Изображения страниц

first sign of the presence of civilised man in the wilderness of forest meets the view, and the primitive little inn of Balup appears in sight. The site of this small roadside inn and farm was selected from the superior qualities of a patch of slope bordering a streamlet called the Wooriloo ; and which, having been adopted as the half-way house” of the settlers, had been cultivated with considerable care, and yielded abundantly for the general wants of the occupiers, whose livelihood more particularly depended upon the profits of the small business afforded by this line of traffic with the interior. The dwelling-house and land adjoining were then tenanted by a widow and her daughter, who attended to the cares of the household and the wants of their customers, as well as to the manufacture, whenever their leisure would permit, of flowers constructed with the feathers of the parrot, paroquet, and other birds of rare plumage, and often to the small and beautiful tippet which is formed with considerable labour of the pink down of the white cockatoo. These articles are sold to passers by, and form such presents for England as display to the good people at home the peculiarities of this great southern land.

After leaving this small hostelry, where excellent accommodation for the place and season is afforded, the road becomes more picturesque in character, the ranges more abrupt, the gullies deeper, and the slopes more precipitous and rocky. Towards sunset many of the views thus afforded had even a romantic character, and spoke of the time when civilised man had never planted foot in this domain, and the savage rarely. Again the scenery brightened, and our companion reining up at a turn of the high pass down which we were slowly and cautiously proceeding, commanded us in a voice which might have belonged to the spectre of the Brocken himself, to alight, and render obeisance to the first sign of a rich and fertile territory; which sign appeared in the form of a small and delicately-scented tree, called from the odour of its wood the violet. After the long sameness of the forest ranges we were but too glad to hail anything that in a small degree denoted change ; and shortly after the valley of the Avon, some hundreds of feet beneath, burst upon the sight. This fertilising river, which is, in fact, the main tributary of the Swan, was meandering gently between rich flats of alluvial soil; and herds of fat cattle were quietly browsing upon its pastures, or standing in pleasing groups upon the shady sides of the surrounding hills. At length, on the opposite bank, relieving the eye of the monotonous forest-clad hills around, rose substantial farm-buildings, and next fields of waving corn burst in all their verdant freshness upon the sight. If there be an indescribable charm in turning from civilisation to Nature in her solitudes, and then, long absent with her, to feel the requirements of the heart, and retrace our steps ; surely there can be nothing more deeply soothing to the mind than the sight of a dwelling rising from out the primeval forest, surrounded by those contrasts which speak of man's dominion and his necessary presence. If such contrasts be pleasing where the clandestine efforts of art can be seen and traced, what can be more gratifying than those which Australia herself voluntarily offers ? Peculiar in the construction of her territory and in the disposition of her land, whether fertile or barren, she presents a series of continued contrasts to the gaze of the explorer, which fill his heart with alternate emotions, and send him onward from plain to forest, from desolate tracts to rich alluvial lands, delighted and full of wonder. Here we had left a long dreary road, whose monotony had

been but once broken for more than fifty miles ; and were, like to a scene on the stage, in the heart of a district filled with rich variety of animal life. On one occasion the peculiarity of condition of an old decayed stump was brought under notice. It stood by the wayside, was to all appearance hollowed throughout, both by age and the labours of the ant; yet from the highest remaining portion of its trunk sprang a small and Hourishing tree of a different species altogether, the seed of which had been blown there by the wind.

The whole valley of the Avon is moderately well settled. Passing the farm, first displayed by the limits of the high road, the river is traced onward, winding in a serpentine form amid lofty picturesque hills, among which are several promising estates; when the country becomes more open, the valleys wider, and the larger hills more isolated in position. One estate in particular, the property of a retired army-captain, embosomed amid high rocky ranges intersecting one another at all points, spoke of the rich and varied deposits of soil which may be found in these primitive valleys. As the country became more open, the ride along the river's bank was exceedingly pleasant, rendered still more so by the level natural roads, which might be well compared with the small avenues leading up, in the pride of centuries, to some of the rural seats of England. At length we arrived at a beautiful little farm, kept by a very hard-working and worthy man, who had risen from the rank of labourer to that of substantial farmer -or yeoman, if it please better : but on that we shall ask permission to read a lesson hereafter. This homestead stands


the right bank of the river; and on the opposite side may be seen, spread out in all its luxuriance beneath the feet of a huge mount, the more highly cultivated estate of a retired naval officer. At the working farmer's snug and unpretending dwelling we quartered for the night; and while the wife busied herself in the labours of unvarying colonial hospitality, we had leisure to gaze upon the different matters around us, which plainly marked the frugal and respectable habits of the people. The building itself was formed in the usual manner-of clay external walls of moderate thickness, partitioned off in the interior into two compartments forming the bed-room and the sitting-room : in fact, the general run of farmhouses are so much of this character, that we will more minutely describe the present, which will serve for all the rest.

The most approved method of constructing the walls and out-buildings of colonial homesteads, is by the use of 5 wattle and dab,” which is nothing more nor less than a mixture of stiff clay, in which the small leaves and fibres of the wattle tree are plentifully mingled. This being finished, a common rafter roof of extraordinary pitch is then raised upon the walls, and the whole thatched with straw or reeds. If the walls be tolerably thick, nothing can surpass the coolness of these dwellings; and, garnished according to financial circumstances with the simple comforts of cottage life, the whole will form an abode which, if not luxurious, iş at least unpretending and all-sufficient. The floors are usually those which Nature provided; and, when kept cleanly swept, and covered with that excellent and cool kind of matting which is procured from the East, are not wanting in convenience or comfort. Such is the simple homestead: the more blessed of the settled community live in habitations constructed after European fashions. The doors and windows of the former are matters of after-consideration-sometimes fitted.



luxurious glass, at others with but the simple shutter—while each is usually kept open throughout the day, for the free circulation of air, and the occasional passage of more enterprising ants and poultry.

The dwelling wherein we passed the night was of this simple description : the usual trophies of the farm were hung around and from the rafters; and the walls were, moreover, adorned with a few wondrous efforts of art, of a date beyond record, and dimly displaying sea-fights of a singularly smoky and sanguinary character. Wandering out beneath the pale moon ere we retired to rest, when the sound of the night-breeze alone disturbed the perfect tranquillity of the hour, and the dark outline of the mount on the opposite bank of the river gave as it were a curtain to the picture which the lovely night had spread before us, we remember turning over and over again in our mind the many so-called blessings of civilisation which were far off in another hemisphere, and at that hour waking into renewed activity and life. We thought of the great sacrifices which men are said to make when they abandon the homes of their fathers to seek a world elsewhere,—subsistence, and even happiness, beyond the pale of European test and experience. No balls, no routs, no theatres, no gay pageantry were here ; no absorbing political strife, to shake an ambitious world at the newly-reclaimed Antipodes. There was the planet which reigned over all, and viewed all in her appointed course ; but nothing furnished a clue to the mysteryHere were we, and where were our gains ?-in a land where years must elapse ere civilisation can engraft its diseases and its antidotes—can dissolve the barrier, and render each like unto the other! And then we turned our eyes in the direction of the quiet homestead, where every daily occupation had ceased, and nought moved save the restless housedog, who, not satisfied unless all were as still as death, wandered to and fro, searching here and sniffing there in his fussy guardianship, and coming anon to poke his cold nose against our hand, in expectation of a patronising caress. The scene was eminently tranquil, and we could all love it—if we could forget. Yes, if we could forget the old ambition—the fabled destiny of our early and late imaginings; if we could believe in primitive life, its unfluttering thoughts, its peaceful though lowly inspiration! If the emigrant accomplish these, he is safe: if not, they are to him the ever living fountains of disaster—the cup whose dregs are wormwood, to be drained hourly, daily, yearly. The morning sun had not risen when we sprang


our couch to try conjecture at a different season. The dawn was more beautiful than the night. We were in a totally different country to any yet experienced since our residence in the colony. It was all good soil, all verdure, all picturesque mountain, and here and there careful cultivation. There was, however, barely a tenth part of the population which might be housed and nourished in pride and plenty in this smiling wilderness; the boundary lines of innumerable untenanted grants had been already passed, and were still visible: there were many to inhabit, but none to claim them by the fair title of labour dispensed and bestowed. The cattle were asking in the most earnest and feeling manner for their daily liberty of the pasture; and the sheep were bleating in their innocent way for the glades and hills around: all spoke of peace, plenty, and harmless, happy enjoyment. Again we asked if the mind could cherish these things, and deem them great and enough; and still

the puzzled brain refused to work. The senses, in truth, were all alive, and quaffing deeply of the novelty and real pleasure of the scene; and we had scarcely commenced upon the contest in a fair and impartial manner, when our companion called us in to breakfast, in order to make an early start before the sun had risen far into the heavens. So we must do so anon.

Following the course of our journey, which now lay towards the York district, we traversed many miles of open woodland, and then turned once more into the

ranges, till at last we halted at a hilly road overlooking the beautiful estate called by its native name Mokine, and which takes up a rich narrow vale extending about six miles. The whole of this was comprised in two small farms; that is, it was so divided, and with the comparatively few acres under cultivation might be said to be a waste inviting population and tillage. Enclosed by parallel ranges of hills, there lie about 8000 acres of rich arable land with abundant springs; and we have thus dwelt upon it to show one single instance of the state of abeyance in which most of the estates of the colony remain at this hour. The remainder of the route to the township of York passes through a more level country, where the lands of smaller settlers lie; and cultivated plots follow in succession, though the traveller is wearied in passing over, for the greater part of the distance, the idle wastes termed large grants, which effectually lock up the resources of this naturally fertile region. At length you arrive by a gradual ascent to the Mount Bakewell Range; and passing down the gorge on the opposite side, an extensive and pleasing view of the small township and farms around is disclosed.

York is more famous for what it is to be than its present actual advancement. There are but few houses in it at present, and these are chiefly inns, the barracks of a small detachment of military, a lock-up, and the abodes and workshops of a few mechanics, who subsist upon the employment afforded them by the settlers in its immediate vicinity. From their small numbers, these workmen are too often found to be a lazy, extortionate set; but competition will soon check them. This town is situated on a level plain in one of the richest districts of the colony. Annual races are held; and several societies are in the habit of holding their periodical meetings here. From its central situation, and the beforementioned superiority of lands in and around it, York will at some not far distant day become a place of great importance to the district. The principal inn, styled the York Hotel, was kept by a person who had risen from the ranks of the labouring class; and afforded another instance among the many which show that new countries are highly beneficial to all who are disposed to work themselves — and to such alone—of what may be accomplished where the prejudices and feelings of an old country are cast aside and abandoned. The township itself is environed with hills, the loftiest of which is the before-mentioned Mount Bakewell.

The lands were well cultivated in and around, and the spot appeared to be well adapted for an inland residence for Indian visitors ; good society and excellent natural roads being found in the immediate neighbourhood. There is one farm in particular, lying at the foot of Mount Bakewell, which is deserving of notice, as it is tenanted by two industrious young men, who came to the colony originally with little pecuniary means either to spend or to invest. After some few years passed in the employment of others, they began, as it is termed,“ to feel their legs;" and meeting

with an advantageous improving lease, had rendered a desert spot not only fertile, but adorned with some of the most solid and durable erections it was our good fortune to note. The dwelling-house was of superior construction ; it had its detached kitchen, store, granary, and barn, together with a substantial stock-yard and stabling ; while the only primitive piece of machinery attached was a wool-press, the power of which was produced from a huge branch of a tree, alternately hoisted and lowered over the lid of the box containing the wool. In all cases, it may be said, where the produce of an establishment will not bear the expense of the usual screw-press, this contrivance answers every purpose to which it can be applied.

We rested here some few days, enjoying the hospitality of these intelligent and thrifty working men; and during that period scrambled to the summit of Mount Bakewell

, chiefly for the purpose of conning the “Surveyor's Tree," which, from its history, was an affair of importance. It is ever memorable to the colonist, as having been the centre of the first great survey which was held in early years in this part of the country, long ere the ploughman or the shepherd had exercised their appointed tasks over wilds which, since their creation, had been accumulating the riches of vegetable decay. The view looks far into the settled district, and amply repays the struggles of ascent. The Surveyor's Tree bore many initials carved and painted thereon; it was evidently a prominent mark in the survey, as it peers over numerous ranges of hills, which throughout the whole district appear of less elevation. Like many an Australian scene, this lost much of its varied richness in the general sombre colouring of the foliage, though even that was occasionally relieved by the graceful and evergreen leaf of the violet-wood. At some not far distant day, this now insignificant spot will hear from afar the distant hum of busy active life, when the valley of the Avon shall nourish the frugal industry and unambitious longings of a homely yet cultivated population; when Britain shall proudly say, and say in truth, pointing to her Ragged Schools, and the fairly applied bounties of those Universities which are the property of her nation, that education has accomplished this, and that the transfusion of its vitality has forestalled the very rudiments of civilisation. The most remote islands and hitherto forbidding spots upon the earth yet to be peopled, and many already in the process, might thus early germinate the seeds of social wisdom and real happiness, and render that expatriation, which even now is clouded with a thousand regrets, misapprehensions, and domestic as well as intellectual losses, a giving way alone to the destiny of an overpopulated country - a change rather in name, beneficial in most, and probably in all, cases.

Leaving this township, there is a road direct to Guildford, closely resembling that of the Toodyay district, although it cannot be said to be so hilly and rugged, or to present so many difficulties in the shape of gullies and watercourses to the traveller ; for in many parts it is as even as a plain, though the whole passes through a monotonous and unwatered country. The first object of interest to be met with is St. Ronan's Well

, a watering-place for the travelling teams of the settlers. It owes its present title to general good taste in that remote part of the world, for it originally bore the name of the man who first formed a rude reser

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »