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2-324 (Raw)

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author,male,Harris, Alexander,42 addressee
ns1:discourse_type
Narrative Discourse
Word Count :
15333
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ns1:register
Public Written
ns1:texttype
Narratives
ns1:localityName
http://dbpedia.org/resource/New_South_Wales
Created:
1847
Identifier
2-324
Source
Harris, 1847
pages
96-129
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81451
Identifier
2-324-raw.txt
Title
2-324#Raw
Type
Raw

2-324-raw.txt — 79 KB

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<source><g=m><o=b><age=42><status=3><abode=22><p=nsw><r=pcw><tt=nv><2-324>
Chapter X
TRIPS TO THE NOR'ARD
Yahoos - A half-crazy settler - False alarm - Ruin and death of a settler - Destruction of a flock at sheep-washing by a flood - The flood in the brush - Boating on a plank in the night - Expedient for crossing the river - Rafting cedar down on the flood - Self and mate turning dealers - Drinking-scene - Failure of timber and return to the "home" farm - More books bought - A coasting-craft bought - Universality of nicknames - Capital fall of timber - Our mode of life in the brush - Dangers and hardships of the occupation - Bird's-eye view of our hut and work - Death of my mate's mother, and return to the "home" farm
SAWYERS are unavoidably a wandering race in new countries. When the lot of timber required by the settler for his buildings is furnished, or when the local bush where the contract with a timber merchant is cut becomes exhausted of sound profitable trees, the sawyer must shift his camp. Ours was the former predicament: no further order for the sort of stuff it suited us to cut could be obtained just there; and house-stuff we neither of us liked working on.
At this time the cedar-cutting was going on at a great rate to "the Nor'ard" of Sydney, on river, one of the tributaries of the Hunter. Thither at length we resolved to proceed, taking with us, by one of the boats that went as far up the stream as it was navigable, our own provisions; and so to set in on the best fall of cedar we could find on government ground near the river bank, and cut away till our stock of provisions was exhausted; then bring the plank we had got up to Sydney and sell it on our own account. And this, after certain leave takings, we accordingly did; taking with us, moreover, a free man whom we knew to be a hard-working chap as a labourer, to fall trees with the axe, build the pits, clear the roads through the brush, bring out the plank, give us help at heavy lifts, and afford us the needful assistance in all those other difficulties which render cedar-cutting too heavy for only a pair of men. We found a good many pair on the river before us: still we got a very good fall of timber; for it was a capital brush: the trees plentiful, of the best size, of an excellent species for the cabinetmaker, and very good cutters. Some kinds of this timber cut so woolly, that working in deep cuts is most laborious; the saw clinging in the cut through the woolliness of the inside, so that it is impossible to move it up or down with any impetus. [97] As the loss of impetus in the descending stroke renders necessary the application of much more personal strength, such timber is quite the dread of sawyers. Ours this time were fine crisp-cutting trees; and our work went off from the first as light and cheerful as it could do.
The river, on the banks of which we now were, rises and for a long distance winds to and fro among the mountains of the county of Durham: at length it falls into the Hunter, not a great way from the mouth of that stream. It is now well settled; but at the time we were there spoiling it of its cedar, only here and there amidst the lonely wilderness was there to be found a settler's farm or stockman's hut. The blacks were occasionally, but not often, troublesome. The stories they used to tell us about the brush thereabouts being haunted by a great tall animal like a man with his feet turned backwards, of much greater, however, than the human stature, and covered with hair, and perpetually making a frightful noise as he wandered about alone, made me sometimes doubt whether they were themselves really terrified, or were merely endeavouring to scare us away; but I very strongly incline to the latter opinion. Be it as it may, there was no such consequence. We were too well used to that lonely tree-guarded silence, broken only by the clink of the rising saw, and to the damp unsunned ground, with its thick brown covering of thousandfold rotting rustling leaves, to have any very important new sensations to acquire hereabouts. Tree after tree went crashing down before our labourer's axe, and breaking a broad opening to the sky around its stump; and pile after pile of square red plank arose in welcome transformation on the spot, as our saw did its duty; and road after road stretched straight away from the piles of cedar to the river's edge, which as yet ran shallow and full of shoals and falls. Our nearest neighbour of the settler genus was a strange eccentric old sea captain. Apparently when he first commenced settler he had plenty of money, with part of which he had bought a herd of cattle. Wherever he went his sword was his inseparable companion - he walked about flourishing it at the trees all day long. He had, however, more reason for guarding himself from his own people than from any one else; for his overseer was all the time branding lots of his young cattle in his own name, whilst the old gentleman gave him credit for being one of the most honest, trustworthy fellows on the earth. [98]
The finale may be supposed - he was soon without a feather to fly with. On the other side we had an old major of the army, who, I believe, had a family, and was very poor. I heard that when he first took possession of his land he was very well off; but had impoverished himself greatly, as gentlemen settlers so very often do, by expending their capital on everything but that which really wants doing. They wish to make a complete farm at once, and spare no cost to do so: consequently great paddocks are fenced in before there is any stock that needs them; large pieces are cleared, and next to nothing cropped; cottages with verandahs are built, and the barn and the dairy neglected; and even carriage walks are laid out for carriages, whose mere existence is among the most improbable of dreams. A more melancholy lesson than that furnished by the abovementioned two gentlemen and their next neighbour down the river could not be formed by imagination itself.
At length we had exhausted all our provisions, and were obliged to buy of our better supplied companions, whilst we got down to the water's edge, whence it was to be rafted, all the plank we had cut. But the flood which was necessary to float our raft over the falls and shallows came not: so with no little reluctance we took another month's provisions into the brush and set to again. This time our pit was close to the river's side, on a slightly elevated space of perhaps half an acre. For a few days more nothing of any moment occurred, until at length the flood came. Those who have not witnessed one of them can form but an inadequate idea of it from description. The Australian rivers often rise twelve, twenty, and, I think I have heard, some even thirty feet in a few hours. When this happens in the night, a place may be surrounded, perhaps with deep water, before any one is aware of his danger. A little while before I came to England, I heard of a gentleman who had taken up one of the streams beyond Liverpool Plains a large purchase of sheep, and setting himself down on a slightly rising ground on the bank, got up his buildings and went on for some time quite unconscious of the imminent danger he was in. At length a sudden and heavy flood came on, and he was surrounded by the backwater in the hollows before he was aware. Gradually the vast deluge closed in upon him: he got up into a tree, whence, after passing many hours without food, under alternate rain and violent sunshine, he was rescued, as the waters subsided, only to die bereft of reason. These overwhelming floods are looked for annually or half-yearly, and in some seasons come even oftener still. [99] Though they do not do so much damage to life as might be expected, the injury they do to property is immense. Not long since, in the sheep. washing time, I witnessed the destruction of a flock of sheep worth full 500£ in this way. They were camped for the night after washing, and until they should get dry, on the large clean pebbles of a dry part of the bed of the creek where they had been washed. In the night it thundered heavily, and the storm burst in the mountains; down came the flood without an instant's warning, and was eight or ten feet deep in as many minutes, sweeping sheep and hurdles away together and scattering them over the inundated plains below.
Similar in kind, though not so deeply disastrous, was the adventure that next awaited us in the brush. When we went to bed at night in our little tent hut, we left the fire in front cheerfully blazing with the pink lambent flame that so beautifully flickers from the green cedar in combustion. Our tools and cooking utensils lay strewed as usual within and just without the hut, or hung on the lower branches of the saplings close about the fire. Our bed, if indeed a sawyer's accommodations in that respect can be called a bed, extended across the inner end of the hut, on four or five of our outside slabs laid on a cross head log and another foot log, each about six inches thick; where, by the bye, it may not be quite inappropriate to remark, that they used to get so damp, or, more correctly, wet, from the moisture of the perfectly soddened ground, not 10 inches off, that if held to the fire they would steam like a copper for a good half hour. I always imagined that after an attempt to dry them at the fire, they felt thrice as wet as otherwise. Every thing was just as usual when we went to bed; the book I had been reading by the light of the fire after I had lain down, I had deposited on the edge of the planks at my side; I went to sleep with my eyes fixed on the fire, to a lullaby I had got pretty well used to, - R-'s composed bass snore. The day had been sunny, and the night was temperate and still; there was, in short, no indication whatever where we were of falling weather. Some such, however, there must have been somewhere, for about an hour after midnight I was disturbed by R- shaking me, and felt on the instant of waking a most unforgetable sensation - I felt as if I were lying stretched on a cold dungheap. Wide awake in a moment, I could see by the light of a small flame that was still playing about an elevated part of the wood at the fire, water in the hut and out of the hut. [100] Before I could take a second look, my mate jumped over me and was in it nearly knee-deep and wading out of the hut. No sooner was he there than he put his head in again, shouting, "Be alive, mate; it's coming down as hard as it can come; it'll be over our heads in half an hour." Out I sprang; my shoes were gone; I had left them at the front of the hut, and probably they had floated off among the very first things, my straw hat also bearing them company. My clothes were safe, for I had put them under my head - they are the bushman's pillow; but they were so wet that putting them on was like getting in among the clothes in a washing tub. By this time our little remnant of fire was nearly gone: R- , who was more used to such adventures than I, had floated up to the hut a very large flat plank of cedar, which, green as it may be, always swims well; and on it he placed the little live charcoal that remained, freshening and feeding it with some dry stuff from the roof of the hut. By his direction I waded across to the pit, and drawing the saw, which the torrent was already sweeping against and bending, out of the cut, I hung it up, and the cross-cut saw with it, as high in a tree as I could reach, to be fetched at our leisure. Our remaining provisions being on the ground were all spoiled, we knew; but the blankets we got out; the bed we left, for it was of wool, and wet as it was would have sunk us. Drawing our plank up to a tree we got on it, sitting with the fire between us; the current was so strong, even amidst the thick brush where we were, that it was all we could do together to hold on to a sapling apiece and to keep our plank from being swept away. Where we were no dead timber of any size could be swept against us; but we could hear it striking together, and grinding and crashing in the' river a few yards off. The little light we had dazzled our eyes so that the sky seemed a vast dark void. The rats swam boldly up and got on the plank with us, and numbers of spiders and centipedes, guided no doubt by the fire, were crawling in all directions over both us and it. In this state we had to continue at least three good hours; then day began to dawn. We knew we were rising by getting more and more near the branches, but we had no notion how deep the water had become around us. Our fire was out for want of fuel; and as the deep obscurity of the brush began to be dissolved by the dawn, we could discern no vestige of our hut; and presently, when the light so far increased that we could see as far as the pit, we discovered that the water was up to the bottom of the log that was on, so that there was about 6.5 feet depth. [101] Although it was now light we were nearly as bad off as ever. The sounds of such a deluge in the night, in the midst of the brush, are certainly cowing to the spirits; but one knows so well that the danger, except from actual drowning, is next to nothing, and there are such plentiful means for escaping by getting up the trees, that after all it makes no very serious impression. The loneliness and fear of starving were what most affected me: we could not tell but it might last for many days; and as long as it lasted there seemed no hope of getting across the river. On this side we were so surrounded by brush, that any attempt to get our plank through to the high ground was out of the question, and it was much too deep to wade. The raw chilly air of the morning and the water together made me shiver until I was quite sick, and my mate was not much better. We both of us felt that to continue exposed thus, without food, would soon wear us out, so that we should not be able to make an effort to save ourselves by swimming the river. In this undecided and helpless state we passed the time until nearly noon, the water rising higher and higher. A thought struck me at last, that the overhanging boughs of the trees on opposite sides of the river meeting in the middle, we might, by holding on to them, prevent ourselves from being swept away whilst we floated our plank across; and then about 100 yards would bring us across the flat on the other side, which was of forest timber, not brush, to the foot of the range. This, as my mate suggested, was all very well until we came to be across the river, but then we should be worse than ever. The stream was so strong on the forest land, and the trees so far apart, that we should neither be able to paddle across nor pull ourselves on by hand from tree to tree. All this was clearly but too true; what to do we knew not; but we concluded the chance was better on the other side than where we were, so, as far as we could, we put our plan into execution, which was a matter of very little difficulty. What followed has been a memento to me ever since never to despair. The inundated flat at the part where we reached it was several hundred feet wide, but we immediately noticed that about a quarter of a mile farther down there was a creek with trees all along it running from a gap in the range to the river. Letting ourselves down the edge of the river from tree to tree, we then made our way up the creek in the same manner, and reached the high land as heartily pleased with our escape as men could be; but so tired of the uneasy saddle on which we had now been for many hours, and our legs so be-numbed that we actually could not stand on them, but crawled up the range to the high road on our knees. [102] I was not well for years afterwards; indeed, I attribute to the wet and cold of this night an illness I had long subsequently. If I were to say I have never been entirely well since, I should not misstate the fact, and I know of no other cause which I could suppose to have brought about so suddenly this change for the worse in a constitution hitherto uninjured.
As soon as we got to rights we set off down the river to where our cedar was stacked for rafting. In the brush we knew all was flooded away but the saws and the iron tools which would not swim. But we had no apprehensions of any further loss. To our great vexation we found that the man who had drawn the plank had stacked it so that nearly one-half of it was carried away. A few planks only which had got jammed close at hand we recovered; these with what remained at the stack we got down into the water as soon as it was sufficiently abated, and forming it into a raft sent it down the stream to the boat by a good hand at the work, who lost only a single plank by the way. Knowing nobody would meddle with our saws, and having nothing else of value in the brush, we did not go back to the pit, but proceeded to Sydney with our stuff. We could only take about a third part by the first boat, but gave authority to the skippers of two other crafts to bring the rest. The whole arrived in Port Jackson about a fortnight after ourselves. Our total gain was a little over 301. a-piece.
With that elasticity of spirit which attends a labouring life, we soon forgot our loss; and nothing else more profitable offering, we prepared for our return. It is no rare thing for a sawyer to abandon his tools under such circumstances as ours were if some more advantageous job presents itself to him whilst away. Our "spell" meantime was spent very pleasantly with our friends at - . It was now as much my home as R-'s, and I have often thought since we were if possible even more like brothers than we have been since. Whilst I was at - , M-'s eldest brother came down the country with cattle; and although nearly twenty years older than my mate, and therefore much older than myself, I liked him very well. There are very few Australians that one can dislike. A general manly spirit and fairness of feeling characterize all except a few bullies of the very lowest class, and a few pampered half idiots of the very highest. [103] In my new and increasingly esteemed friend M - a great and evident improvement had taken place; and it is but fair and reasonable to suppose a similar improvement would take place under similar circumstances in the whole body of the Australian females. She had read all the books I left behind to such purpose that there was no part of any of them that I happened to mention on reading them subsequently but she immediately recollected. In a country where no letters pass to and fro, at least in the rank of life in which we were, such a change in a friend's mind and general character is very observable. I must say I felt a little mortified to find myself so much less benefited. Certainly I had had less leisure, and that which I had had was generally in hours of weariness and exhaustion. Among the incomplete volumes was a small 12mo. book of Algebra. This had greatly excited my curiosity - perhaps I should give the feeling some more respectable name. It was not merely the desire to know what the book was about, but to know that about which the book treated. A gentleman settler near had a schoolmaster for his children who had the reputation of being a very good scholar. He was a prisoner moreover. To him I applied, and for a little remuneration the poor fellow came every evening and gave me instruction in the science in question. He took so much pains with me, and explained everything initiatory so clearly, that by the time we set off to the nor'ard again I was advanced sufficiently to go on by myself. Not to forestall my narrative in any other respect, I cannot but remark that I found it a never-failing field for the most exalted exercise of the mind. It also gave me habits of steady attention, self-possession in thought, and voluntary consciousness, that have been of great service to me since in surmounting difficulties in business, as well as in steadily adhering to the line of the necessary and useful in carrying out my purposes at large.
Matters of this kind will interest the reader of course but little in comparison with the transactions and manners of Australian life. I therefore return to my history. R- and I resolved to take on this second trip a large quantity of provisions beyond what we anticipated using ourselves, and exchange them with the sawyers near us for plank. I think our invoice from Messrs. and Co, to whom we gave the order, was some little over 100£. Our stock consisted of rum, tobacco, tea, sugar, various kinds of ready-made clothing, and clothing material unmade, together with a few files, knives, razors, &c.; we got them all in safety by water and by land to the brush; and after one of those wretched, senseless jollifications at the edge of the brush which sawyers will have whenever they can get rum, we moved into the brush, collected our tools and the wreck of our cooking utensils, built a fresh and better hut of cedar slabs, stowed our goods, and went to work again. [104] Our goods sold very well, and we again fell upon very fair cluster of trees. The work went on as usual, and we this time got the whole of the plank safe to Sydney. We made 69£ odd a-piece by the lot of cedar, and cleared about 40£ a-piece by the goods. All this was in about five months, which we considered very good work. One incident only of a much more unpleasant than unusual character marks this period: a lot of sawyers from various pits had met at the old sea captain's farm, where a large cask of brandy had arrived. After letting them drink very freely he took it into his head not to let them have any more. This at first they would not submit to; but the old gentleman, who by the bye was not at all behindhand with them in their own way, showed such very strong symptoms of using his sword and pistols that they thought best to decamp. A council of war was then held, and some one suggesting that I and my mate had a lot of rum still left, down they came in a body to the amount of about twelve or fifteen. At first we did not much heed the shouting and shrieking in every tone and dialect from that of cockneyism to that of the Irish province which is commonly said to be a mile beyond his Satanic majesty's residence; but it came nearer and nearer and nearer. At last it crossed the river, and came up our road through the brush; and by the time we were out at the fire in our shirts the whole corps debouched before us: some wore check shirts, some wore woollen; some were in red ones, and some in blue, and some in none at all; some had straw hats, some Scotch caps, some old working skull-caps, some nothing but their own shock heads of hair; some had sticks in their hands, some the ration-bags they had been to get filled, some the axe they had been sharpening at the grindstone, and some three or four ribs of salted beef for tomorrow's dinner; some sung, some yelled, some said nothing, but the one unanimous demand was the remainder of our stock of rum. All my remonstrances were ineffectual. I was told at last that if I did not give it they would take it, and put me on the fire for a back-log. Of course further parley was useless; I brought it out, and they set to at it with all the panikins they could muster. [105] R- , whose habituation to such emergencies from his infancy rendered him much more a match for them than I was, employed himself in getting hold of every vessel full that he could and pouring it out unobserved on the ground; and as they were filling only pint and quart pots this proceeding soon lowered their stock; and by sunrise it was all gone. They then gradually began to disperse: a couple, however, took possession of our bed and slept all day; and after having their supper with us at night went home. Such affairs are pretty well understood to be only jokes, and no ill will is allowed to be borne about them afterwards. We took nothing for the liquor, though several offered to pay their "whack". I could not reconcile it to my conscience to take any payment for it, for it would not do to tell them how it had been disposed of; and unless we had let them pay for what they had not had, that seemed unavoidable. There was likewise another reason of a more serious and painful character. One of the topmen was a sad brutal fellow when intoxicated; and in going home he quarrelled with his pitman and gave him a blow from which he never recovered. The poor fellow had first to leave off work, then to go to the settlement and put himself under the doctor's hands, and at last, after lingering a few weeks, died. I almost felt as if his blood was on my head, and from that day forth have never either sold or given to anybody spirituous liquors of any kind. My own consolation was that they had taken it by force; and that they had done so while in a state in which I would never have furnished them with it of my own free will. Such unhappy events will happen to the most guarded. If, when they do occur, we take them up heartily as cautions, we do all that it can fairly be said we could do.
As long as the trees continued tolerably plentiful in this brush we continued in it, sending freights to Sydney and getting back goods of various sorts for sale; but when good timber began to grow scarce, and we found ourselves obliged to make a fresh pit to almost each tree we cut, and even these few were very small, we resolved to shift at once. Many of the more restless spirits were off before us to the Manning river, still farther north, and fresh accounts came daily to those who remained of the richness of the brushes in that part of the country. Stray hands wandering back were already dropping in every now and then at some of our pits for a few days' "bange" (rest) on their way to Sydney, or back again from Sydney to the Manning brushes, after selling their loads and spending their money. [106] During the period that had elapsed from our return to the brush and our leaving it finally, we Cleared about 60£ a-piece by the sale of goods after paying freight and allowing for losses, and, as may be supposed, bad debts - not scarce among such customers any more than in other parts of this our habitable globe. Several ran away without paying us: from most we had to take cedar in payment. But this latter circumstance was advantageous rather than otherwise, as we made a timber-merchant's profit on the cedar also. Barter properly conducted is always the most beneficial species of commerce, as you get a gain both on the article you sell originally, and a second in the commodity you have received in payment. Besides our gain in these transactions we cleared about 40£ a-piece by our second lot of timber. This was very little comparatively with what it would have been but for the increasing scarcity of trees for the last three months of the time. I heard of one pair of sawyers in this brush during its best days, who cut 35£ worth of plank in a fortnight - this was nearly 91. a-week each man. But they were both first-rate workmen and very strong; one an Irishman, and the other of American negro descent; and I believe there was a sort of rivalry of strength and hardihood between them, and they were trying which could knock up the other: these feats are the chief ambition of sawyers. A few miles below us on the river were a great many little settlers: we used to stop at their farms in going to Sydney or Maitland; and strange as our habits in the brush were, some of theirs, I used to think, were stranger still. At least we had neither wife nor children to care for; but they not unfrequently had large families. Several times I have known a dealing boat come up to a farm on the bank of the stream just after the new wheat was threshed out, and before it left have the whole on board in exchange for rum. I have sometimes seen attempts to represent the majority of the small settlers of New South Wales as of this character. Such, however, is decidedly the reverse of the truth, and must have been the representation of either some superficial tourist, or of one of those individuals (a much larger number than is usually supposed) who have published accounts of this colony to subserve the designs of their party on public and legislative opinion in England.
We were not long in Sydney before we were again out of it on our way to . Our friends received us joyfully; but my mate's father and mother were evidently both of them breaking fast. [107] The old man still worked on the ground, but Mrs. was become quite bedridden and nearly blind. M - attended her with a ceaseless, quiet watchfulness. It was as if the mother and child had changed places: the parent was all unconsciousness, weakness, want; the daughter vigilance, activity, and love. I have often thought that I perceived that the roughest men have the gentlest hearts: my mate furnished me with another fact. When R- , who by the bye was the favourite, being the youngest, saw what his sister was become to his mother, he seemed for some time unable to comprehend it; but at last, after some time, he quite understood it, and, in singular variation of his usual custom, he took her in his arms and hugged her. The power of love is very wonderful. Here was a man nearly six feet high, and as strong as a young ox, with the tears running down his cheeks over an old woman and a girl. If, a little while before, as he went through the town of - , any acquaintance had proposed it to him by way of recreation, he would have pulled off his jacket and fought for a couple of hours. Goodness has certainly more tendency to beautify the countenance than we give it credit for in our daily scheme of cause and effect. Though I do not easily go in ecstasies, I could not help loving M - more than ever. The books, too, seemed to have done wonders for her; so I resolved, after we had been at home a few days, to go to Sydney and buy a good collection. My former purchase I had read till I knew them almost by heart. It never struck me, however, at this time that there was any one course in acquiring knowledge better than another, so that my selection could not be expected to be a very wise one. My notion was simply this: for myself, more books of history, sufficient to give me a clear and connected view of the progress of mankind from the earliest period; a treatise on the more advanced branches of algebra; a new Euclid, my first being among the books lost in the flood at the brush; and Watts's Logic, of which a few leaves only had come into my possession among the fragments in the former lot: for M - , chiefly poetry; it seemed to me her favourite reading; and probably I was not much wrong in considering that the actualities of life are so forced on women in new countries, that they acquire inevitably from them their education in matters of common sense, and so may properly enough indulge in book studies of an almost exclusively imaginative cast. It turned out, however, that I became relieved from the responsibility of the selection. [108] She got a friend to take charge of her mother for a day, and went to Sydney with me, and chose quite a different lot from what I should have chosen for her, and fewer by far. I bought just what I had laid it down to myself that I would buy, and, additionally, about fifteen numbers of the Edinburgh Review. This latter part of my selection was from this time for some years forward my favourite reading; I find it to be the authority which directed more or less my views on most subjects.
After spending between five and six weeks at home, R- and I went to work; it was the last job we cut together, making our third year. A friend of R-'s proposed to him to take a share in a coasting craft, and run it in the cedar trade. R- again proposed that I should be taken into the concern, dividing it into three shares. I had my misgivings; but the profits were very tempting. We joined in the boat, and in a lot of provisions and other goods for sale. Our first trip happened at a very opportune juncture. The whole of the parties cutting on the river had run short of flour, tobacco, and tea, three most profitable articles. We bought our tea at 2s. 6d. and sold it at 6s.; our tobacco (good Hawkesbury) at 1s. and sold it at 5s.; our flour we made about sixty per cent. on. As there are always idle men about these brushes where sawing is going on, either sawyers without mates, or bullock-drivers out of work, or labourers, we soon succeeded in getting a good fall of timber pointed out to us. We had, however, to give our guide 3£ for his information, and take him on as our faller; but we found him such an unsettled fellow that we were glad, after a couple of weeks, to give him 2£, beside his wages of 1£ a week, to go away. Being paid by the piece, men acquire a habit of working so eagerly that a great proportion are either working on day after day in the utmost suffering, if they are what are called "good men"; or else they give in every second or third day, and stroll about till the covetous fit comes on again. Of this last class was our lad. He was called I - the Liar. Descriptive titles of a similar kind are very common, indeed almost universal.
The fall of timber that J - the Liar (I am delicate about giving the baptismal name of the individual in full. The fact is there are several sawyers who enjoy the latter part of this graceful appellative, but their individual names differ. I should be sorry to wound the feelings of my former friends, or of such of them as may be yet alive, by too pointed a description); the fall of timber that The Liar (it is quite a common and inoffensive abbreviation, dear reader, among ourselves) showed us, turned out a capital one. [109] Numbers of the trees were 60 feet in the barrel without a limb, and so thick that as they lay on the hill side after they were down, I could barely lay my hand on the top of them at 10 and 15 feet from the butt. They were very generally sound, and many of them as round as stone pillars, and they lay for the most part on the hill sides, so that rolling them to the pit was effected by merely slackening chocks away from them in front, instead of heaving them along by handspikes and levers as is done on level ground; though, be it observed, letting logs down hill in this way is much the most dangerous work; lastly, they lay so grouped that numbers of logs came to the same pit. There was one drawback, however, which to civilised ears may seem a serious one; we had to make most of the pits in creeks, and if it came on to rain ever so little, the brush ground already saturated turned off the whole of the falling water into the creeks; thus my mate often had to work up to his knees in water for several days together. We kept to one hut all the time, having fixed ourselves deep down the descent of one of the hill points in a sort of basin, where five creeks met, so as to be near the water and the work. It was a lonely place, where you heard nothing but the perpetual plashing of the creeks, and once or twice a day the thunder of a falling tree, or sometimes in the still warm noon the startling note of the coachman-bird, or the no less wonderful mimicry of the mocking-bird imitating the shrill grating of our files in sharpening the saw so exactly, that we often could not believe but that some other pair had come and set in close to us. Countless, and motionless, and gigantic stood the forest army, up and down all the hill sides around us; in strong contrast to this, stood the great red piles of plank, squared with mathematical exactness, which spoke of man and labour. How simple the lesson that contrast read, and yet how gravel This toil-bearer must have a motive; he must want Something that he has not; - he must be unhappy.
In this wilderness we passed more than twelve months, and before this time my mate too had become a great reader; so between the work, and the obstacles to be overcome in getting the plank dragged out of such a hole (which had to be done by spare-chaining it along the ground, a plank at a time), and the books, we got through the twelve months pretty well. Near us we found another little group of trees, which we should probably have stayed to cut, but that a messenger came to tell my mate (there being no post) that his mother had died at last rather suddenly. [110] As I could see, though he could not himself, that he had but little design of coming back, I took care, after shipping the last of our cedar, to accompany it, with all our tools and other possessions. Our trip to Sydney was a pleasant one; and our cedar sold better than any lot we had had: and nothing but the sorrowful cause of our sudden journey to Sydney impaired the cheerfulness of our feelings and of our prospects. [111]

Chapter XI
A LUCKY HIT
Projects - Ruin of a little family - Every man has got his price - Anecdote - Another - A bullock-driver's courtesy - History of Mrs. D- and her husband - A good bargain - Wild journey through the mountains - Skeletons of men lost in the bush and starved - The stock-station - A night's bivouac - Stock-horses - Completion of a bargain - Rencontre with the police
Some months glided away, and found me still at - . Mrs. - was gone, but not forgotten. In the solitary bush she had never had to drill her children into the many unnatural habits of old societies, and they had loved her all the more. Her companion too through many years and various fortunes walked about among us like an absent man. He was more affectionate to his children, and more friendly to me; yet there was something in his manner like that of a man among strangers. As I expected, my mate had no inclination to go back to the Manning; and no longer there to look after our interests in the cedar-boat, we considered it best to part with our shares. For some time we employed ourselves in helping the old man through the heaviest of the farm business; afterwards we went all round the farm, mending the fences. Then I went up the country with R- , to look at a piece of land he had had offered him for purchase by another native. And lastly, after several weeks of idleness, I went to Sydney and ripped cedar plank into boards in a timber merchant's yard. At this I made very poor wages, and was far from contented. Our last year's work in the Manning River brush had yielded us about 2£ each a-week all through. The profit on the goods we disposed of was about 70£ each; and the net gain by freights and by the cedar we took in exchange, and in payment for freight, was rather above 100£ each. The utmost I could clear by cedar ripping for the timber merchants was about 1 l. a-week after paying rations and lodging, and wear and tear, and all those innumerable gills of rum that a sawyer is called upon for in Sydney, when he is known to be pretty well off, by his less thrifty brethren. So circumstanced, I was beginning to plan no less a thing than the purchase of a piece of land in the township of ---; to cut some stuff in the adjacent bush, and run up two or three snug little weather-boarded cottages, and rent them out. [112]
I often wonder whether others observe it, but I certainly have, that whenever I have concocted some well-promising plan, and even when everything has been finally determined in my mind, some circumstance, either unforeseen or under estimated, has presented itself and rendered advisable the relinquishment of my laboured scheme, and the adoption of another at an hour's notice. This was the case now.
As I proceed more minutely to describe the circumstances which thus suddenly changed my plans, it will readily be conjectured that similar events are by no means uncommon in a great stock country like New South Wales. Cattle were at this period the staple article of internal traffic; and that traffic proceeded under all forms, and between all parties, and in every place where men meet. Sometimes it was simple barter; sometimes a sale; sometimes it was in the regular course of business; at others a mere capricious chaffer; sometimes it was with due inspection of the beasts in the yard or on the run; and occasionally even on bare description, or to use the common phrase, "unsight, unseen". But the chief of this dealing went on as may be supposed among the stockmen or those whose particular business is the herding and driving of cattle. Great numbers of these men at the time I speak of, though more particularly in still earlier times, held cattle; many indeed became large stock-masters. Sometimes for years they took their wages in cattle; every odd pound they could muster was laid by to add to the little herd thus accumulating by some good bargain for cash: and I do think it was by no means an uncommon occurrence for some kindly beast to stray of a dark night into the little herd, without any such common-place reasons as rank under the head of exchange, and never find his way out again. Poor men do many things by the example of their betters; it would not always be easy to say which they are. Nor does the question now remain one of much importance: legislation has well-nigh done its work; almost every facility for such a process is done away. Where once twenty poor men rose gradually into substance, I should think scarce one rises now. At the time referred to, however, almost every third person in the enjoyment of freedom had a few head of cattle; and the perpetual system of exchange I have referred to was its grand concomitant. Of course in such a country and under such circumstances, plenty of sales were effected that jeopardized alike the seller and the buyer. Doubtless in many instances the buyer was fully aware of the illegal character of the transaction; but in hundreds more he fell into the snare merely through a blind cupidity, or even was led into it by the unsuspecting uprightness of his own nature. [113] In the instance more particularly in hand I believe there was a commixture of the two cases. The victim was a hard-striving and perhaps greedy man; but in him along with this worse were mingled (no rare case) the better inclinations of a strong and unequivocal uprightness of natural character. With these premises, the reader will be fully prepared to understand what I am now to give - the history of such a case.
A messenger came to me in Sydney and called me off the pit, and told me I was particularly and instantly wanted at - , and a note from M - accompanied the message, urging me not to lose a minute. I washed, and telling the man I was working with to get a mate and go on till I came back, I hired a horse and was at - within a couple of hours. There I found M - , amusing a fine little boy eighteen months old, and with her was a very pretty young woman, its mother. The night before, as they were going to supper, she came up to the house door and asked for M - , who knew her immediately as an old schoolfellow. She and the baby were wet through to the skin, for she had travelled from - in a settler's cart without a tilt, and it had been raining almost the whole afternoon. As soon as she could communicate with M - , she told her that her husband, whom I had often heard of by the name of Tom - , was to meet her in the bush at the corner of our paddock that night; that there was a warrant out against him from the bench nearest which they lived; that was between 100 and 150 miles from Sydney; and that he had only had just time to escape before the constables reached their hut to execute it. He had sent her word by a man he could trust to meet him here on this evening at eleven o'clock; and it was the utmost she could do through an unexpected hindrance to arrive by the time. It appeared they had but one child, and were very fond of one another. He had possessed himself of a good herd of cattle by his economy and industry, but one false step had ruined all; and now no chance remained of retaining his liberty and family but getting away unknown from the colony. He had come to the corner of the fence according to appointment the night before, and was now "in plant" (hiding) in the creek till night again. His journey down the country had been a sore one, as he had had to keep off the road all day and only take it by night. [114]
Mrs. D. - was the only child of a small settler, and had had cattle worth about 150£ left her by her father. Her husband, who had been for many years a stockman at one of the far out stations after he became free, married her when he was about thirty-three, only three years before, possessed of about 2001. worth of stock of his own of various kinds. This, which was a very good beginning, he had improved considerably. From all I could learn of his character, I am sure D- had not the most distant design of a dishonest deal in the purchase of the beast which he was now charged with buying, knowing it to be stolen. One of the Government hands of a large and influential settler close to where D- had settled, had been allowed by his master to accumulate a lot of cattle, and depasture them on his run; and when his sentence was expired, not having any other place to take them to, and his master ordering him to take them off his run, he asked D- to buy them. D- for a long time refused, and when at last he did buy them, it was because the man could not get them in off the run for want of a horse; and of course only somebody who already knew them in the bush would buy them there. Buying them under these circumstances, D- gave only about two-thirds of their market price for them; considering that he did the man a favour to buy them at all. Among them was a cow which D- knew the man had been in possession of for above two years, and which he had no more reason for suspecting to be a stolen beast than any of the others. As soon as the money was paid, the man left that part of the country, and D- heard no more of him till a stockman from quite a distant county, in passing through the run in search of strayed horses, claimed the cow as belonging to his master; and D- then on inquiry found the seller was gone out of the country, leaving him to "stand the racket".
This man's master had long wanted D- 's run, which separated his own from a fine tract in the mountains that was never likely to be bought by anybody, on account of its being deficient in water; and according to all I heard upon the subject afterwards, he now did all he could to get the owner of the beast to prosecute D- , that by getting him out of the way he might have his run, and secure the free run on government ground attached to it. I am sorry to say that it is too common a thing for the great settlers in New South Wales to endeavour to get rid of the small settlers near them, for similar reasons, by any means that offer themselves. [115]
If I recollect right, the jury that tried the criminal cases at - sessions at this time was constituted of military officers chosen for the occasion from the regiments in the colony; and these gentlemen dining with D- 's neighbour the magistrate, whose government man had sold the cow, would naturally hear of the cause beforehand, and, prejudiced by Mr. ---'s account of D- , would come to the court fully prepared to look at the evidence against him in a very serious light. In short he had no reasonable ground for hoping for an acquittal.
M - 's object in sending for me from Sydney was twofold: she knew the cattle would be a great bargain, as they must be sold for ready money; and she also knew that I had enough in the - bank for the whole purchase; and was looking for some mode of laying it out. She also wished me to undertake the negotiation for - 's passage away from the colony and to see him off.
- 's offer when I saw him, which was not till after dark in the evening, was a very good one. He offered me four capital brood mares, two of which had foals at their sides, for 100£ and the whole of his cattle, large and small, at 2£ a-head. I closed with the offer directly, provided both horses and horned cattle turned out on inspection as he had represented them.
Purchasing his stock was far from an entire removal of all the poor fellow's difficulties and dangers. He had still to go up the country to the very place where it was most dangerous for him to muster the cattle and deliver them to me. His wife's being here again was almost sure to become known to the police; and then he would be watched for here. But the greatest difficulty was that of getting clear out of the colony; for accounts are sent to the Sydney police-office of defaulters from all parts of the colony, and the constables search every ship that goes out of the Heads.
As we were to start the very next morning up the country. this was perhaps the last time he might see his wife and child for many months, even if successful in escaping. After she had put her child to sleep, nothing could keep the poor trembling wife away from her husband. I carried them two large sheets of bark into the thick scrub beside the creek where - was concealed; for about midnight it began to rain quite fast. One sheet of bark was leaned against a tree on the windward, side to turn the rain; the other made a sort of dry flooring for them to sit on. They could not have any fire on account of the danger of its attracting notice. But provided them with some blankets and a large overcoat, and then sat up all night taking care of her friend's child. [116] Its plaintive cries were most heart-moving as it waked at times through the long hours and missed its customary nurse.
Directly it was light - and I started, leaving - to arrange whilst we were absent for a passage by a vessel that was to sail in about twelve days. The poor fellow seemed as if he could never drag himself away from his wife and child. When we did set off it rained as if it would blind us; no comfortable commencement of such a trip. But it had one good consequence - it kept the people indoors; so that we arrived at the Hawkesbury punt almost without meeting an individual. Once over the river we considered ourselves safe, for we immediately struck off into the Curryjong Mountains, a vast pile of hills heaped on hills, and covered with forests and brushes so thickly, that you walk beneath and amidst them in perpetual shadow, and can only get along in some places by main force. Here we were past the police of the thickly settled districts, and off the track they take from the large interior settlements to Sydney. The Curryjong mountains have the appearance rather of a multitude of hills piled confusedly together than of what is more strictly considered mountain. At this time a few very poor settlers had opened just on one little patch of country, the faces of the hills, and their fields of yellow grain were bending, and in some places were already quite flattened by the torrents of rain that kept pouring down. Here and there a boy minding some pigs on the road side and with the utmost difficulty keeping them out of the corn; and once or twice a settler driving a cow home for the eve-fling milking; and the old miller with his arms folded and his shoulder against the door-post, standing looking out of the door of the water-mill that clacks and rumbles on in the dark hollow, were all the human life we saw. I knew my guide was a good bushman, and also what reasons he had for doing his part well, or I should not have followed him very readily. We went on, on, on up the slippery hill (for the soil is of the finest description) till it seemed as if we were getting above the world. Below us on every side was a vast rolling ocean of vapour. On us still poured the ceaseless rain till we had not a dry thread about us. At length we came to an abrupt fall of the ground, down the precipitous declivity of which our descent was effected with great caution and labour. Here we stood at the commencement of a long thicket of brushwood, through which the track was in some places so intricate and bewildering, and so toilsome to travel, that on hearing its character from - I coincided in his opinion that it would be best for us to camp for the night in one of the ghibber-gunyahs. [117] These are the hollows under overhanging rocks, and afford a most welcome shelter where they are met with in wet weather. Their aspect is at first rather terrific: of course no rain penetrates through their roof; but a space equal sometimes to the area of a very large room is offered to the drenched traveller to kindle his fire and shelter himself for the night. My fellow-traveller, who well knew the bush hereabouts, soon led the way to a capacious and snug retreat of this kind; and lighting a fire and betaking ourselves to our provisions we soon felt ourselves quite snug for the night. The rest of the evening was fully occupied in talking over our business, and in consulting that ever faithful counsellor the pipe. At length, outworn by travel and the previous night's watching, we slept. The next morning the rising sun was slanting in upon us when we awoke. After a hearty breakfast on we went again. To tell what thickets tangled, thorny, endless (as it seemed) we went through that day, what damp and sombre chasms we crossed, what wet and mossy crags we climbed, and what leaf-strewn solitary woods we made our way through, might weary the reader, but could give him no adequate notion of the scenes themselves. - acquaintance with the bush here arose from his having been employed under a surveyor in the Curryjong and adjacent country before he was assigned to private service. He pointed out to me one creek accompanied with this tale: - "I found two dead men's bones on that creek when I was here with the surveyor; he sent me and another man to run that creek up as far as we could, to see what it led to; and after we had gone about seven miles we came to a lot of bones scattered about on a little flat. On looking at them we found they were the bones of two men. They were quite bare, and the native dogs had dragged them limb from limb, except the ribs, which were still fast to the backbone. Bits of their woollen garments were still about, but nothing more except their irons. One man's irons were still on one of his leg bones, but the other pair of irons were lying apart. The bones were as white as chalk with the sun and rain. It was the most shocking sight I ever saw. They were, no doubt, two poor fellows who had run away from a gang, lost themselves, and had Wandered about till they were starved." Much like this was our travelling for four whole days. [118] Once only we emerged on to the regular mountain road at a public house; and after a little variation of our fare, by a single meal of fresh pork and a couple of glasses of rum, took to the bush again.
On the afternoon of the fifth day we drew near our journey's end. It was a pleasant sunny day till toward night, when the weather again grew stormy and wild. We came into the creek on which D-'s hut was situated several miles below it. Following the channel up among the hills, we turned at length an elbow whence we obtained an uninterrupted view up a reach of about half a mile, at the end of which was the hut and stockyard. These were built on a little flat, back from the steep edge of the creek; and the only thing belonging to the station that we could descry was a very small tent hut on the brink of the lofty bank on the opposite side, or rather at the end of the vista where the creek again swept suddenly round to the right. This was the man's hut who looked after the cattle, and had been built there for the sake of seeing a long way down the creek, so as to have the milking cattle in his eye as much as possible. It was now a matter of some concern whether any unwelcome visitor was staying at the large hut which D- and his wife usually occupied, or whether any such was lurking on the watch in the surrounding bush. To ascertain this I went on alone, D- keeping out of sight among the wattles of the creek: if the stockman told me all was right, I was to float my pocket handkerchief in the wind, standing on the edge of the creek; otherwise I was merely to stand there without doing so. With beating heart I made my way up to the station; for I had found D- , though rather too fond of himself in matters of business, such a free-hearted, manly fellow as a companion that I felt the greatest interest in his success. On reaching the stockman's hut I found it empty of inhabitants: but there was a newly baked cake, indeed not yet cold; the fire also was not covered over with ashes, which is the usual way of keeping wood smouldering a long time without burning out. It was therefore clear that the stockman had lately been here, and would not be long away. I was therefore obliged to give D- the signal to remain where he was for the present. In an hour or so Jerry the stockman came back; and after cautiously effecting an understanding with him, and ascertaining that all was safe, I told him where his master was, and he "cooeed" for him and gave the signal for him to come on. All was certainly safe enough; for one or other of the - police came every day or two, pretending to be passing from the settlement to some station farther out; and one had called "to light his pipe" only an hour before, and Jerry had walked with him a couple of miles to show him a short cut, which was the reason of his absence when we arrived. [119] As there was no fear of any further intrusion that night we congratulated ourselves on our good fortune, and with more easy minds than we had had for some hours, took our supper. There was a lot of capital dogs, kangaroo, bull, mastiff, terrier, and mongrel. These when I reached the but were along with Jerry, or I should not have made my entrance as I did; for when they came back a little in advance of him, and found me sitting in the tent hut, they ranged themselves across the entrance and growled most surlily, and seemed well inclined to come in and pull me out. But now they did us good service, rushing off every now and then, especially as the night became darker and darker, in the direction of the slightest noise. Late in the evening a light mizzling rain came on again; but we still kept to the little tent hut for the sake of D- 's readier escape, should escape become necessary. The large hut was surrounded by a level flat cleared of timber, and might have been easily surrounded; but the tent hut being on the brink of the creek afforded a certain means of flight down the bank. D- tied a couple of his sharpest dogs, one about two hundred yards up the channel of the creek from the hut, and the other about two hundred yards down. If any one approached up or down the creek, the dogs that were tied would give notice before they were within a quarter of a mile of us; if any one drew near in the bush on the level of the hut on either bank, the dogs at the fire would be sure to hear or see or scent them a long way off and give the alarm. Thus there was always a safe point to fly to where the dogs were quiet. If any thing could have made our arrangements ineffectual, it was the complete gale into which the wind blew itself by about eleven o'clock. These high winds of the colony always produced in me a state of nervous excitement almost like slight intoxication. I believe it is the case also with many persons of highly nervous temperament. During the time they prevail, the blacks consider they can approach and spear the kangaroo or catch them with their dogs much more easily than at other times. They seem to have a bewildering effect on the animal. I thus felt no inclination to sleep: D- also was more restless to-night than I had yet seen him. [120] The man finding he could do no good turned in and was soon fast asleep. Hour after hour we sat by the fire, and smoked, and listened, and made tea; then walked about, and stood and strained our eyes to pierce the darkness, and our ears to collect every sound. The small rain fell spraylike, cool, refreshing, and with the open breast and bare neck habitual to the working class in the colony, this is quite a luxury when the skin is fevered with over-exertion. The sky was starless, black, and still. The bush kept up that long indefinite sound that it makes beneath the passage of a mighty wind; something between a roar and a deep hiss, mingled strangely, and one could fancy, awfully with sudden passing intonations like a fitful music. The gale ruffled and howled, and swept away from the fire far across the grass a long train of sparks, which, viewed from the distance as we walked to and fro, looked like the tail of some monstrous comet that had fallen and lay blazing away amidst the darkness on the side of the great slope of country down which the creek coursed.
At length day dawned, as it seemed, down in a world below us; for the descent of the country was great. But it soon spread up over the whole sky. The man was up with the first sensible light; but instead of going for the milkers, D- despatched him for the two stockhorses. These are generally good hardy geldings; and the performances of some of them are really surprising. Never stabled or stall-fed they seem capable of much more exertion than most horses that are. It is no uncommon thing, for instance, for a stock-man to ride his horse fifty or sixty miles a day for several days together; the only food the animal gets all the time being the native grass, and his only bed the same. D- 's two stockhorses, however, were old ones, As he let me have them as cheap as I could have procured them anywhere else, and as I was sure to need at least one, whatever I concluded to do with the herd, I bought them, giving 171. for the two, bridles, saddles, &c. &c. in. While the man was looking for them in the bush, we had some breakfast preparatory to beginning to run the herd in, Meantime it struck me that seeing them in the bush would be fully as satisfactory, provided we took his stock book (a book which every stockholder keeps, with a full and minute description of every head of horned cattle he possesses entered in it) and ticked them off as we saw them. Certainly some would be almost sure not to be found the first or even second day. But I was to have them at a price that would allow of the loss of one in every five or six at least; and it seemed cruel to keep the poor fellow here any longer than was actually inevitable. [121] Moreover, as the man suggested, the cattle being in the yard would lead to suspicion that his master was there; and in that case he would be likely to be taken, and so our whole engagement come to nought. Beside, it seemed to me that having kept this stock book without any view of using it for such a purpose, it was very good evidence what cattle there were. I could trace head after head from muster to muster along with the calves of each succeeding season. My only uncertainty was whether any had been sold lately. At length, it was settled that we should ride round the outside of the run, and the man in the mean time drive down whatever he could find on the run into the creek. By six o'clock in the evening we had seen the four mares, the two foals, and every head but nineteen of the horned cattle; and many of these were beasts which were the most unlikely of all to have been made away with, heifer calves, old bullocks, and cows whose calves we had. I had no further hesitation in taking them as they were: and we concluded our bargain in due form; D- delivering up to me the brands and stockbook, &c. &c, and I giving him a check payable to R- or bearer.
Without waiting for a night's rest, D- set off by the same dreary road we had come; what few things he thought it worth while to take, he packed up before he started; paid the man a few shillings of wages that were coming to him (he had already given him a cow and calf), and told me to consider everything else mine. The land he had no further claim to, having merely occupied it temporarily.
As soon as he was gone I took possession of the big hut, lit my fire, and endeavoured to get some rest. R- was to present D- 's check for him and see him off, and Mrs. D- was to remain for a couple of months to prevent suspicion of her husband's departure till he was in safety. R- meantime, as soon as he had executed his part of the undertaking, was to come up the country to me. All this while it never struck me that I should be honoured by a visit from the constables as soon as they found me in possession of D- 's hut; for hitherto they had been led by the man to expect D- 's return every day. About noon (the constables' usual time of visiting in New South Wales at any station where they think they may get a dinner), probably from some information that had reached the - police-office that D- had been seen in the neighbourhood, no less a personage than the chief constable of the district himself rode up to the door, and hanging his horse's bridle on the nail, walked in. [122] The dogs were all away with Jerry in the bush, or he would have been obliged to use a little more ceremony. One of the very greatest annoyances of New South Wales is, the freedom with which the police and military walk into one's dwelling-house. The worthy functionary had a pair of handcuffs slung on his belt, and a horse pistol in his hand, but he seemed rather surprised as I threw myself off the settle and confronted him. From the description I had heard of him, I immediately guessed who he was. After stammering out some sort of apology and saying he was the chief constable, he pointed to the yard, into which about a dozen head had been driven that morning, and our dialogue went on as follows: - "What cattle are those?" - "Mine,"
"What brand is that?" pointing to the brand that had been D- 's, and which hung up in the hut. - "Mine."
"How long has it been yours?" - "Ever since I paid for it."
"How long is that?" - "Am I paid to tell you, or you to find it out?"
"Humph. You mean to say these cattle are yours?" - "I do."
"Well, I shall see that." - "I've no doubt you will, and a little plainer than you expect."
"Those cattle belong to the man I've got a warrant for; I shall turn them into the bush." - Bullee, bullee, bullee, go and lie down at the yard gate, old man." Up jumped my old grey-coated friend and follower nearly ever since I had been in the colony, and without an instant's delay there he lay crouching under the bottom bar of the stockyard-gate with his hind quarters in and his great square head on the ground between his forepaws without. As soon as things had got thus far, I began to feel rather "jerran", as the blacks say (i.e. timorous). Not being anything of a lawyer, I began to have misgivings that I might in some point or other have committed myself, for among the least of the threats with which my baffled new acquaintance assailed me, was that of indictment for impeding him in the execution of his duty. However, he took himself off; and when I came to recollect that I neither had done anything illegal, nor had he even evidence of anything I had done, I was convinced his "bounce" could come to nothing. I thought it best, however, till I could take legal advice in Sydney, to hide both the brand and stockbook; and having warned Jerry to answer no questions, I knew it would cost these busy and mischievous people some trouble to prove whether I bought the cattle the day before or the year before, and previously to the date of the warrant against D- . [123] Still I felt that I had been very incautious in not taking advice before the purchase, when, being near Sydney, I might have done it so easily. Knowing the tyrannical modes of procedure of the upcountry benches, and their very frequent mistakes of the law, when even they intend to administer it aright, I thought it safest, on reflection, to write to R- without an hour's delay to take advice. Jerry found me a man in about three hours, and I sent him off on one of the stock horses directly. After some days' delay in Sydney, from the horse being knocked up, he returned, bringing me a letter, intimating that D- was off; and that the lawyer who had been consulted said I was in no danger, either personally or of the loss of my purchase. When I got this news I felt like a man that had a patent of immunity from all care for the rest of his days. [124] 

Chapter XII
LOOKING FOR A STATION
Equipment - The heat - Dray capsized - Bathurst township - Crossing the country without roads - How to get rid of fleas - A miserable station - Aborigines killed in fight - Natural scenery - A dairy-station - Scene at a public-house - Animosity between settlers and convicts - Wild cattle - Men lost in the Shoalhaven gullies and starved - Accounts of others lost and starved in various other parts - Black's camp in the wilderness - A rainy day at a stock-station at the outskirts of the colony - A dealer and his dray encamped - Manna-trees - Bush horsemanship - A female convict going to the Factory - A station heard of
On preparing to write this chapter, it struck me that the best form in which to cast it would be that of a journal. I cannot indeed remember the dates, but the course of incident as occurring on the first day, or second day, or third day, I recollect with the utmost precision. Remembering our stages and the period we stopped at the various stations, I can, of course, refer each circumstance to the particular day of our journey on which it occurred. By laying before the reader the train of facts themselves, which came under my notice, as we traversed a very extensive portion of the territory, he will form a much more accurate and faithful notion of the natural aspects of the country and of the various features of society than he would be furnished by a mere general account of my own impressions and deductions.
The journey I am to describe took place on the arrival of R- from Sydney. Our object in taking it was to find a good run to which we could send the whole of our cattle, his and mine; employing a stockman of our own to look after them, Besides what I had just bought, my former purchases and their increase were now about eighty head, after deduction of thirds for the grazing. R- also had a snug little herd, which had been accumulating for years. His father had about seventy head of his own, and M - had a few; so that altogether there were upwards of 500 head, plenty to form a herd, beside four mares of mine and one of R-'s.
The reader will suppose us leaving the creek-hut on horseback, with our blankets strapped on the saddle before us in long rolls like dragoons' cloaks; our saddle bags well supplied with tea, sugar, and tobacco, and quart pot, tomahawks, and tinder-box, constituting the remainder of our equipment; not forgetting, however, our horses' hobbles, and a couple of kangaroo dogs of R-'s, and my old Bullee, who insisted upon keeping us company. [125]
First day. - Roasting hot; almost intolerable in fact after about eleven AM, until four P.M. Rode right across into the settlement of Bathurst; the latter part of the way along the high road from Bathurst to Sydney. The roads excessively dusty, and all the water-holes where the bullocks usually drink dried up. Many of the poor animals that we passed in teams of 4, 6, and 8, yoked in pairs, were panting and hanging their tongues out in a manner most painful to behold, whilst their drivers flogged, and shouted, and swore unremittingly. One wretch we passed had stuffed up with grass the nostrils of a bullock which had lain down, and then kindled a wisp of dry stringy bark, which blazes like flax, under his belly. The beast's hide was cut through in all directions with the green-hide lash of the heavy bullock whip as if by a knife. The dexterity with which some of these men use the whip is quite astonishing; the report when it strikes is like a rifle's crack, and the macerated hair and flesh fly up from the spot in a little white cloud like spray. In another place a whole team had started off the road into the bush among the trees, smashed off the dray-wheel against a tree, and scattered the load in all directions. Here were the remains of a case of liqueurs; there a tea-chest, crushed and disgorging a heap of tea among the grass; here a sugar mat burst open, and what should have been a hat-box and new beaver hat forced in among the sugar; here were a lot of ladies' dresses coming out of the broken end of a large slate-coloured trunk; and meeting them, from the mouth of the bullock driver's harness cask, a lot of salt junk in a flood of pickle. We dismounted and helped to release the shaft bullock, who was partly jammed under the load, and then went on. The bullock driver was bewailing his hard fortune most bitterly; he said he had only about seven months more to serve before he was due for a ticket of leave (to work for himself), but his master had promised to do all he could to keep him from obtaining it, and this would be just the very chance he wanted. He was a transport for life. I could not discover that he was to blame for the accident; it seemed to have originated solely in the viciousness of a young bullock running his horn into the one he was yoked to. Very likely this man would become desperate through the loss of his ticket, take the bush, be driven by hunger to depredations on the roads, and be finally hanged - this has been the course of thousands since the formation of the colony as a penal settlement. [126] The settlement of Bathurst stands in the midst of wide levels or plains, totally untimbered; this causes it to have a dreary, sterile aspect, though in reality it is not so. A stream, sometimes small, sometimes quite a deluge, holds its course along beside the township, and on its banks are some noble tracts of cultivable ground. The houses are very good in the township; those in the fields are mostly turf huts, for here in winter there are heavy frosts and snow, and the wind is so cutting across this bare and elevated tract, that it is important to stop up every chink and cranny where it can enter. We stopped for the night at Mr. ---'s stock-station, and were kindly entertained; R- being acquainted with the stock-keeper, wanted to ask him if he knew of a run, but he knew of none suitable.
Second day. - Rode on to a sheep-station a few miles south of the township, and on the direct track to what is called the New Country: i.e. the interior SW. of Sydney. Our way lay chiefly through open level country, very scantily watered. Here and there, however, there was a splendid water-hole, like a little lake amidst the arid waste, We had heard of a piece of unoccupied ground some distance off the road to the eastward, and rode across to examine it. Our directions to it (there being no roads across the country, except the two or three great ones to the principal points) were up a certain hollow, through a gap in the range, and then across to a mountain on the distant horizon, by riding over which at the easiest acclivity we could find, a creek would be reached, and this creek followed down would lead to the run. Travellers in England would probably think such directions as these poor guidance for a distance of many miles; however, we were successful- in our search, Practice in bush travelling gives great address in tracing such natural land-marks. A good hand at making his way in the bush is called a good bushman; as is also a good workman in timber. A man is not entitled to this appellation until he has acquired a sort of tact of going right instinctively. The infallible accuracy with which some men will hit a point several miles off in a dark night, and all the way through thick forest, is quite astonishing.
The station we reached for the night was merely an enclosure of branches of trees, just to keep the sheep together. There was but one flock, and the hut was only a few sheets of bark set up round an area of about 6 feet square, with a roof of the same, through which the stars shone down upon us as we lay wrapped in our blankets on the floor. [127] But we were not many minutes down before we were obliged to rise and take the ground outside some way off, for our pallet for the rest of the night. The sandy hut floor was literally alive with fleas. After a martyr's sufferings, as soon as the sun rose, I went to the water to wash, and when I took my shirt off, these terrible persecutors covered it as if scattered by the hand as the gardener sows seed. One of the men was hut-keeper, the other shepherd; the shepherd tends the sheep by day, and the hut-keeper has charge of them by night. Where there are good paling yards or strong hurdles, the hut-keepers generally venture to sleep, depending on their dogs, of which there are generally half a dozen of one sort or another about a station, for keeping off the warregal or bush dog, an animal very much resembling the fox, but much more ravenous. The hut-keeper at this station was obliged to watch all night, for his yard would in many places have suffered the dog to crawl through; and if one does get in, he bites and worries sometimes thirty or forty sheep before he is discovered. When the shepherd turned out his flock in the morning, the hut-keeper having first cleared the floor of the hut, he drove them in a mass up to it, and they soon crowded in and filled it. On my asking them why they did this, they told me that by doing so the fleas all got into the sheep and were carried away into the bush, and that they often cleared the hut-thus.
Third day. - This day we had the track for the New Country all day under our horses' feet, and made a good journey; but our fortune at night was not so good. We stopped at a half-starved station; it was a cattle station, and the stockman being out, only the hut-keeper was there. He seemed to make lying on his berth his sole Occupation. He was a great low-lived looking ruffian, not long "lagged" (transported); he had been too lazy even to wash his wheat, which was smutty before he ground it at the steel handmill with which most of these huts are supplied, and it was as black as the back of the chimney. After a supper of bread without beef, and tea without sugar, we smoked our pipes and went to bed. After we were all laid down, the lazy scoundrel told us all on a sudden, that there were a couple of good milkers down the creek, and if we liked to drive them up with our horses in the morning, we might milk them for breakfast; but he did not care for milk himself, and so never milked them, except when the stockman was at home. In short he was just that one man in twenty that one finds among prisoners whom you may be sure will eventually be sent to a penal settlement for life, if not hanged; "too lazy", to use a common phrase, 'to live"; incorrigibly idle until everybody's hand is against him, and then, rather than amend and work, turning his hand against everybody; not to be roused except by severity, and then only into crime. [128] Happily there are few such.
Our night's quarters were rendered still more memorable and comfortless by the blacks having had a battle here that afternoon. Three dead bodies were lying on the flat, with the ghastly grin of those who have died the hater's death. Two of them had been killed by body wounds with jagged spears, that had torn their way out frightfully; the other's was a head-wound with a tomahawk. The weapon had gone right through his mat of woolly black hair into the brain; very little blood had flowed, but the "gins" (black women) told us he died almost instantly. As I came in from looking after my horse, I passed them as they lay cold and prone in the thin misty moonlight, each on the spot where he had fallen. The wife of one of them, a fine, but small Hercules-like figure, sat or rather reclined by him, sobbing as if her heart would break. Another was quite a lad, and the other an old grey-bearded man, who had been a great warrior in his day. Nobody was near either of them. The reflection struck me very strongly, how strange an instinct is war! And yet may it not be necessary for the good and even the safety of the peaceful, that the fierce and bloodthirsty should be thus attracted toward each other; the mutual destruction of the destructive leaving the peaceful to their peace?
Fourth day. - Got to a stock station this evening, where the plenty was as remarkable as the dearth where we stopped last night. It was Sunday, but nobody here keeps the day as anything more than a holiday. Men wash their shirts, and grind their week's wheat, and visit, where the huts are not too far apart. Here, however, this last occupation was pretty well precluded, as the stations are miles asunder, and there is seldom above one hut on each station. At the same time it is a saying as common as possible, that no work done on the sabbath-day prospers. I never travel on this day if I can help it; but in this case it was almost unavoidable, for we had got the night before into the very den of hunger and sloth. The country we passed through to-day was a very fine stock-country, beautiful flats of open meadow on river banks, and fine gentle grassy hills. [129]
Perhaps it was a little too thickly timbered. We met with a very welcome reception, and the people wanted us to stop a day or two with them for a rest, but we did not.
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