Изображения страниц

efforts available to check these visitations: the floods give no warning of their approach ; the waters burst their limits and boundaries within the hills, and in a few hours a man's vines and fig-trees, thus heedlessly planted, may be seen transferred to his neighbour's estate at the opposite bend of the stream ; and a great portion of his alluvial soil at the subsiding of the waters may, on the principle of exchange being no robbery, serve to enrich some hitherto barren patch of marginal land in the possession either of friend or enemy. So that experienced men avoid the immediate banks of rivers, or take the risks and the chances of such location. The Canning is nevertheless blessed in this particular, as the river itself, in parts, lies low, and the banks are high; while the soil, deposited by ages, is usually above, far above, the level of its swelling and nourishing waters. Its scenery, as we have hinted before, is picturesque ; and the roadways, particularly on its northern bank, are as firm and smooth as natural roads can be found anywhere. It is sad to see the boundary marks and posts of many spots susceptible of the highest cultivation, and to note the visible traces of the early settler, who fled ere his trials had begun; and at the same time to know that his property is in most cases in trust to Nature—that to cultivate it would be trespass, and to communicate with its far-off possessor now impossible ;—to see this grant or that, the property of some gentleman in London or elsewhere, whose name figures in the allotment-rolls of the Survey Office of the settlement, and who, speaking of it as if it were in some snug county in England, asks mysteriously, “What he is to with it?" or discourses glowingly to the good folks at home of his prospective fortune at the antipodes. There is the land, it is true, and of a good sort likewise, but he is not the possessor, although he may have paid in hard cash for it; it belongs to the wilderness

, which lets it lie fallow—ever fallow. The colonist who abandoned it is in a worse position still; he is gone, and perhaps has left no trace of his whereabout: very likely, as is the case with men who in new countries find that land is a thing of nought without personal cultivation, he has thought no more of it, but left it to the birds of the air and the reptiles of the woods—a legacy which he is careless ever to reclaim. Often have we ourselves—for the Canning was a favourite district with us_rested upon some turf-grown bank which had known neither plough nor spade near to its verdure since its creation ; and, gazing into the crystal stream murmuring softly along, have pictured the Mr. Smith, or Mr. Jones, who called the place his by right of purchase; and the look with which he might probably survey his domain at the antipodes-were he conveyed for even an hour to it—all fresh from the hand of Nature, and but a speck amid millions of acres which population could alone have rendered useful for any purpose whatever.

The pioneers of the country knew this well, for they had personally experienced it; and in the absence of population, and the poor prospect of increasing their numbers, they in many instances resigned it to its pristine state. Yet, though this will in some measure account for the want of fair and consistent progress exhibited by the colony, it cannot be taken as any disparagement to its soils, or capabilities for colonising purposes. The whole of the land upon its immediate banks is ready for the plough ; and this extends to the hills, where excellent pasturage is afforded for stock. At its junction with these hills the river itself becomes narrow, and flows turbulently over a rocky bed, while the slopes and

gullies through which it receives the waters of several murmuring brooks, although covered for the most part with giant timber, and more particularly on the heights, are nevertheless adapted for cultivation, and are even now settled to a small extent. About two miles from the spot where it may

be said to leave the hills, shafts have been sunk to trace the direction of mineral indications, which are abundant in the entire district. Specimens of silver-lead and copper have been procured, upon which the assays are both rich and promising ; added to this is the valuable timber which abounds everywhere, and may be said to be inexhaustible. With regard to farming operations in this country, it may be taken as a general rule that the vicinity of hills affords the most desirable spots for location, particularly when the object of the settler is that of raising dairy produce ; otherwise the plains yield the best food for sheep. It may also be remarked in this place, that domestic animals of all kinds reared in Australia are in their natures unusually quiet and docile; the lords of the several herds submit to be caressed as meekly as any member of the group, and but rarely gore or turn upon the youths who usually attend them to and from their pasture. This is a feature which Nature herself appears to have extended to the lovely female sex-though we never doubt but that it exists everywhere ; for the colonial maidens, particularly they of the rural districts, are the fondest of wives, and the most mild and enduring of helpmates. Yet, as many may reply to this, that, where women are scarce, their value felt, and their soft enduring virtues fostered and appreciated, we are reckoning of the happy regard paid to them not by fact but by isolated inference—we can add no more than, So it is. We would indeed that they were more plentiful there, and that, many a slovenly, ill-directed homestead knew the light of their care and of their smiles ; for in their absence no one knows better than the solitary inhabitant of the woods or of the plains that his existence is, in homely phrase, as "a world without a sun.” We will not ask our fair friends if they can put up with the roughs and the smooths of nature's smiling dwelling-place, for we know that they have the stable minds, the stout hearts, to encounter ills, to remove the sting of early privation, and adorn the rough and rude abode as the flowers of the forest gladden their native wilds ; we merely repeat what hundreds have declared, and add our weak testimony of the mission to which they are called.

The early settlers were accompanied by their wives and children, and therefore experienced none of the desolate sorrows which beset the dwellings where woman's presence was unknown. They knew not the cheerless aspect of the hut or cottage where no simple comforts awaited the toil and exhausted labours of the day; when man is both unwilling and incapable of that renewed exertion which would attend the cares of the household, should he turn to them after the fatigue and harass of the parting hours ; :-so that he too often becomes careless of himself, his food, and his lodgment, until the neglect of personal cleanliness and properly prepared diet extends to the out-door pursuits which surround him. The pioneers, after their day's work had been done-and at that time it was nothing to boast of, far less to make any great show,-used to collect together and enliven the remaining hours between the song and the dance; and a happy community they then were, and doubtless would have continued to be, had they not found that other hands than theirs were necessary to the task, sinews more inured to the work, to aid,

under their control, in accomplishing the foundation of their homes and future support. The river itself wanders through just such a district as a small yet united band of settlers would seek to fix their residence. Each would be at a convenient and neighbourly distance from the other; and while the nearest would be eight, the farthest could not possibly be more than sixteen miles from the capital of the settlement, and have water-carriage for at least seven miles, when the river becomes narrower, and is much impeded by fallen trees. But useless would it now be to speculate on the appearance this locality might have presented, had labour poured into the territory, and supplied the only want which at last consumed the fortunes of the settlers, and drove them, we have always been assured, with the greatest reluctance from the domain they had chosen in the full hope of reward. There it remains as it was of


and hardy dispositions may still reclaim it from the waste to which it has returned, and be nourished by it, and fed in simple plenty there.

We trust the foregoing brief record may serve to show that the failure of an attempt at colonising may arise from many untoward circumstances, apart from the character of the territory in which such attempt is made. The only thing that a young colony really requires at the hands of its parent state is, that a continued stream of population, in due proportion, should be kept up ; not any artificial distribution of the

masses, or control over their pursuits, for they will of themselves fall fast enough into their respective callings and places ; but that the great and essential thing to their success at all, namely, population, be supplied in the best way possible ;-and supplied it must be, or the work will end in ruin and disappointment. The annals of colonial agitation for the past few years will fully exemplify this; and there is no stretch of wisdom or forethought which either counteracts or obviates the necessity. From one colony to the other the cry is the same: people, and we will do the rest.” The early history of Western Australia shows that every wise provision against casualty or disaster was neglected, and at the same time that the conditions on which the lands of the territory were to be granted, and their cultivation brought about, were founded on no previous calculation ; in fact, that there was no experience at hand to apply to such far distant settlements, or point out the way in which labour was to be supplied. The only existing settlements were of a penal character, and had risen rapidly under the workings of a system which supplied the free settlers with abundant labour, together with providing a large reserve of human skill to the formation of roads and harbours; and thus early supplying the lines of communication which even in old countries are barely produced throughout a long intervening period of time. All that had to be done in this respect to render the new colony habitable was left to the pure resources of the immigrants themselves; and, as we have already shown, those resources were barely sufficient, and in most cases far less than enough, for the requirements of their own estates, and the operations indispensable thereto. The gradual decrease of their already limited numbers, and the non-arrival of those who could supply their places, together with the entire cessation of accretions from without, prostrated all remaining energy, and threw the wreck of a sad beginning upon the rocks and shoals of difficulty and danger from which it was impossible to rescue it.

The work was a de

“ Send us your

cided failure—and why was it so ?

Not because the country responded not to the call of civilisation and improvement, but because a powerless handful of human beings, and most of them not of a class suitable to the work, were cast upon the shore, with no hand to direct, no fostering aid to assist. The speculation, if we can admit the term where the lives and properties of our common countrymen are at stake, did not answer according to the expectations of the rulers of the parent country; and therefore they repudiated it, and resigned it to a fate from which, by enduring fortitude, unbounded and uncomputed sacrifice, it has, after the immolation of years--and only acknowledged as a place beyond hopegradually and proudly emerged. The use which has been taken of the experience which fell to its own charge, has placed its rival sister settlements on a prosperous footing, and has even promoted their early and late well-being, from the extension of those several species of motherly assistance which were pointed out at the commencement of the purblind system on which the Swan River settlement was founded. But to show the necessity for availing themselves of this experience, we are obliged to repeat, the unhappy hull

, shorn of its gear, and bankrupt in its coffers, was repeatedly dragged up to the light, and pointed to as an example of mismanagement, in such gloomy colours, that the public of this country naturally viewed it with feelings allied to pity and disgust, and could be little induced either to sympathise with or to interest themselves for a settlement which remained under the ban of exclusion, arising from the lack of each and every inducement ito risk fortune, or chance of the benefits of emigration, within it. Notwithstanding, however, its having been from the commencement virtually closed as an emigration field, and the deaf ear which has for so many years been turned to its protestations and its claims, the small band of people which clung to the wreck are able at length to show that they have prepared the way that they have established a colony; and this without any foreign assistance, save that of a small yearly parliamentary grant applied to the services of their local administration; and this latter exceeding by scarcely two thousand pounds that which is yearly required to sustain those problems of colonisation, the Falkland Isles, containing a population at this time of not more than 200 souls !

If, then, the offspring of those days of folly and neglect, now risen into lusty manhood—if the early pioneers of that solitary and disheartening achievement, are not worthy of support, and the results of their endeavours tempting enough to any who may be disposed to join them, it would be hard to trace on the map of our vast colonial empire a place so anomalous, so utterly puzzling and conflicting in evidence, as the colony of Western Australia.





ENCOUNTERED ON THE WAY. It was early on the morning of May-day, in the year of our Lord 1667, that a gentleman of a somewhat staid appearance and a certain demureness of aspect, which seemed not altogether natural to him, nor suitable to the occasion which brought him forth, might have been seen leisurely taking his way through the city of London, and walking in the direction of the Strand.

He was attired in a new suit of black bombasin,—the fashion at that time for summer wear,--over which he wore a fine cinnamon-coloured camlet cloak reaching to his knees; and from under his small hat a periwig of huge dimensions fell in voluminous wreaths upon his shoulders. The squareness of his figure, exaggerated by this costume, and the general sobriety of his large massive features, would have led a stranger to imagine him considerably more than forty years old ; but when some accidental circumstance brought a smile to his lip, and lit up his small but expressive eye, ten years at least were banished from his countenance, and he looked, what he really was, about five-and-thirty years of age.

The most predisposing cause to this relaxation of gravity was the appearance of a pretty female face; and as, in the progress of his walk, this vision became more and more frequent, his smiles kept pace with the occasion ; and whoever had noticed him half-an-hour before, as he issued from a dull-looking house in Seething-lane, and observed him now as he turned the corner of Wych-street, would have concluded that he left home with the intention of going to a conventicle, and on his way

had changed his destination to a theatre.

He had, indeed, reached the region of the theatres ; and if they had been open at that hour, it was not impossible but he might have walked into one. The first person, too, whom he recognised was one who had just begun to charm the town with the wit, the impudence, and the beauty which soon left her without a rival on the stage ; for, as he passed up Drury-lane, who but “pretty Nelly” was standing at the door of her lodging, in her smock-sleeves and bodice, and gazing with childish delight on the milk-maids dancing with garlands on their pails, and on the capering fiddler who led the

way. “Sweet Mistress Nelly," said Mr. Pepys,- for such was the gentleman's name,


your face in May dew this morning, that it looks so fresh and fair?"

“ Nay,” replied Nelly," I am but just up. To gather May dew, one must out to the fields at three o'clock of the morning; and at that hour Knipp and I were at my Lord Brouncker's, singing merry songs,

drinking rosa solis, and still wondering what had become of Dapper Dicky. But I see the reason; that pretty lace band has been a bribe to keep

“ have

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »