Part 1 out of 6
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THE BUSHMAN: LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY
BY EDWARD WILSON LANDOR
(ILLUSTRATION: "KANGAROO HUNTING.")
LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY
EDWARD WILSON LANDOR.
The British Colonies now form so prominent a portion of the Empire,
that the Public will be compelled to acknowledge some interest in
their welfare, and the Government to yield some attention to their
wants. It is a necessity which both the Government and the Public
will obey with reluctance.
Too remote for sympathy, too powerless for respect, the Colonies,
during ages of existence, have but rarely occupied a passing thought
in the mind of the Nation; as though their insignificance entitled
them only to neglect. But the weakness of childhood is passing away:
the Infant is fast growing into the possession and the consciousness
of strength, whilst the Parent is obliged to acknowledge the
increasing usefulness of her offspring.
The long-existing and fundamental errors of Government, under which
the Colonies have hitherto groaned in helpless subjection, will soon
become generally known and understood -- and then they will be
In the remarks which will be found scattered through this work on the
subject of Colonial Government, it must be observed, that the system
only is assailed, and not individuals. That it is the system and not
THE MEN who are in fault, is sufficiently proved by the fact that the
most illustrious statesmen and the brightest talents of the Age, have
ever failed to distinguish themselves by good works, whilst directing
the fortunes of the Colonies. Lord John Russell, Lord Stanley, Mr.
Gladstone -- all of them high-minded, scrupulous, and patriotic
statesmen -- all of them men of brilliant genius, extensive
knowledge, and profound thought -- have all of them been but slightly
appreciated as Colonial rulers.
Their principal success has been in perpetuating a noxious system.
They have all of them conscientiously believed their first duty to
be, in the words of Lord Stanley, to keep the Colonies dependent upon
the Mother Country; and occupied with this belief, they have
legislated for the Mother Country and not for the Colonies. Vain,
selfish, fear-inspired policy! that keeps the Colonies down in the
dust at the feet of the Parent State, and yet is of no value or
advantage to her. To make her Colonies useful to England, they must
be cherished in their infancy, and carefully encouraged to put forth
all the strength of their secret energies.
It is not whilst held in leading-strings that they can be useful, or
aught but burthensome: rear them kindly to maturity, and allow them
the free exercise of their vast natural strength, and they would be
to the parent country her truest and most valuable friends.
THE COLONIES OF THE EMPIRE ARE THE ONLY LASTING AND INALIENABLE
MARKETS FOR ITS PRODUCE; and the first aim of the political economist
should be to develop to their utmost extent the vast resources
possessed by Great Britain in these her own peculiar fields of
national wealth. But the policy displayed throughout the history of
her Colonial possessions, has ever been the reverse of this. It was
that grasping and ungenerous policy that called forth a Washington,
and cost her an empire. It is that same miserable and low-born
policy that still recoils upon herself, depriving her of vast
increase of wealth and power in order to keep the chain upon her
hapless children, those ambitious Titans whom she trembles to unbind.
And yet poor Old England considers herself an excellent parent, and
moans and murmurs over the ingratitude of her troublesome offspring!
Like many other parents, she means to do well and act kindly, but
unhappily the principles on which she proceeds are radically wrong.
Hence, on the one side, heart-burning, irritation, and resentment; on
the other, disappointment, revulsion, and alarm.
Is she too deeply prejudiced, or too old in error, to attempt a new
system of policy?
In what single respect has she ever proved herself a good parent to
any of her Colonies? Whilst supplying them with Government Officers,
she has fettered them with unwholesome laws; whilst giving them a
trifling preference over foreign states in their commerce, she has
laid her grasp upon their soil; whilst allowing them to legislate in
a small degree for themselves, she has reserved the prerogative of
annulling all enactments that interfere with her own selfish or
mistaken views; whilst permitting their inhabitants to live under a
lightened pressure of taxation, she has debarred them from wealth,
rank, honours, rewards, hopes -- all those incentives to action that
lead men forward to glory, and stamp nations with greatness.
What has she done for her Colonies -- this careful and beneficent
parent? She has permitted them to exist, but bound them down in
serf-like dependence; and so she keeps them -- feeble, helpless, and
hopeless. She grants them the sanction of her flag, and the
privilege of boasting of her baneful protection.
Years -- ages have gone by, and her policy has been the same --
darkening the heart and crushing the energies of Man in climes where
Nature sparkles with hope and teems with plenty.
Time, however, too powerful for statesmen, continues his silent but
steady advance in the great work of amelioration. The condition of
the Colonies must be elevated to that of the counties of England.
Absolute rule must cease to prevail in them. Men must be allowed to
win there, as at home, honours and rank. Time, the grand minister of
correction -- Time the Avenger, already has his foot on the threshold
of the COLONIAL OFFICE.
1. -- COLONISTS.
2. -- ST. JAGO.
3. -- THE MUTINY.
4. -- THE PRISON-ISLAND.
5. -- FIRST ADVENTURES.
6. -- PERTH. -- COLONIAL JURIES.
7. -- BOATING UP THE RIVER.
8. -- FARMS ON THE RIVER.
9. -- THE MORAL THERMOMETER OF COLONIES.
10. -- COUNTRY LIFE.
11. -- PERSECUTIONS.
12. -- MICHAEL BLAKE, THE IRISH SETTLER.
13. -- WILD CATTLE HUNTING.
14. -- WOODMAN'S POINT.
15. -- HOW THE LAWS OF ENGLAND AFFECT THE NATIVES.
16. -- REMARKS ON THE PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION OF THE NATIVES.
17. -- SKETCHES OF LIFE AMONG THE NATIVES.
18. -- THE MODEL KINGDOM.
19. -- TRIALS OF A GOVERNOR.
20. -- MR. SAILS, MY GROOM. -- OVER THE HILLS. -- A SHEEP
21. -- EXTRACTS FROM THE LOG OF A HUT-KEEPER.
22. -- PELICAN SHOOTING. -- GALES. -- WRESTLING WITH DEATH.
23. -- THE DESERT OF AUSTRALIA. -- CAUSE OF THE HOT WINDS. --
24. -- COLONIAL GOVERNMENT.
25. -- ONE OF THE ERRORS OF GOVERNMENT. -- ADVENTURES OF THE
26. -- SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERIES. -- KANGAROO HUNTING. -- EMUS. --
LOST IN THE BUSH.
27. -- THE COMET. -- VITAL STATISTICS. -- METEOROLOGY.
28. -- THE BOTANY OF THE COLONY.
29. -- MISFORTUNES OF THE COLONY.
30. -- RESOURCES OF THE COLONY: -- HORSES FOR INDIA. -- WINE. --
DRIED FRUITS. -- COTTON. -- COAL. -- WOOL. -- CORN. -- WHALE-
OIL. -- A WHALE HUNT. -- CURED FISH. -- SHIP TIMBER.
31. -- RISE AND FALL OF A SETTLEMENT. -- THE SEQUEL TO CAPTAIN
GREY'S DISCOVERIES. -- A WORD AT PARTING.
KANGAROO HUNTING (Frontispiece).
DEATH OF THE KANGAROO.
EMU HUNT (woodcut).)
LIFE IN A NEW COUNTRY.
The Spirit of Adventure is the most animating impulse in the human
breast. Man naturally detests inaction; he thirsts after change and
novelty, and the prospect of excitement makes him prefer even danger
to continued repose.
The love of adventure! how strongly it urges forward the Young! The
Young, who are ever discontented with the Present, and sigh for
opportunities of action which they know not where to seek. Old men
mourn over the folly and recklessness of the Young, who, in the fresh
and balmy spring-time of life, recoil from the confinement of the
desk or the study, and long for active occupation, in which all their
beating energies may find employment. Subjection is the consequence
of civilized life; and self-sacrifice is necessary in those who are
born to toil, before they may partake of its enjoyments. But though
the Young are conscious that this is so, they repine not the less;
they feel that the freshness and verdure of life must first die away;
that the promised recompense will probably come too late to the
exhausted frame; that the blessings which would now be received with
prostrate gratitude will cease to be felt as boons; and that although
the wishes and wants of the heart will take new directions in the
progress of years, the consciousness that the spring-time of life --
that peculiar season of happiness which can never be known again --
has been consumed in futile desires and aspirations, in vain hopes
and bitter experiences, must ever remain deepening the gloom of
Anxious to possess immediate independence, young men, full of
adventurous spirit, proceed in search of new fields of labour, where
they may reap at once the enjoyments of domestic life, whilst they
industriously work out the curse that hangs over the Sons of Adam.
They who thus become emigrants from the ardent spirit of adventure,
and from a desire to experience a simpler and less artificial manner
of living than that which has become the essential characteristic of
European civilization, form a large and useful body of colonists.
These men, notwithstanding the pity which will be bestowed upon them
by those whose limited experience of life leads to the belief that
happiness or contentment can only be found in the atmosphere of
England, are entitled to some consideration and respect.
To have dared to deviate from the beaten track which was before them
in the outset of life; to have perceived at so vast a distance
advantages which others, if they had seen, would have shrunk from
aiming at; to have persevered in their resolution, notwithstanding
the expostulations of Age, the regrets of Friendship, and the sighs
of Affection -- all this betokens originality and strength of
Does it also betoken indifference to the wishes of others? Perhaps
it does; and it marks one of the broadest and least amiable features
in the character of a colonist.
The next class of emigrants are those who depart from their native
shores with reluctance and tears. Children of misfortune and sorrow,
they would yet remain to weep on the bosom from which they have drawn
no sustenance. But the strong blasts of necessity drive them from
the homes which even Grief has not rendered less dear. Their future
has never yet responded to the voice of Hope, and now, worn and
broken in spirit, imagination paints nothing cheering in another
land. They go solely because they may not remain -- because they
know not where else to look for a resting place; and Necessity, with
her iron whip, drives them forth to some distant colony.
But there is still a third class, the most numerous perhaps of all,
that helps to compose the population of a colony. This is made up of
young men who are the wasterels of the World; who have never done,
and never will do themselves any good, and are a curse instead of a
benefit to others. These are they who think themselves fine, jovial,
spirited fellows, who disdain to work, and bear themselves as if life
were merely a game which ought to be played out amid coarse laughter
and wild riot.
These go to a colony because their relatives will not support them in
idleness at home. They feel no despair at the circumstance, for
their pockets have been refilled, though (they are assured) for the
last time; and they rejoice at the prospect of spending their capital
far from the observation of intrusive guardians.
Disgusted at authority which has never proved sufficient to restrain
or improve them, they become enamoured with the idea of absolute
license, and are far too high-spirited to entertain any apprehensions
of future poverty. These gallant-minded and truly enviable fellows
betake themselves, on their arrival, to the zealous cultivation of
field-sports instead of field produce. They leave with disdain the
exercise of the useful arts to low-bred and beggarly-minded people,
who have not spirit enough for anything better; whilst they
themselves enthusiastically strive to realize again those glorious
"When wild in woods the noble savage ran."
In the intervals of relaxation from these fatigues, when they return
to a town life, they endeavour to prove the activity of their
energies and the benevolence of their characters, by getting up balls
and pic-nics, solely to promote the happiness of the ladies. But
notwithstanding this appearance of devotion to the fair sex, their
best affections are never withdrawn from the companion of their
hearts -- the brandy flask. They evince their generous hospitality
by hailing every one who passes their door, with "How are you, old
fellow? Come in, and take a nip." Somehow or other they are always
liked, even by those who pity and despise them.
The women only laugh at their irregularities -- they are such
"good-hearted creatures!" And so they go easily and rapidly down
that sloping path which leads to ruin and despair. What is their
end? Many of them literally kill themselves by drinking; and those
who get through the seasoning, which is the fatal period, are either
compelled to become labourers in the fields for any one who will
provide them with food; or else succeed in exciting the compassion of
their friends at home, by their dismal accounts of the impossibility
of earning a livelihood in a ruined and worthless colony; and having
thus obtained money enough to enable them to return to England, they
hasten to throw themselves and their sorrows into the arms of their
Nothing can be more absurd than to imagine that a fortune may be made
in a colony by those who have neither in them nor about them any of
the elements or qualities by which fortunes are gained at home.
There are, unfortunately, few sources of wealth peculiar to a colony.
The only advantage which the emigrant may reasonably calculate upon
enjoying, is the diminution of competition. In England the crowd is
so dense that men smother one another.
It is only by opening up the same channels of wealth under more
favourable circumstances, that the emigrant has any right to
calculate upon success. Without a profession, without any legitimate
calling in which his early years have been properly instructed;
without any knowledge or any habits of business, a man has no better
prospect of making a fortune in a colony than at home. None,
however, so circumstanced, entertains this belief; on the contrary,
he enters upon his new career without any misgivings, and with the
courage and enthusiasm of a newly enlisted recruit.
Alas! the disappointment which so soon and so inevitably succeeds,
brings a crowd of vices and miseries in its train.
The reader may naturally expect to be informed of the reasons that
have induced me thus to seek his acquaintance. In one word -- I am a
colonist. In England, a great deal is said every day about colonies
and colonists, but very little is known about them. A great deal is
projected; but whatever is done, is unfortunately to their prejudice.
Secretaries of State know much more about the distant settlements of
Great Britain than the inhabitants themselves; and, consequently, the
latter are seldom able to appreciate the ordinances which (for their
own good) they are compelled to submit to.
My own experience is chiefly confined to one of the most
insignificant of our colonies, -- insignificant in point of
population, but extremely important as to its geographical position,
and its prospects of future greatness, -- but the same principle of
government applies to all the British settlements.
A few years ago, I was the victim of medical skill; and being
sentenced to death in my own country by three eminent physicians, was
comparatively happy in having that sentence commuted to banishment.
A wealthy man would have gone to Naples, to Malta, or to Madeira; but
a poor one has no resource save in a colony, unless he will
condescend to live upon others, rather than support himself by his
The climate of Western Australia was recommended; and I may be
grateful for the alternative allowed me.
As I shall have occasion hereafter to allude to them incidentally, I
may mention that my two brothers accompanied me on this distant
The elder, a disciple of Aesculapius, was not only anxious to gratify
his fraternal solicitude and his professional tastes by watching my
case, but was desirous of realizing the pleasures of rural life in
My younger brother (whose pursuits entitle him to be called
Meliboeus) was a youth not eighteen, originally designed for the
Church, and intended to cut a figure at Oxford; but modestly
conceiving that the figure he was likely to cut would not tend to the
advancement of his worldly interests, and moreover, having no
admiration for Virgil beyond the Bucolics, he fitted himself out with
a Lowland plaid and a set of Pandaean pipes, and solemnly dedicated
himself to the duties of a shepherd.
Thus it was that we were all embarked in the same boat; or rather, we
found ourselves in the month of April, 1841, on board of a certain
ill-appointed barque bound for Western Australia.
We had with us a couple of servants, four rams with curling horns --
a purchase from the late Lord Western; a noble blood-hound, the gift
of a noble Lord famous for the breed; a real old English
mastiff-bitch, from the stock at Lyme Park; and a handsome spaniel
cocker. Besides this collection of quadrupeds, we had a vast
assortment of useless lumber, which had cost us many hundred pounds.
Being most darkly ignorant of every thing relating to the country to
which we were going, but having a notion that it was very much of the
same character with that so long inhabited by Robinson Crusoe, we had
prudently provided ourselves with all the necessaries and even
non-necessaries of life in such a region. Our tool chests would have
suited an army of pioneers; several distinguished ironmongers of the
city of London had cleared their warehouses in our favour of all the
rubbish which had lain on hand during the last quarter of a century;
we had hinges, bolts, screws, door-latches, staples, nails of all
dimensions -- from the tenpenny, downwards -- and every other
requisite to have completely built a modern village of reasonable
extent. We had tents, Macintosh bags, swimming-belts, several sets
of sauce-pans in graduated scale, (we had here a distant eye to
kangaroo and cockatoo stews,) cleavers, meat-saws, iron skewers, and
a general apparatus of kitchen utensils that would have satisfied the
desires of Monsieur Soyer himself. Then we had double and
single-barrelled guns, rifles, pistols, six barrels of Pigou and
Wilkes' gunpowder; an immense assortment of shot, and two hundred
weight of lead for bullets.
Besides the several articles already enumerated, we had provided
ourselves with eighteen months' provisions, in pork and flour,
calculating that by the time this quantity was consumed, we should
have raised enough to support our establishment out of the soil by
the sweat of our brows. And thus from sheer ignorance of colonial
life, we had laid out a considerable portion of our capital in the
purchase of useless articles, and of things which might have been
procured more cheaply in the colony itself. Nor were we the only
green-horns that have gone out as colonists: on the contrary,
nine-tenths of those who emigrate, do so in perfect ignorance of the
country they are about to visit and the life they are destined to
lead. The fact is, Englishmen, as a body know nothing and care
nothing about colonies. My own was merely the national ignorance.
An Englishman's idea of a colony (he classes them altogether) is,
that it is some miserable place -- the Black-hole of the British
empire -- where no one would live if he were allowed a choice; and
where the exiled spirits of the nation are incessantly sighing for a
glimpse of the white cliffs of Albion, and a taste of the old
familiar green-and-yellow fog of the capital of the world.
Experience alone can convince him that there are in other regions of
the world climes as delightful, suns as beneficent, and creditors as
confiding, as those of Old England.
The voyage, of course, was tedious enough; but some portion of it was
spent very pleasantly in calculating the annual profits which our
flocks were likely to produce.
The four noble rams, with their curly horns, grew daily more valuable
in our estimation. By the sailors, no doubt, they were rated no
higher than the miserable tenants of the long-boat, that formed part
of the cuddy provisions. But with us it was very different. As we
looked, every bright and balmy morning, into the pen which they
occupied, we were enabled to picture more vividly those Arcadian
prospects which seemed now brought almost within reach. In these
grave and respectable animals we recognised the patriarchs of a vast
and invaluable progeny; and it was impossible to help feeling a kind
of veneration for the sires of that fleecy multitude which was to
prove the means of justifying our modest expectations of happiness
Our dogs also afforded us the most pleasing subjects for speculation.
With the blood-hound we were to track the footsteps of the midnight
marauder, who should invade the sanctity of our fold. The spaniel
was to aid in procuring a supply of game for the table; and I
bestowed so much pains upon his education during the voyage, that
before we landed he was perfectly au fait in the article of
"down-charge!" and used to flush the cat in the steward's pantry with
the greatest certainty and satisfaction.
Jezebel, the mastiff-birch, was expected to assist in guarding our
castle, -- an honourable duty which her courage and fidelity amply
warranted us in confiding to her. Of the former quality, I shall
mention an instance that occurred during the voyage. We had one day
caught a shark, twelve feet long; and no sooner was he hauled on deck
than Jezebel, wild with fury, rushed through the circle of eager
sailors and spectators, and flew directly at the nose of the
struggling monster. It was with difficulty that she was dragged away
by the admiring seamen, who were compelled to admit that there was a
creature on board more reckless and daring than themselves.
We were now approaching the Cape Verd Islands. I daresay it has been
frequently mentioned, that there is in these latitudes a vast bed of
loose sea-weed, floating about, which has existed there from time
immemorial, and which is only found in this one spot of the ocean; as
though it were here compelled to remain under the influence of some
magic spell. Some navigators are of opinion that it grows on the
rocks at the bottom of the sea, beneath the surface on which it
floats. Others maintain that it has been drifted across the
Atlantic, having issued from the Gulf of Mexico. Here, however, it
is doomed to drift about hopelessly, for ever lost in the wilderness
of waters; on the surface of which it now vegetates, affording
shelter to small crabs, and many curious kinds of fishes.
One of the latter which we caught, about an inch in length, had a
spike on his back, and four legs, with which he crawled about the
We approached the Island of St. Jago, sailing unconsciously close to
a sunken rock, on which (as we afterwards learnt) the "Charlotte" had
struck about six weeks before whilst under full sail, and had gone
down in a few minutes, barely allowing time for the crew to escape in
Notwithstanding we had been five weeks at sea when we dropped anchor
in Porto Praya roads, the appearance of the land was by no means
inviting to the eyes. A high and extremely barren hill, or large
heap of dry earth, with a good many stones about it, seemed to
compose the Island. Close to us was the town, a collection of white
houses that looked very dazzling in the summer sun. Beside, and
running behind it, was a greenish valley, containing a clump of
cocoa-nut trees. This was the spot we longed to visit; so, getting
into the captain's boat, we approached the shore, where a number of
nearly naked negroes rushing into the sea (there being no pier or
jetty) presented their slimy backs at the gun-wale, and carried us in
triumph to the beach. The town boasted of one hotel, in the only
sitting-room of which we found some Portuguese officers smoking pipes
as dirty as themselves, and drinking a beverage which had much the
appearance of rum and water. There was no one who could speak a word
of English; but at length a French waiter appeared, who seemed
ravished with delight at the jargon with which we feebly reminded him
of his own lively language "when at home." Having ordered dinner, we
wandered off in search of the coca-nut valley, and purchased bananas
for the first time in our lives, and oranges, the finest in the world.
Those who have been long at sea know how pleasant it is to walk once
more upon the land. It is one of the brightest of the Everlasting
flowers in the garland of Memory.
We walked along the sea-beach, as people so circumstanced must ever
do, full of gladsome fancies. There was delight for us in the varied
shells at our feet; in the curious skeletons of small fishes,
untimely deceased; in the fantastic forms of the drifted sea-weed; in
the gentle ripple of the companionable waves by our side. And little
Fig, the spaniel, was no less pleased then ourselves. He ran before
us rejoicing in his fleetness; and he ran back again in a moment to
tell us how glad he was. Then as a wave more incursive than its
predecessor unexpectedly wetted his feet, he would droop his tail and
run faster with alarm, until the sight of some bush or bough, left
high and dry by the last tide, awakened his nervous suspicions, and
dreading an ambuscade, he would stop suddenly and bark at the
dreadful object, until we arrived at his side, when, wagging his tail
and looking slyly up with his joyous eyes, he would scamper away
again as though he would have us believe he had been all the time
only in fun.
What profound satisfaction is there in the freedom of land after so
long a confinement! The sunshine that makes joyous every object
around us finds its way into the deeps of the heart.
And now we determined to bathe. So we crossed over a jutting rock,
on the other side of which was a beautiful and secluded little bay,
so sheltered that the waves scarcely rippled as they came to kiss the
shell-covered beach. Here we soon unrobed; and I was the first to
rush at full speed into the inviting waters. Before I got up to my
middle, however, I saw something before me that looked like a dark
rock just below the surface. I made towards it, intending to get
upon it, and dive off on the other side; but lo! as I approached, it
stirred; then it darted like a flash of lightning towards one side of
the bay, whilst I, after standing motionless for a moment, retreated
with the utmost expedition.
It was a ground-shark, of which there are numbers on that coast.
We lost no time in putting on our clothes again, and returned in
rather a fluttered state to the inn.
We remained a week at St. Jago, the captain being busily engaged in
taking in water, and quarrelling with his crew. One day, at the
instigation of our friend, the French waiter, we made a trip of seven
miles into the interior of the island, to visit a beautiful valley
called Trinidad. Mounted on donkeys, and attended by two ragged,
copper-coloured youths, we proceeded in gallant style up the main
street, and, leaving the town, crossed the valley beyond it, and
emerged into the open country. It was a rough, stony, and hilly
road, through a barren waste, where there scarcely appeared a stray
blade of grass for the goats which rambled over it in anxious
search of herbage.
At length, after a wearisome ride of several hours, we descended
suddenly into the most fertile and luxuriant valley I ever beheld,
and which seemed to extend a distance of some miles. A mountain
brook flowed down the midst, on the banks of which numerous scattered
and picturesque cottages appeared. On either side the ground was
covered with the green carpet of Nature in the spring of the year.
Everywhere, except in this smiling valley, we saw nothing but the
aridity of summer, and the desolation caused by a scorching tropical
sun. But here -- how very different! How sudden, how magical was
the change! Every species of vegetable grew here in finest
luxuriance. Melons of every variety, pine-apples, sweet potatoes,
plantains, and bananas, with their broad and drooping leaves of
freshest green and rich purple flower, and ripe yellow fruit.
Orange-trees, cocoa-nut trees, limes -- the fig, the vine, the
citron, the pomegranate, and numerous others, grateful to the weary
sight, and bearing precious stores amid their branches, combined to
give the appearance of wealth and plenty to this happy valley. It
was not, however, destined to be entered by us without a fierce
combat for precedence between two of our steeds. The animal whom it
was the evil lot of Meliboeus to bestride, suddenly threw back its
ears, and darted madly upon the doctor's quadruped, which, on its
side, manifested no reluctance to the fight.
Dreadful was the scene; the furious donkeys nearing and striking with
their fore-feet, and biting each other about the head and neck
without the smallest feeling of compunction or remorse; the two
guides shrieking and swearing in Portuguese at the donkeys and each
other, and striking right and left with their long staves, perfectly
indifferent as to whom they hit; the unhappy riders, furious with
fright and chagrin, shouting in English to the belligerents of both
classes to "keep off!" The screams of two women, who were carrying
water in the neighbourhood, enhanced by the barking of a terrified
cur, that ran blindly hither and thither with its tail between its
legs, in a state of frantic excitement -- altogether produced a
tableau of the most spirited description. Peace was at length
restored, and we all dismounted from our saddles with fully as much
satisfaction as we had experienced when vaulting into them.
There is little more to say about the valley of Trinidad. The
cottagers who supply the town of Porto Praya with fruits and
vegetables are extremely poor, and very uncleanly and untidy in their
houses and habits. We had intended to spend the night with them, but
the appearance of the accommodations determined us to return to our
inn, in spite of the friendly and disinterested advice of our guides.
St. Jago abounds with soldiers and priests; the former of whom are
chiefly convicts from Lisbon, condemned to serve here in the ranks.
The day for sailing arrived, and we were all on board and ready. Our
barque was a temperance ship; that is, she belonged to owners who
refused to allow their sailors the old measure of a wine-glass of rum
in the morning, and another in the afternoon, but liberally
substituted an extra pint of water instead.
There is always one thing remarkable about these temperance ships,
that when they arrive in harbour, their crews, excited to madness by
long abstinence from their favourite liquor, and suffering in
consequence all the excruciating torments of thirst, run into violent
excesses the moment they get on shore. St. Jago is famous for a kind
of liquid fire, called aguadente, which is smuggled on board ship
in the shape of pumpkins and watermelons. These are sold to the
sailors for shirts and clothing; there being nothing so eagerly
sought for by the inhabitants of St. Jago as linen and calico.
Our crew, being thoroughly disgusted with their captain, as indeed
they had some reason to be, and their valour being wondrously excited
by their passionate fondness for water-melons, came to a stern
resolution of spending the remainder of their lives on this agreeable
island; at any rate, they determined to sail no farther in our
company. The captain was ashore, settling his accounts and receiving
his papers; the chief-mate had given orders to loose the fore-topsail
and weigh anchor; and we were all in the cuddy, quietly sipping our
wine, when we heard three cheers and a violent scuffling on deck. In
a few moments down rushed the mate in a state of delirious
excitement, vociferating that the men were in open mutiny, and
calling upon us, in the name of the Queen, to assist the officers of
the ship in bringing them to order. Starting up at the call of our
Sovereign, we rushed to our cabins in a state of nervous
bewilderment, and loading our pistols in a manner that ensured their
not going off, we valiantly hurried on deck in the rear of the
exasperated officer. On reaching the raised quarter-deck of the
vessel, we found the crew clustered together near the mainmast, armed
with hand-spikes, boat-oars, crow-bars, and a miscellaneous
assortment of other weapons, and listening to an harangue which the
carpenter was in the act of delivering to them. They were all
intoxicated; but the carpenter, a ferocious, determined villain, was
the least so.
At one of the quarter-deck gangways stood the captain's lady, a lean
and wizened Hecate, as famous for her love of rum as any of the crew,
but more openly rejoicing in the no less objectionable spirit of
ultra-methodism. Screaming at the top of her voice, whilst her
unshawled and dusky shoulders, as well as the soiled ribands of her
dirty cap, were gently fanned by the sea-breeze, she commanded the
men to return to their duty, in a volume of vociferation that seemed
perfectly inexhaustible. Fearing that the quarter-deck would be
carried by storm, we divided our party, consisting of the two mates,
three passengers with their servants, and Mungo the black servant,
into two divisions, each occupying one of the gang-ways.
In a few moments the carpenter ceased his oration; the men cheered
and danced about the deck, brandishing their weapons, and urging one
another to "come on." Then with a rush, or rather a stagger, they
assailed our position, hoping to carry it in an instant by storm.
The mate shouted to us to fire, and pick out three or four of the
most desperate; but perceiving the intoxicated state of the men we
refused to shed blood, except in the last extremity of self-defence;
and determined to maintain our post, if possible, by means of our
pistol-butts, or our fists alone. In the general melee which ensued,
the captain's lady, who fought in the van, and looked like a lean
Helen MacGregor, or the mythological Ate, was captured by the
assailants, and dragged to the deck below. Then it was that
combining our forces, and inspired with all the ardour which is
naturally excited by the appearance of beauty in distress, we made a
desperate sally, and after a fearful skirmish, succeeded in rescuing
the lady, and replacing her on the quarter-deck, with the loss only
of her cap and gown, and a few handfuls of hair.
After this exploit, both parties seemed inclined to pause and take
breath, and in the interval we made an harangue to the sailors,
expressive of our regret that they should act in so disgraceful a
The gallant (or rather ungallant) fellows replied that they were
determined to be no longer commanded by a she-captain, as they called
the lady, and therefore would sail no farther in such company.
I really believe that most of them had no serious intention whatever
in their proceedings, but the officers of the ship were firmly
convinced that the carpenter and one or two others had resolved to
get possession of the vessel, dispose of the passengers and mates
somehow or other, and then slip the cable, and wreck and sell the
ship and cargo on the coast of South America.
Whilst the truce lasted, the second mate had been busily engaged
making signals of distress, by repeatedly hoisting and lowering the
ensign reversed, from the mizen-peak. This was soon observed from
the deck of a small Portuguese schooner of war, which lay at anchor
about half a mile from us, having arrived a few hours previously,
bringing the Bishop of some-where-or-other on a visitation to the
island. The attention of the officer of the watch had been
previously attracted towards us by the noise we had made, and the
violent scuffle which he had been observing through his glass. No
sooner, therefore, was the flag reversed, than a boat was lowered
from the quarter-davits, filled with marines, and pulled towards our
vessel with the utmost rapidity. The mutineers, whose attention was
directed entirely to the quarter-deck, did not perceive this
manoeuvre, which, however, was evident enough to us, who exerted
ourselves to the utmost to prolong the parley until our allies should
The carpenter now decided upon renewing the assault, having laid
aside his handspike and armed himself with an axe; but just at this
moment the man-of-war's boat ran alongside, and several files of
marines, with fixed bayonets, clambering on to the deck, effected a
speedy change in the aspect of affairs. Perceiving at once how
matters stood, the officer in command, without asking a single
question, ordered a charge against the astonished sailors, who, after
a short resistance, and a few violent blows given and received, were
captured and disarmed.
There was a boy among the party called Shiny Bill, some fifteen years
of age, who managed to escape to the fore-shrouds, and giving the
marine who pursued him a violent kick in the face, succeeded in
reaching the fore-top, where he coiled himself up like a ball. Two
or three marines, exasperated by the scuffle, and by several smart
raps on the head which they had received, hastened up the shrouds
after the fugitive, who, however, ascended to the fore-top-mast
cross-trees, whither his enemies, after some hesitation, pursued.
Finding this post also untenable, he proceeded to swarm up the
fore-top-gallant-mast shrouds, and at last seated himself on the
royal yard, where he calmly awaited the approach of the enemy.
These, however, feeling that the position was too strong to be
successfully assailed by marines, deliberately commenced their
retreat, and arrived on deck, whilst their officer was hailing the
immovable Bill in Portuguese, and swearing he would shoot him unless
he instantly descended.
Disdaining, however, to pay the least attention to these threats,
Shiny William continued to occupy his post with the greatest
tranquillity; and the officer, giving up the attempt in despair,
proceeded to inquire from us in Portuguese-French the history of this
outbreak. The scene concluded with the removal of the mutineers in
one of the ship's boats to the man-of-war, where, in a few moments,
several dozen lashes were administered to every man in detail, and
the whole party were then sent on shore, and committed to a dungeon
darker and dirtier than the worst among them had ever before been
acquainted with. But before all this was done, and when the boats
had pulled about a hundred yards from the vessel, Shiny Bill began to
descend from his post. He slipped down unobserved by any one, and
the first notice we had of his intentions was from perceiving him run
across the deck to the starboard bow, whence he threw himself,
without hesitation, into the sea, and began to swim lustily after his
captive friends. Our shouts -- for, remembering the abundance of
sharks, we were very much alarmed for the poor fellow -- attracted
the attention of the officer in the boat, to whom we pointed out the
figure of Bill, who seemed as eager now to make a voluntary
surrender, and share the fate of his comrades, as he had previously
been opposed to a violent seizure. The swimmer was soon picked up,
and, to our regret, received in due season the same number of stripes
as fell to the lot of his friends captured in battle.
The prisoners remained several days in their dungeon, where they were
hospitably regaled with bread and water by the Portuguese Government;
and at the end of this period (so unworthy did they prove of the
handsome treatment they received) the British spirit was humbled
within them, and they entreated with tears to be allowed to return to
their duty. The mates, however, refused to sail in the same vessel
with the carpenter, and it was accordingly settled that he should
remain in custody until the arrival of a British man-of-war, and then
be returned to his country, passage free.
It was nearly the end of August when we approached the conclusion of
our voyage. The wind was fair, the sun shone brightly, and every
heart was gay with the hope of once more being upon land. We drew
nigh to the Island of Rottnest, about sixteen miles from the mouth of
the river Swan, and anchored to the north of it, waiting for a pilot
And there we had the first view of our future home. Beyond that low
line of sand-hills, which stretched away north and south, far as the
eye could reach, we were to begin life again, and earn for ourselves
a fortune and an honourable name. No friendly voice would welcome us
on landing, but numberless sharpers, eager to prey upon the
inexperienced Griffin, and take advantage of his unavoidable
ignorance and confiding innocence. There was nothing very cheering
in the prospect; but supported by the confidence and ambition of
youth, we experienced no feelings of dismay.
In order to wile away the time, we landed on the island, and, passing
through a thick wood of cypresses, came to a goodly-sized and
comfortable-looking dwelling-house, with numerous out-buildings about
it, all built of marine lime-stone.
As the particulars which I then learned respecting this island were
afterwards confirmed by experience and more extended information, I
may as well enter upon its history at once.
The gentleman who was then Governor of Western Australia, was Mr.
John Hutt, a man of enlightened mind, firm, sagacious, and
benevolent. From the first, he adopted an admirable policy with
regard to the native inhabitants.
Exhibiting on all occasions a friendly interest in their welfare, he
yet maintained a strict authority over them, which they soon learned
to respect and fear. The Aborigines were easily brought to feel that
their surest protection lay in the Government; that every act of
violence committed upon them by individual settlers was sure to be
avenged by the whites themselves; and that, as certainly, any
aggression on the part of the natives would call down the utmost
severity of punishment upon the offenders. By this firm
administration of equal justice the Aboriginal population, instead of
being, as formerly, a hostile, treacherous, and troublesome race, had
become harmless, docile, and in some degree useful to the settlers.
But it was not the policy of Mr. Hutt merely to punish the natives
for offences committed against the whites; he was anxious to
substitute the milder spirit of the British law in lieu of their own
barbarous code; and to make them feel, in process of time, that it
was for their own interest to appeal for protection on all occasions
to the dominant power of Government, rather than trust to their own
courage and spears. This was no easy task, and could only be
accomplished by firmness, discrimination, and patience; but in the
course of a few years, considerable progress had been made in
subduing the prejudices and the barbarous customs of the Aborigines.
Although it had been declared by Royal Proclamation that the native
inhabitants were in every respect subjects of the British throne, and
as such entitled to equal privileges with ourselves, and to be judged
on all occasions by the common and statute laws, it proved to be no
easy matter to carry into practice these views of the Home
Government. People in England, who derive their knowledge of savages
from the orations delivered at Exeter Hall, are apt to conceive that
nothing more is requisite than to ensure them protection from
imaginary oppression, and a regular supply of spiritual comforts.
They do not consider that whilst they insist upon these unfortunate
creatures being treated exactly as British subjects, they are placing
a yoke on their own necks too heavy for them to bear in their present
condition. Primitive and simple laws are necessary to a primitive
state of society; and the cumbrous machinery of civilized life is
entirely unsuited to those who in their daily habits and their
intellectual endowments are little superior to the beasts that
perish. By declaring the savages to be in every respect British
subjects, it becomes illegal to treat them otherwise than such. If a
settler surprise a native in the act of stealing a pound of flour, he
of course delivers him over to a constable, by whom he is conveyed
before the nearest magistrate. Now this magistrate, who is an old
settler, and well acquainted with the habits of the natives, is also
a man of humanity; and if he were allowed to exercise a judicious
discretion, would order the culprit to be well flogged and dismissed
to his expectant family. But thanks to Her Majesty's well-meaning
Secretaries of State for the Colonies, who have all successively
judged alike on this point, it is declared most unadvisable to allow
a local magistrate the smallest modicum of discretion. He has only
one course to pursue, and that is, to commit the offender for trial
at the next Quarter Sessions, to be held in the capital of the
colony. Accordingly the poor native, who would rather have been
flayed alive than sent into confinement for two months previous to
trial, whilst his wives are left to their own resources, is heavily
ironed, lest he should escape, and marched down some sixty or seventy
miles to Fremantle gaol, where the denizen of the forest has to
endure those horrors of confinement which only the untamed and
hitherto unfettered savage can possibly know.
Among savages, the 'Lex talionis' -- the law of retaliation -- is the
law of nature and of right; to abstain from avenging the death of a
relative would be considered, by the tribe of the deceased, an act of
unpardonable neglect. Their own customs, which are to them as laws,
point out the mode of vengeance. The nearest relative of the
deceased must spear his slayer. Nothing is more common among these
people than to steal one another's wives; and this propensity affords
a prolific source of bloodshed.
They have also a general law, which is never deviated from, and which
requires that whenever a member of a tribe dies, whether from
violence or otherwise, a life must be taken from some other tribe.
This practice may have originated in a desire to preserve the balance
of power; or from a belief, which is very general among them, that a
man never dies a natural death. If he die of some disorder, and not
of a spear-wound, they say he is "quibble gidgied," or speared by
some person a long distance off. The native doctor, or wise man of
the tribe, frequently pretends to know who has caused the death of
the deceased; and the supposed murderer is of course pursued and
murdered in turn. This custom necessarily induces a constant state
of warfare. Now it is very right that all these barbarous and
unchristian practices should be put an end to; but, whilst
endeavouring to suppress them, we ought to remember that they are
part and parcel of the long-established laws of this rude people, and
that it is not possible all at once to make them forego their ancient
institutions and customs. The settlers would gladly see punished all
acts of violence committed among the natives in their neighbourhood.
Were they permitted to inflict such punishments as are best suited to
the limited ideas and moral thraldom of the Aborigines, these,
without cruelty or injustice, might gradually be brought within the
pale of civilization; but when the law declares it to be inevitable
that every British subject who is tried and found guilty of having
speared his enemy shall be hanged without benefit of clergy, the
colonists out of sheer humanity and pity for the ignorance of the
culprit, refrain from bringing him to trial and punishment -- a
proceeding which, by the way, would cost the colony some fifteen or
twenty pounds -- and thus he goes on in his errors, unreproved by
the wisdom or the piety of the whites. Sometimes, however, it
happens that the officers who exercise the calling of Protectors of
the Aborigines, anxious to prove that their post is no sinecure, make
a point of hunting up an occasional law-breaker, who, being brought
to trial, is usually found guilty upon his own evidence -- the
unfortunate culprit, conscious of no guilt in having followed the
customs of his ancestors, generally making a candid statement of his
offence. The sentence decreed by the English law is then passed upon
him, and he would, of course, be duly subjected to the penalty which
justice is supposed to demand, did not the compassionate Governor, in
the exercise of the highest privilege of the Crown, think proper to
step in and commute the sentence to perpetual imprisonment. As it
would have entailed a serious expense upon the colony to have had to
maintain these prisoners in a gaol in the capital, his Excellency
determined to establish a penal settlement at Rottnest; and this he
accordingly accomplished, with very good effect.
At the time we visited the island, there were about twenty native
prisoners in charge of a superintendent and a few soldiers.
The prisoners were employed in cultivating a sufficient quantity of
ground to produce their own food. It was they also who had built the
superintendent's residence; and whenever there was nothing else to
do, they were exercised in carrying stone to the top of a high hill,
on which a lighthouse was proposed to be built.
The Governor has certainly shown very good judgment in the formation
of this penal establishment. It is the dread of the natives
throughout the colony; and those prisoners who are released inspire
among their fellows the greatest horror and dismay by their tales of
the hardships they have suffered. No punishment can be more dreadful
to these savages -- the most indolent race in the world -- than being
compelled to work; and as their idleness brings them occasionally in
contact with the superintendent's lash, their recollections and
accounts of Rottnest are of the most fearful description. Certain,
however, it is, that nothing has tended so much to keep the
Aborigines in good order as the establishment of this place of
punishment. It is maintained at very little expense to the colony,
as the prisoners grow their own vegetables, and might easily be made
to produce flour enough for their own consumption.
It was a clear, beautiful, sparkling day, and there was a sense of
enjoyment attached to the green foliage, the waving crops, and the
gently heaving sea, that threw over this new world of ours a charm
which filled our hearts with gladness.
Having returned to our ship, we saw the pilot-boat rapidly
approaching. As it came alongside, and we were hailed by the
steersman, we felt a sensation of wonder at hearing ourselves
addressed in English and by Englishmen, so far, so very far from the
shores of England. With this feeling, too, was mingled something
like pity; we could not help looking upon these poor boatmen, in
their neat costume of blue woollen shirts, canvass trousers, and
straw hats, as fellow-countrymen who had been long exiled from their
native land, and who must now regard us with eyes of interest and
affection, as having only recently left its shores.
No sooner was the pilot on board than the anchor was weighed, the
sails were set, and we began to beat up into the anchorage off
Fremantle. Night closed upon us ere we reached the spot proposed, and
we passed the interval in walking the deck and noting the stars come
forth upon their watch. The only signs of life and of human
habitation were in the few twinkling lights of the town of Fremantle:
all beside, on the whole length of the coast, seemed to be a desert
of sand, the back-ground of which was occupied with the dark outline
of an illimitable forest.
It was into this vast solitude that we were destined to penetrate.
It was a picture full of sombre beauty, and it filled us with solemn
The next morning we were up at daybreak. Certainly it was a
beautiful sight, to watch the sun rise without a cloud from out of
the depths of that dark forest, rapidly dispersing the cold gray
gloom, and giving life, as it seemed, to the sparkling waves, which
just before had been unconsciously heaved by some internal power, and
suffered to fall back helplessly into their graves.
How differently now they looked, dancing joyously forward towards the
shore! And the sun, that seems to bring happiness to inanimate
things, brought hope and confidence back to the hearts of those who
watched him rise.
Flights of sea-birds of the cormorant tribe, but generally known as
Shags, were directing their course landward from the rocky islands on
which they had roosted during the night. What long files they form!
-- the solitary leader winging his rapid and undeviating way just
above the level of the waves, whilst his followers, keeping their
regular distances, blindly pursue the course he takes. See! he
enters the mouth of the river; some distant object to his practised
eye betokens danger, and though still maintaining his onward course,
he inclines upwards into the air, and the whole line, as though
actuated by the same impulse, follow his flight. And now they
descend again within a few feet of the river's surface, and now are
lost behind projecting rocks. All day long they fish in the retired
bays and sheltered nooks of the river, happy in the midst of plenty.
The river Swan issues forth into the sea over a bar of rocks,
affording only a dangerous passage for boats, or vessels drawing from
four to five feet water. Upon the left bank of the river is the town
of Fremantle. The most prominent object from the sea is a circular
building of white limestone, placed on the summit of a black rock at
the mouth of the Swan. This building is the gaol.
On the other side of the roadstead, about ten or twelve miles distant
from the main, is a chain of islands, of which Rottnest is the most
northern. Then come some large rocks, called the Stragglers, leaving
a passage out from the roadstead by the south of Rottnest; after
these is Carnac, an island abounding with rabbits and mutton-birds;
and still farther south is Garden island.
Fremantle, the principal port of the colony, is unfortunately
situated, as vessels of any burthen are obliged to anchor at a
considerable distance from the shore. Lower down the coast is a fine
harbour, called Mangles Bay, containing a splendid anchorage, and it
is much to be lamented that this was not originally fixed upon as the
site for the capital of the colony.
The first impression which the visitor to this settlement receives is
not favourable. The whole country between Fremantle and Perth, a
distance of ten miles, is composed of granitic sand, with which is
mixed a small proportion of vegetable mould. This unfavourable
description of soil is covered with a coarse scrub, and an immense
forest of banksia trees, red gums, and several varieties of the
eucalyptus. The banksia is a paltry tree, about the size of an
apple-tree in an English or French orchard, perfectly useless as
timber, but affording an inexhaustible supply of firewood. Besides
the trees I have mentioned, there is the xanthorea, or grass-tree, a
plant which cannot be intelligibly described to those who have never
seen it. The stem consists of a tough pithy substance, round which
the leaves are formed. These, long and tapering like the rush, are
four-sided, and extremely brittle; the base from which they shoot is
broad and flat, about the size of a thumb-nail, and very resinous in
substance. As the leaves decay annually, others are put forth above
the bases of the old ones, which are thus pressed down by the new
shoots, and a fresh circle is added every year to the growing plant.
Thousands of acres are covered with this singular vegetable
production; and the traveller at his night bivouac is always sure of
a glorious fire from the resinous stem of the grass-tree, and a
comfortable bed from its leaves.
We landed in a little bay on the southern bank of the river. The
houses appeared to be generally two-storied, and were built of hard
marine limestone. Notwithstanding the sandy character of the soil,
the gardens produced vegetables of every variety, and no part of the
world could boast of finer potatoes or cabbages. Anxious to begin
the primitive life of a settler as speedily as possible, we consulted
a merchant to whom we had brought letters of introduction as to the
best mode of proceeding. He advised us to fix our head-quarters for
a time near to Fremantle, and thence traverse the colony until we
should decide upon a permanent place of abode. In the meantime we
dined and slept at Francisco's Hotel, where we were served with
French dishes in first-rate style, and drank good luck to ourselves
in excellent claret.
In the early days of the colony, Sir James Stirling, the first
Governor, had fixed upon Fremantle as the seat of government; and the
settlers had begun to build themselves country-houses and elegant
villa residences upon the banks of the river. These, however, were
not completed before it was determined to fix the capital at Perth,
some dozen miles up the river, where the soil was rather better, and
where a communication with the proposed farms in the interior would
be more readily kept up.
The government officers had now to abandon their half-built stone
villas, and construct new habitations of wood, as there was no stone
to be found in the neighbourhood of Perth, and brick clay had not
then been discovered.
It was in one of these abandoned houses (called the Cantonment),
situate on the banks of the Swan, about half a mile from Fremantle,
that, by the advice of our friend, we resolved to take up our
quarters. The building was enclosed on three sides by a rough stone
wall, and by a wooden fence, forming a paddock of about three
quarters of an acre in extent. It comprised one large room, of some
forty feet by eighteen, which had a roof of thatch in tolerable
repair. The north side, protected by a verandah, had a door and two
windows, in which a few panes of glass remained, and looked upon the
broad river, from which it was separated by a bank of some twenty
feet in descent, covered with a variety of shrubs, just then
bursting into flower. A few scattered red-gum trees, of
the size of a well-grown ash, gave a park-like appearance to our
paddock, of which we immediately felt extremely proud, and had no
doubt of being very comfortable in our new domain. Besides the large
room I have mentioned, there were two others at the back of it,
which, unfortunately, were in rather a dilapidated condition; and
below these apartments (which were built on the slope of a hill) were
two more, which we immediately allotted to the dogs and sheep. This
side of the building was enclosed by a wall, which formed a small
court-yard. Here was an oven, which only wanted a little repair to
be made ready for immediate use.
For several days we were occupied in superintending the landing of
our stores, and housing them in a building which we rented in the
town at no trifling sum per week. A light dog-cart, which I had
brought out, being unpacked, proved extremely useful in conveying to
our intended residence such articles as we were likely to be in
immediate want of.
The two men had already taken up their abode there, together with the
rams and dogs; and at last, leaving our comfortable quarters at the
hotel with something like regret and a feeling of doubt and
bewilderment, we all three marched in state, with our double-barrels
on our shoulders, to take possession of our rural habitation.
We had providently dined before we took possession; and now, at
sunset, we stood on the bank before our house, looking down upon the
placid river. The blood-hound was chained to one of the posts of the
verandah; Jezebel, the noble mastiff-bitch, lay basking before the
door, perfectly contented with her situation and prospects; and
little Fig was busily hunting among the shrubs, and barking at the
small birds which he disturbed as they were preparing to roost.
One of the men was sitting on an upturned box beside the fire,
waiting for the gently-humming kettle to boil; whilst the other was
chipping wood outside the house, and from time to time carrying the
logs into the room, and piling them upon the hearth. As we looked
around we felt that we had now indeed commenced a new life. For some
months, at any rate, we were to do without those comforts and
luxuries which Englishmen at home, of every rank above the entirely
destitute, deem so essential to bodily ease and happiness.
We were to sleep on the floor, to cook our own victuals, and make our
own beds. This was to be our mode of acquiring a settlement in this
land of promise. Still there was an air of independence about it,
and we felt a confidence in our own energies and resources that made
the novelty of our position rather agreeable than otherwise.
There was something exhilarating in the fresh sea-breeze; there was
something very pleasing in the gay appearance of the shrubs that
surrounded us -- in the broad expanse of the river, with its
occasional sail, and its numerous birds passing rapidly over it on
their way to the islands where they roosted, or soaring leisurely to
and fro, with constant eyes piercing its depths, and then suddenly
darting downwards like streams of light into the flood, and emerging
instantly afterwards with their finny prey. The opposite bank of the
river displayed a sandy country covered with dark scrub; and beyond
this was the sea, with a view of Rottnest and the Straggler rocks. A
few white cottages relieved the sombre and death-like appearance of
that opposite shore. Unpromising as was the aspect of the country,
it yet afforded sufficient verdure to support in good condition a
large herd of cattle, which supplied Fremantle with milk and food.
Here, then, the reader may behold us for the first time in our
character of settlers. He may behold three individuals in light
shooting coats and cloth caps, standing upon the bank before their
picturesque and half-ruinous house, their dogs at their side, and
their gaze fixed upon the river that rolled beneath them. The same
thoughts probably occupied them all: they were now left in a land
which looked much like a desert, with Heaven for their aid, and no
other resources than a small capital, and their own energies and
truth. The great game of life was now to begin in earnest, and the
question was, how it should be played with success? Individual
activity and exertion were absolutely necessary to ensure good
fortune; and warmly impressed with the consciousness of this, we
turned with one impulse in search of employment.
Aesculapius began to prepare their supper for the dogs, and Meliboeus
looked after his sheep, which were grazing in the paddock in front of
the dwelling. As for myself, with the ardent mind of a young
settler, I seized upon the axe, and began to chop firewood -- an
exercise, by the way, which I almost immediately renounced.
And now for supper!
Our most necessary articles were buried somewhere beneath the heaps
of rubbish with which we had filled the store-room at Fremantle. Our
plates, cups and saucers, etc., were in a crate which was not to be
unpacked until we had removed our property and abode to the inland
station which we designed for our permanent residence. There were,
however, at hand for present use eight or nine pewter plates, and a
goodly sized pannikin a-piece. In one corner of the room was a bag
of flour, in another a bag of sugar, in a third a barrel of pork, and
on the table, composed of a plank upon two empty casks, were a couple
of loaves which Simon had purchased in the town, and a large tea-pot
which he had fortunately discovered in the same cask with the
The kettle fizzed upon the fire, impatient to be poured out; the
company began to draw round the hospitable board, seating themselves
upon their bedding, or upon empty packing-cases; and, in a word, tea
time had arrived. Hannibal, as we called the younger of our
attendants, from his valiant disposition, had filled one of the
pewter plates with brown sugar from the bag; the doctor made the tea,
and we wanted nothing but spoons to make our equipage complete.
However, every man had his pocket-knife, and so we fell to work.
Butter being at that time half-a-crown a pound, Simon (our head man)
had prudently refrained from buying any; and as he had forgotten to
boil a piece of the salt pork, we had to sup upon dry bread, which we
did without repining, determined, however, to manage better on the
In the meantime we were nearly driven desperate by most violent
attacks upon our legs, committed by myriads of fleas. They were so
plentiful that we could see them crawling upon the floor; the dogs
almost howled with anguish, and the most sedate among us could not
refrain from bitter and deep execrations. We had none of us ever
before experienced such torment; and really feared that in the course
of the night we should be eaten up entirely. These creatures are
hatched in the sand, and during the rains of winter they take refuge
in empty houses; but they infest every place throughout the country,
during all seasons, more or less, and are only kept down by constant
sweeping from becoming a most tremendous and overwhelming plague,
before which every created being, not indigenous to the soil, would
soon disappear, or be reduced to a bundle of polished bones. The
natives themselves never sleep twice under the same wigwam.
After tea, the sheep and dogs being carefully disposed of for the
night, we turned out before the house, and comforted ourselves with
cigars; and having whiled away as much time as possible, we spread
out our mattresses on the floor, and in a state of desperation
attempted to find rest. We escaped with our lives, and were thankful
in the morning for so much mercy vouchsafed to us, but we could not
conscientiously return thanks for a night's refreshing rest.
At the first dawn of day we rolled up our beds, lighted the fire,
swept out the room, let the dogs loose, and drove the rams to pasture
on the margin of the river. After breakfast, which was but a sorry
meal, we determined to make our first attempt at baking. Simon, a
man of dauntless resolution, undertook the task, using a piece of
stale bread as leaven. It was a serious business, and we all helped
or looked on; but the result, notwithstanding the multitude of
councillors, was a lamentable failure. Better success, fortunately,
attended the labours of Hannibal, who boiled a piece of salt pork
with the greatest skill.
Mutton at this period, 1841, was selling at sixteen-pence per pound
(it is now two-pence), and we therefore resolved to depend upon our
guns for fresh meat. We had brought with us a fishing-net, which we
determined to put in requisition the following day.
The most prominent idea in the imagination of a settler on his first
arrival at an Australian colony, is on the subject of the natives.
Whilst in England he was, like the rest of his generous-minded
countrymen, sensibly alive to the wrongs of these unhappy beings --
wrongs which, originating in a great measure in the eloquence of
Exeter Hall, have awakened the sympathies of a humane and unselfish
people throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom. Full of
these noble and ennobling sentiments, the emigrant approaches the
scene of British-colonial cruelty; but no sooner does he land, than a
considerable change takes place in his feelings. He begins to think
that he is about to place his valuable person and property in the
very midst of a nation of savages, who are entirely unrestrained by
any moral or human laws, or any religious scruples, from taking the
most disagreeable liberties with these precious things.
The refined and amiable philanthropist gradually sinks into the
coarse-minded and selfish settler, who is determined to protect
himself, his family, and effects, by every means in his power -- even
at the risk of outraging the amiable feelings of his brother
philanthropists at home. In Western Australia, the natives generally
are in very good order; they behave peaceably towards the settlers,
eat their flour, and in return occasionally herd or hunt up their
cattle, and keep their larders supplied with kangaroo.
It is very rarely -- I have never indeed heard of a single
well-authenticated instance -- that any amount of benefits, or the
most unvarying kindness, can awaken the smallest spark of gratitude
in the breasts of these degraded savages. Those who derive their
chief support from the flour and broken meat daily bestowed upon them
by the farm settlers, would send a spear through their benefactors
with as little remorse as through the breast of a stranger. The fear
of punishment alone has any influence over them; and although in this
colony they are never treated with anything like cruelty or
oppression, it is absolutely necessary to personal safety to maintain
a firm and prompt authority over them.
When we first arrived, we were philanthropists, in the usual sense of
that term, and thought a good deal about the moral and general
destitution of this unfortunate people; but when we first encountered
on the road a party of coffee-coloured savages, with spears in their
hands, and loose kangaroo-skin cloaks (their only garments) on their
shoulders, accompanied by their women similarly clad, and each
carrying in a bag at her back her black-haired offspring, with a face
as filthy as its mother's -- we by no means felt inclined to step
forward and embrace them as brethren.
I question, indeed, whether the most ardent philanthropist in the
world would not have hesitated before he even held forth his hand to
creatures whose heads and countenances were darkened over with a
compound of grease and red clay, whose persons had never been
submitted to ablution from the hour of their birth, and whose
approach was always heralded by a perfume that would stagger the most
enthusiastic lover of his species.
But it was not merely disgust that kept us at arm's length. We must
confess we were somewhat appalled at this first view of savage life,
as we looked upon the sharp-pointed spears, wild eyes, and
well-polished teeth of our new acquaintance. Although, in truth,
they were perfectly harmless in their intentions, we could not help
feeling a little nervous as they drew nigh, and saluted us with
shrill cries and exclamations, and childish bursts of wild laughter.
Their principal question was, whether we were "cabra-man?" or seamen,
as we afterwards discovered their meaning to be. After a good deal
of screaming and laughing, they passed on their way, leaving us much
relieved by their absence. They seemed to be, and experience has
proved to us that they are, the most light-hearted, careless, and
happy people in the world. Subsisting upon the wild roots of the
earth, opossums, lizards, snakes, kangaroos, or anything else that is
eatable which happens to fall in their way, they obtain an easy
livelihood, and never trouble themselves with thoughts of the morrow.
They build a new house for themselves every evening; that is, each
family, erects a slight shelter of sticks covered over with bark, or
the tops of the xanthorea, that just keeps off the wind; and with a
small fire at their feet, the master of the family, his wife, or
wives, and children, lie huddled together like a cluster of snakes --
happier than the tenants of downy beds. Far happier, certainly, than
we had lately been in ours. We had, however, devised a new plan for
the next night. Having each of us a hammock, we suspended them from
the rafters; and thus, after the first difficulty and danger of
getting into bed was overcome, we lay beyond the reach of our
formidable enemies, and contrived to sleep soundly and comfortably.
The next morning we breakfasted early. My brothers resolved to try
the effect of the fishing-net, and I myself arranged a shooting
excursion with a lad, whose parents rented a house situated about a
quarter of a mile from our own. We were to go to some lakes a few
miles distant, which abounded with wild ducks and other water-fowl.
Preceded by Fig, and more soberly accompanied by Jezebel, we set out
upon our expedition.
It was the close of the Australian winter, and the temperature was
that of a bright, clear day in England at the end of September. The
air was mild, but elastic and dry; the peppermint and wattle-trees
were gay with white and yellow blossoms; an infinite variety of
flowering shrubs gave to the country the appearance of English
grounds about a goodly mansion; whilst the earth was carpeted with
the liveliest flowers. It was impossible to help being in good
We passed up a valley of white gum-trees, which somewhat resemble the
ash, but are of a much lighter hue. They belong to the eucalyptus
I shot several beautiful parroquets, the plumage of which was chiefly
green; the heads were black, and some of the pinion feathers yellow.
The country presented very little appearance of grass, though
abounding with green scrub; and frequently we passed over denuded
hills of limestone-rock, from which we beheld the sea on one side,
and on the other the vast forest of banksias and eucalypti, that
overspreads the entire country. The river winding among this mass of
foliage, relieved the eye.
After a walk of two hours we approached the lakes of which we were in
search, situated in a flat country, and their margins covered with
tall sedges, it was difficult to obtain a view of the water. Now,
then, we prepared for action. Behind those tall sedges was probably
a brood of water-fowl, either sleeping in the heat of the day, or
carefully feeding in the full security of desert solitude. "Fig! you
villain! what are you about? are you going to rush into the water,
and ruin me by your senseless conduct? I have got you now, and here
you must please to remain quiet. No, you rascal! you need not look
up to me with such a beseeching countenance, whilst you tremble with
impatience, eager to have a share in the sport. You must wait till
you hear my gun. I am now shooting for my dinner, and perhaps for
yours also, if you will condescend to eat duck, and I dare not allow
you the pleasure of putting up the game. You understand all this
well enough, and therefore please to be silent; -- or, observe! I'll
Leaving the boy with the dogs, I began to steal towards the lake,
when I heard his muttered exclamation, and turning round, saw him
crouching to the earth and pointing to the sky. Imitating his
caution, I looked in the direction he pointed out, and beheld three
large birds leisurely making towards the spot we occupied. They were
larger than geese, black, with white wings, and sailed heavily along,
whilst I lay breathlessly awaiting their approach. The dogs were
held down by the boy, and we all seemed equally to feel the awfulness
of the moment. The birds came slowly towards us, and then slanted
away to the right; and then wheeling round and round, they alighted
upon the lake.
Creeping to the sedges, I pushed cautiously through, up to the ankles
in mud and water. How those provoking reeds, three feet higher than
my head, rustled as I gently put them aside! And now I could see
plainly across a lake of several acres in extent. There on the
opposite side, were three black swans sailing about, and occasionally
burying their long necks in the still waters. With gaze riveted upon
that exciting spectacle, I over-looked a myriad of ducks that were
reposing within a few yards of me, and which, having discovered the
lurking danger, began to rise en masse from the lake.
Never before had I seen such a multitude. Struck with amazement, I
stood idly gaping as they rose before me; and after sweeping round
the lake, with a few quacks of alarm, whirled over the trees and
The swans seemed for a moment to catch the general apprehension, and
one of them actually rose out of the water, but after skimming along
the surface for a few yards, he sank down again, and his companions
swam to rejoin him. Gently retreating, I got back upon the dry land,
and motioning the boy to remain quiet, hastened round the lake to its
opposite bank. More cautiously than before I entered the grove of
sedges, and soon beheld two of the swans busily fishing at some
distance from the shore. What had become of the third? There he is,
close to the border of the lake, and only about fifty yards from my
position! My first shot at a swan! -- Now then -- present! fire! --
bang! What a splutter! The shots pepper the water around him. He
tries to rise, He cannot! his wing is broken! Hurrah! hurrah! "Here
Jonathan! Toby! what's your name? here! bring the dogs -- I've hit
him -- I've done for him!
"Fig, Fig! -- O! here you are; good little dog -- good little fellow!
now then, in with you! there he is!"
With a cry of delight, little Fig dashed through the reeds. The
water rushed down his open throat and half-choked him; but he did not
care. Shaking the water out of his nose as he swam, he whimpered
with pleasure, and hurried after the swan which was now slowly making
towards the middle of the lake. Its companions had left it to its
fate. We stood in the water watching the chase. Jezebel, excited
out of all propriety, though she could see nothing of what was going
on, gallopped up and down the bank, with her tail stiff out, tumbling
over the broken boughs which lay there, and uttering every now and
then deep barks that awoke the astonished echoes of the woods.
Sometimes she would make a plunge into the water, splashing us all
over, and then she quickly scrambled out again, her ardour
"Well done, Fig! good little dog! at him again! never mind that rap
on the head from his wing."
Away swam the swan, and Fig after him, incessantly barking.
Had not the noble bird been grievously wounded he would have defied
the utmost exertions of the little spaniel, but as it was, he could
only get for a moment out of the reach of his pursuer by a violent
effort, which only left him more exhausted. And now they approached
the shore; and the swan, hard pressed, turns round and aims a blow
with its bill at the dog.
This Fig managed to elude, and in return made a snap at his enemy's
wing, and obtained a mouthful of feathers; but in revenge he received
on his nose a rap from the strong pinion of the bird that made him
turn tail and fairly yelp with anguish. "Never mind, brave Fig! good
dog! at him again! Bravo -- bravo! good little fellow!" There he
is, once more upon him. And now, master Fig, taught a lesson by the
smart blows he had received, endeavours to assail only the wounded
wing of the swan. It was a very fierce combat, but the swan would
probably have had the best of it had not loss of blood rendered him
faint and weak.
He still fought bravely, but now whenever he missed his adversary,
his bill would remain a moment in the water, as though he had
scarcely strength to raise his head; and as he grew momentarily
weaker and weaker, so Fig waxed more daring and energetic in his
assaults; until at length he fairly seized his exhausted foe by the
neck, and notwithstanding his struggles, and the violent flapping of
his long unwounded wing, began to draw him towards the shore. We
hurried to meet and help him. Jezebel was the first that dashed
breast-high into the water; and seizing a pinion in her strong jaws,
she soon drew both the swan and Fig, who would have died rather than
let go, through the yielding sedges to the land.
The swan was soon dead; and Fig lay panting on the sand, with his
moth open, and looking up to his master as he wagged his tail,
clearly implying, "Did not I do it well, master?" "Yes, my little
dog, you did it nobly. And now you shall have some of this bread, of
Simon's own baking, which I cannot eat myself; and Jonathan and I
will finish this flask of brandy and water."
And now we set out on our return home, anxious to display our trophy
to envious eyes.
As we approached the Cantonment, I discharged my unloaded barrel at a
bird like a thrush in appearance, called a Wattle-bird, from having
two little wattles which project from either side of its head.
The salute was answered by a similar discharge from the Cantonment,
and soon afterwards Meliboeus came running to meet us, preceded by
the blood-hound at full gallop. The dogs greeted one another with
much apparent satisfaction. Little Fig was evidently anxious to
inform his big friend of all that he had done, but Nero was much too
dignified and important to attend to him, and bestowed all his notice
The fishermen had succeeded in catching a dozen mullet, which were
all ready for cooking; and the frying-pan being soon put in
requisition, we were speedily placed at table.
Being still without legitimate knives and forks, the absence of the
latter article was supplied by small forked-sticks, cut from a
neighbouring peppermint tree. Those who did not like cold water
alone were allowed grog; and the entertainment, consisting of fish
and boiled pork (which a few months before we should have considered
an utter abomination), being seasoned with hunger, went off with
The following day we had the swan skinned and roasted, but it
certainly was not nearly so good as a Michaelmas goose.
Nevertheless, it was a change from boiled pork, and we endeavoured to
think it a luxury. Simon had been more successful in his latter
efforts at baking, and, on the whole, things assumed a more
PERTH -- COLONIAL JURIES.
So soon as we were well settled in our new abode, we began to think
of pushing our researches a little farther into the country. We
thought it high time that we visited the capital, and paid our
respects to the Governor. About a mile and a half from our location,
the Fremantle and Perth road crosses the river (which is there about
four hundred yards wide) by a ferry. John-of-the-Ferry, the lessee
of the tolls, the Charon of the passage, is a Pole by birth, who
escaped with difficulty out of the hands of the Russians; and having
the fortune to find an English master, after a series of adventures
entered into the employment of an emigrant, and settled in Western
Australia. He had now become not only the lessee of the ferry, but a
dealer in various small articles, and at the time to which I refer,
was the owner of several Timor ponies. Singular enough for a
horse-dealer and a colonist, John had the reputation of being an
honest man, and his customers always treated him with the utmost
Having learnt his good character, we repaired to his neat,
white-washed cottage on the banks of the river to inspect his stud;
and soon effected a purchase of two of his ponies. These animals,
about thirteen hands high, proved to belong to the swiftest and
hardiest race of ponies in the world. They required no care or
grooming; blessed with excellent appetites, they picked up their food
wherever they could find any, and came night and morning to the door
to receive their rations of barley, oat-meal, bread-crusts, or any
thing that could be spared them. The colony had been supplied with
several cargoes of these ponies from Timor, and they proved extremely
useful so long as there was a scarcity of horses; but afterwards they
became a nuisance, and tended greatly to keep back improvements in
the breed of horses. Pony-stallions suffered to roam at large,
became at length such an evil, that special acts of Council were
passed against them; and as these did not prove of sufficient
efficacy, the animals were sometimes hunted like wild cattle, and
shot with rifles.
It was some amusement to us to break in our small quadrupeds to draw
my light cart; we had brought out tandem-harness; and in a short time
we got up a very fair team. But, alas! there was no pleasure in
driving in that neighbourhood -- the road being only a track of deep
sand. One bright and tempting morning the doctor and myself mounted
our steeds, and leaving our affairs at the castle in the faithful
charge of Meliboeus, wended our way towards the capital of the
colony. The river at the ferry has a picturesque appearance,
precipitous rocks forming its sides, and two bays, a mile apart,
terminating the view on either hand, where the river winds round
The old road to Perth was truly a miserable one, being at least six
inches deep in sand the whole way. It was scarcely possible to see
more than fifty yards ahead of you, so thickly grew the banksia
trees. After crossing the ferry, we lost sight of the river for
several miles, and then diverged from the dismal road by a path which
we had been directed by the ferryman to look out for, and which
brought us to a sandy beach at the bottom of a beautiful bay, called
Freshwater Bay. From this point to the opposite side was a stretch of
several miles, and the broad and winding river, or rather estuary,
with its forest banks, presented a beautiful appearance.
We now ascended from the shore to the high land above. The forest
through which we passed resembled a wild English park; below was the
broad expanse of Melville water, enlivened by the white sails of
several boats on their way from Perth to Fremantle. Farther on, the
mouth of the Canning River opened upon us; and now we could see, deep
below the high and dark hill-side on which we travelled, the narrow
entrance from Melville water into Perth water. At length we obtained
a full view of the picturesquely situated town of Perth.
It stands on the right bank of a broad and crescent-shaped reach of
the river Swan, in an extremely well-chosen locality. The streets
are broad; and those houses which are placed nearest to the river,
possess, perhaps, the most luxuriant gardens in the world. Every
kind of fruit known in the finest climates is here produced in
perfection. Grapes and figs are in profuse abundance; melons and
peaches are no less plentiful, and bananas and plantains seem to
rejoice in the climate as their own.
The town has a never-failing supply of fresh water from a chain of
swamps at the back, and the wells fed by them are never dry. Many of
the houses are well built -- brick having long since superseded the
original structure of wood -- and possess all the usual comforts of
In the principal street, most of the houses stand alone, each
proprietor having a garden, or paddock of three quarters of an acre
in extent, about his dwelling. The great misfortune of the town is,
that the upper portion of it is built upon sand, which is many feet
deep. The streets, not being yet paved, are all but impassable; but
happily, each possesses a good foot-path of clay, and it is to be
hoped that the cart-ways will ere long be similarly improved. Sydney
was originally in the state that Perth presents now; but there the
natural unfavourableness of the soil has been entirely overcome.
Increasing wealth and population will ere long do as much for us.
It is not until we reach Guildford, eight miles farther inland than
Perth, that the stratum of sand ceases, and a cold and marly clay
succeeds, which reaches to the foot of the Darling range of hills,
and extends many miles down the coast.
The banks of the Swan River, as well as of the Canning and most other
rivers of the colony, contain many miles of rich alluvial soil,
capable of growing wheat sufficient for the support of a large
population. Many of these flats have produced crops of wheat for
sixteen years successively, without the aid of any kind of manure.
It must, however, be owned, that a very slovenly system of farming
has been generally pursued throughout the colony; and, in fact, is
commonly observable in all colonies. The settlers are not only apt
to rely too much upon the natural productiveness of the soil, but
they are in general men whose attention has only lately been turned
to agriculture, and who are almost entirely ignorant of practical
farming in its most important details. The Agricultural Society of
Western Australia has for some years exerted itself to improve this
state of things, and has in some measure succeeded.
It must be observed that with the exception of the rich flats of the
Swan and Canning rivers, the vast extent of country between the coast
and the Darling Hills is a miserable region, scarcely more valuable
for the purposes of cultivation than the deserts of Africa, except
where occasional swamps appear like oases, and tempt the hardy
settler to found a location. As all the worst land of the colony
lies unfortunately near the coast, those who visit only the port and
capital usually leave the country with a very unfavourable and a very
erroneous impression of its real character.
It is not until the granite range of the Darling Hills is passed
over, that the principal pastoral and agricultural districts are
found. There are the farm settlements, the flocks, and herds of the
colony. From the Victoria plains north of Toodyay, for hundreds of
miles to the southward, comprising the fertile districts of Northam,
York, Beverley, the Dale and the Hotham, is found a surface of stiff
soil, covered over with straggling herbage, and many varieties of
trees and shrubs. But I am travelling too fast: I must pause for
the present at Perth.
Circumstances determined me to take up my residence there, instead of
accompanying the rest of my party into the interior, as I had
originally intended. I liked the appearance and situation of the
town; and I liked the people generally. And here I may state, with
many kindly feelings, that never was a more united or cordial society
than that of the town of Perth, with its civil and military officers,
and its handful of merchants. No political or religious differences
have hitherto disturbed its harmony; nor have there yet been
introduced many of those distinctions which may be necessary and
unavoidable in large communities, but which, though generally to be
met with in all societies, are not only lamentable but highly
ridiculous in small out-of-the-way colonies. Such divisions,
however, must be apprehended even here in progress of time, and the
period will come when we shall look back with regret to those days
when we were all friends and associates together, and when each
sympathized with the fortunes of his neighbour. The kindly feeling
which thus held society together, was ever manifested at the death of
one of its members. Then not only the immediate connexions of the
deceased attended his funeral, but every member of his circle, and
many also of the lower classes. It has more than once happened that
a young man has fallen a victim to his rashness and nautical
inexperience, and met with an untimely fate whilst sailing on
Melville water. I myself twice narrowly escaped such a calamity, as
perhaps I may hereafter narrate. Every boat belonging to the place
is immediately engaged in search of the body, and many of the boatmen
freely sacrifice their time and day's wages in the pursuit. And when
at length the object of that melancholy search is discovered, and the
day of the funeral has arrived, the friends, companions, neighbours,
and fellow-townsmen of the deceased assemble at the door of his late
residence, to pay the last testimonies of sympathy and regret for him
who has, in that distant colony, no nearer relative to weep at his
grave. It is a long procession that follows the corpse to its home,
passing with solemn pace through the else deserted streets, and
emerging into the wild forest which seems almost to engulph the town;
and then pursuing the silent and solitary path for a mile until, on
the summit of a hill, surrounded by dark ever-green foliage, appears
the lonesome burial-ground. Ah! how little thought the tenant of
that insensible body, late so full of life and vigour, that here he
should so soon be laid, far from the tombs of his family, far from
the home of his parents, to which his thoughts had so constantly
recurred! I do not think any one ever witnessed the interment in
that solitary place of one whom perhaps he knew but slightly when
living, without feeling in himself a sensation of loneliness, as
though a cold gust from the open grave had blown over him. It is
then we think most of England and home -- and of those who though
living are dead to us.
But these are only transient emotions; they are idle and unavailing,
so away with them!
I shall now proceed to give an account of my first appearance before
a colonial public. Some of the crew of our vessel, exasperated by
the conduct of the captain, who refused to allow them any liberty on
shore after their long voyage, and encouraged and even led on by the
chief mate, had broken into the store-room, and consumed a quantity
of spirits and other stores. Now as we had been most shabbily
treated by the miserly and ruffian captain, and as the stores thus
stolen had been paid for by the passengers, and withheld from them
upon the voyage (stolen, in fact, by the captain himself), we were
delighted with the robbery, and extremely sorry to hear that the
chief mate had been committed to prison for trial as the principal
offender. In fact, the captain thought proper to wink at the conduct
of the others, as he could not afford to part with any more of his
crew. The General Quarter Sessions drew nigh, and the day before
they commenced I received a kind of petition from the prisoner,
entreating me to aid him at this pinch, as he had not a friend in
that part of the world, and would inevitably be ruined for what he
considered rather a meritorious action -- taking vengeance on the
stinginess of the captain. Though I did not see exactly of what
benefit I could be to him, I repaired to the court-house on the day
of trial. It was crowded with people, as such places always are when
prisoners are to be tried; and as I had met at dinner most of the
magistrates on the Bench, I did not much like the idea of making my
first public appearance before them as a friend of the gentleman in
the dock, who had improperly appropriated the goods of his employer.
The amiable desire, however, of paying off old scores due to the
captain, annihilated every other feeling; and when the prisoner, on
being asked whether he was guilty or not guilty of the felony laid to
his charge, instead of answering, cast his imploring eyes upon me, as
though I knew more of the business than himself, I could not refrain
from advancing towards the table occupied by the counsel and
solicitors, and asking permission of the bench to give my valuable
assistance to the prisoner. This being graciously accorded, the
mate, with a most doleful countenance, and a very unassured voice,
made answer to the plain interrogative of the Clerk of Arraigns --
"Not guilty, my Lord."
Whilst the prosecutor was being examined by the Advocate General, I
conned over the indictment with a meditative countenance, but without
being able to see my way in the least. The captain, scowling
atrociously at me and my persecuted friend, gave his evidence with
the bitterest animosity. He proved his losses, and the facts of the
store-room door having been broken open, and the prisoner and most of
the sailors being found drunk by him on his repairing one evening to
the vessel. It now became my turn to ask questions, as
Prisoner's Counsel. Your ship, Captain W., is commonly called a
Temperance ship, is it not?
Captain (after a ferocious stare). I should think you knew that.
P. Counsel. And being a temperance ship, you do not allow the men,
at any time, any other liquor than water?
P. Counsel. In temperance ships, I suppose it sometimes happens that
the men contrive to buy liquor for themselves?
Captain (looking like a bull about to charge a matadore). Boo!
P. Counsel. Do you remember the day we were off Madeira?
Captain stares and snorts.
P. Counsel. Do you remember on that day several of the sailors being
remarkably light-headed -- reeling about the deck?
Captain (roaring, and striking the table with his hand). Yes!
P. Counsel. Was this the effect of a 'coup de soleil', do you think?
P. Counsel. Very well. Do you remember, whilst we were on the Line,
the second-mate being in your cabin helping Mrs. W. to stow away some
things in the lazarette, and both being found afterwards extremely
unwell, and obliged to be taken to bed?
Chairman (interfering). I think the witness need not answer that question.
Advocate General. I should have made the same objection, Sir, but --
(aside) I was laughing too much.
P. Counsel. Very well, Sir. I will not press it if it be
disagreeable. Do you remember at St. Jago the whole of the crew
being every day notoriously drunk -- from eating water-melons?
Captain (recovering from an apoplectic fit). Ah-h!
P. Counsel. Do you remember, when off the Cape, the sail-maker and
several others being unable to do their duty, and being pronounced by
the doctor to be in a state of liquor?
P. Counsel. Then, as it appears that on board of a temperance ship,
men do occasionally (and in your vessel very often) get drunk, might
not the prisoner at the time of his alleged offence have been
drinking other liquor than that which formed part of your stores?
Chairman (the Captain being too full of rage to articulate). The
jury will be able to draw their own inference as to that.
Captain. It was he, gentlemen; it was this -- gentleman (forsooth --
ha! ha!) who gave the men money on landing in order to make them
P. Counsel. Thank you for that evidence. The intelligent gentlemen
in the box will perceive that it was at my expense that the
unfortunate prisoner got drunk, and not at the captain's.
The prosecutor was now permitted to retire, which he did growling
like a bear, amid the jeers of the populace, who always sympathize
with misfortune when it appears impersonated in the dock.
The jury were also evidently in high glee, and cast most friendly
looks at the prisoner, and the 'fidus Achates' who stood up for him
The next witness was the sail-maker, who reluctantly owned himself to
have aided the prisoner in drinking some brandy which had come from
the ship's stores.
P. Counsel. But, Sails, you do not mean to say that the prisoner
told you he had himself taken it from the ship's stores?
Witness. Oh no, Sir, certainly not.
P. Counsel. In fact, of your own knowledge, you do not know where
the liquor came from?
Witness. No, Sir; oh, no, Sir!
Here the Advocate-General administered such a lecture to the witness,
who was considerably more than half-drunk at the time, that he
entirely lost his wits and memory, and answered so completely at
random, that the jury begged he might not be asked any more questions.
Advocate General. It is of no importance. I shall call no more
witnesses, as I hold in my hand the prisoner's own confession, made
before the committing magistrate, who was yourself, Mr. Chairman.
This was a knock-down blow to me, and made the jury look extremely
blank. They gazed on one another in despair. The document was duly
proved, and the case for the prosecution closed. The chairman asked
if I wished to address the jury, but I declined, and observed that
the prisoner must explain for himself what he meant by this
extraordinary confession. Every thing seemed dead against the
prisoner, who hung his head and looked remarkably simple. I read
over the paper, which stated that he, the prisoner, with several
others, on a certain day took a quantity of the captain's brandy, and
got drunk thereupon.
A ray of hope beamed upon me. I started up, and the jury
instinctively began to brighten; they had given up the prisoner as
lost, and now they were ready to catch at a straw. I addressed the
unfortunate "You state here, that you took the captain's brandy with
certain of the sailors. Do you mean by that, you 'partook' of the
brandy which other sailors were drinking?"
Prisoner (balbutiant). I -- I -- ye -- ye --
P. Counsel. What do you really mean, Sir, by this written document?
Do you mean to say that you yourself took this brandy, or that you
partook of it with others?
Prisoner. Yes, Sir, -- that I partook of it.
P. Counsel. Then, gentlemen of the jury, this document does not
convict the unfortunate man at the bar; and what appears like an
admission of guilt is only to be attributed to his imperfect mode of
expressing himself. He admits that he partook of certain brandy
stated to be the captain's, which the captain, himself, however,
would lead you to suppose had been provided by me. The witness who
has been examined throws no further light upon the matter; and though
the prisoner himself has admitted that he partook of liquor which he
believed belonged to the captain, that admission does not convict him
under the present indictment, which charges him with having
"feloniously taken and carried away," etc.
The jury were evidently delighted with this construction; and the
people in the gallery and body of the court could scarcely be
restrained from giving three cheers.
The chairman recapitulated the evidence, and left the matter in the
hands of the jury, who jostled one another out of the box, and
retired to "consider their verdict." As they passed through the
ante-room to the apartment in which they usually held their solemn
deliberations, they caught up a bucket of water which the bailiff of
the court generally kept at hand for thirsty counsel or magistrates;
and as soon as they had decently secluded themselves, and indulged in
a genial fit of merriment, the foreman produced a bottle of brandy
from his pocket, and seizing the pannikin which floated in the
bucket, poured forth a good libation, and drank "towards all
present." Each juryman in turn then drank the health of the foreman.
After that, they all drank the prisoner's health; and as one of the
number afterwards assured me, they would have conscientiously toasted
the prisoner's counsel, but the liquor unfortunately failed.
The foreman then said, "Come, my lads, there's no more left, so we
may as well go back again." So they jostled one another out of the
room, and with composed countenances returned to the court, where
they were ostentatiously conducted to their box by the sheriff's
officer amid loud cries of "Silence in the court! silence there!"
Their names having been called over, the Clerk of Arraigns asked the
usual question, "Have you considered your verdict, gentlemen?"
"Not guilty!" interrupted the foreman, as if he feared lest the
prisoner should be convicted in spite of the jury.
"How say you," continued the clerk, "is the prisoner at the bar
guilty or not guilty?"
"Not guilty!" cried the whole jury to a man; and amid thunders of
acclamations the prisoner was released from the dock, and turned out
of court, where he was seized upon by a multitude of sympathizers,
and carried in triumph to the next public-house. There he spent the
ensuing four-and-twenty hours, the hero of the day.
In this slight sketch I am conscious that I have only been able to
convey to the reader a very faint idea of
A COLONIAL JURY.
BOATING UP THE RIVER.
Whilst I was making acquaintances at Perth, my brothers, mounted on
our Timor steeds, were making a tour of inspection beyond the Darling
Hills. They fixed at length upon a farm at York, with about three
thousand acres belonging to it, and having a good farm-house, with
excellent barn and out-buildings attached. This evinced a more
comfortable and luxurious state of things than they had anticipated,
and they returned in high spirits to head-quarters.
It now became necessary to consider how the various goods and
utensils were to be conveyed to the new settlement, which was seventy
miles distant from Fremantle. We sold most of our flour and pork at
a fair profit, and left by far the greater part of the other articles
which we had brought out with us to be sold by a commission agent, as
From various causes, but chiefly from our own ignorance in selecting
our goods in London, we lost a considerable sum upon the things we
had brought out. Emigrants, unless they are men of great experience,
should bring all their capital to a colony in bills or specie, and