, stopped at
the sight of the little group camping in gipsy fashion.
They looked as if they wondered what could bring an armed
party there, but when they saw the ladies get out of the wagon,
they dismounted instantly, and went toward them hat in hand.
Lord Glenarvan came to meet them, and, as a stranger,
announced his name and rank.
The gentlemen bowed, and the elder of them said, "My Lord,
will not these ladies and yourself and friends honor us by resting
a little beneath our roof?"
"Mr.--," began Glenarvan.
"Michael and Sandy Patterson are our names, proprietors of
Hottam Station. Our house is scarcely a quarter of a mile distant."
"Gentlemen," replied Glenarvan, "I should not like to abuse
such kindly-offered hospitality."
"My Lord," returned Michael Patterson, "by accepting it you
will confer a favor on poor exiles, who will be only too happy
to do the honors of the wilds."
Glenarvan bowed in token of acquiescence.
"Sir," said Paganel, addressing Michael Patterson, "if it is not
an impudent question, may I ask whether it was you that sung an air
from the divine Mozart last night?"
"It was, sir," replied the stranger, "and my cousin Sandy accompanied me."
"Well, sir," replied Paganel, holding out his hand to the young man,
"receive the sincere compliments of a Frenchman, who is a passionate
admirer of this music."
Michael grasped his hand cordially, and then pointing out the road
to take, set off, accompanied by the ladies and Lord Glenarvan
and his friends, for the station. The horses and the camp were left
to the care of Ayrton and the sailors.
Hottam Station was truly a magnificent establishment, kept as
scrupulously in order as an English park. Immense meadows,
enclosed in gray fences, stretched away out of sight.
In these, thousands of bullocks and millions of sheep were grazing,
tended by numerous shepherds, and still more numerous dogs.
The crack of the stock-whip mingled continually with
the barking of the "collies" and the bellowing and bleating
of the cattle and sheep.
Toward the east there was a boundary of myalls and gum-trees, beyond
which rose Mount Hottam, its imposing peak towering 7,500 feet high.
Long avenues of green trees were visible on all sides. Here and there
was a thick clump of "grass trees," tall bushes ten feet high,
like the dwarf palm, quite lost in their crown of long narrow leaves.
The air was balmy and odorous with the perfume of scented laurels,
whose white blossoms, now in full bloom, distilled on the breeze