In process of time he married a wife — a real jewel, from that "gem of the sea" so dear to poor old England — and accompanied his regiment to Van Dieman's Land, en route to India. He was well known and liked by the officers, having a peculiar talent for blarney; and nothing pleased him so much as a little conversation with a superior.
The regiment remained seven years in Van Dieman's Land, and then passed on to its destination, leaving a number of men, who had received their discharge, to become settlers in the colony. Among these was Mr. Michael Blake, who soon established himself on a block of land, and became a prosperous colonist. But times grew bad, ere he could retire with a fortune. His wife formed undesirable acquaintances, and Michael endeavoured to reclaim her by wholesome correction; but, unhappily, he bestowed so much attention upon her amendment that he entirely neglected himself, and before he was aware that he was falling into error, had become an habitual drunkard.
Everything now went wrong. Mike, hating himself, began to hate everything about him; he hated the colony; he hated the magistrates, who now and then imposed a penalty upon him; he hated the laws, and discovered the difference between law and justice, without being able to find any traces of the latter. His fences fell into decay; his pigs and cattle committed trespasses, and the neighbours made him pay damages. It was the fault of the law, or rather of the lawyers, whom he condemned to the flames with dreadful imprecations.
Unable to pay the storekeeper for sugar and tea, judgment was given against him, and his last surviving cow was seized by the sheriff. He had the satisfaction of beating the officer nearly to death; but the cow was sold notwithstanding, and he took a month's exercise on the treadmill, whilst his wife spent the time with her friend the excise-officer, and drank to his better health and general improvement.
On being released, he complained to the Governor, and presented petitions to the Legislative Council against the unjust judges who ruled the land, and crushed the hearts out of the people.
Soon, however, softer feelings came over him; thoughts returned of home, so long forgotten in days of prosperity. He wondered whether his parents were alive, whom, forty years ago, he had left in the barony of Skibbereen, and had not heard of since.
He thought of the home of his boyhood; of the antiquated cabin in which, at the will of his father, he had so often "eaten stick;" of the long-legged and long-snouted sow, that used to grunt uneasily in her dreams before the fire; of the potatoes and salt for breakfast and dinner, of which he never got enough; of the puddle before the door, in which he used to love to dabble — all these visions of the past came back upon him now in the time of his sorrows, and filled him with a craving for the scenes of his youth.
Every one in trouble goes to the Governor, who has consequently plenty of morning-callers. A few words of sympathy from his Excellency are very consoling, and serve the afflicted for a topic of conversation for some time to come. "His Excellency, the last time I saw him, desired me to write to my friends." "His Excellency particularly wishes me to make it up with Smith, or I'd never have forgiven him for seizing my cow." "His Excellency swears that he can't spare me from the colony, or nothing should make me stay another day in it," etc. etc.
Mike presented himself at the government-offices, and after waiting a couple of hours, caught sight of the Governor as he was passing out through the ante-room.
"God bless your Honour, it's bould I am to be stopping your Honour and Excellency this way, and you going out too with the business of the Nation upon your Honour's shoulders."
"What do you want, my good friend, what do you want?"
"It's your Honour and Excellency that's the good friend to me and the poor, and many's the prayer that's offered up night and morning for your Excellency, by them that blesses the Good God and the Virgin for having sent your Honour to reign over us." —
"What is it, Mike, what is it? I'm in a hurry."
"And is it me that's hindering your Honour? sure and I'll walk wid ye to the world's end and talk all the same. Och, and it's the bad times that have come upon us all entirely — and the ould settlers feels it the most, as is likely. Faith and we'd all die off, out and out, if it wasn't for your Excellency thinking of us, and schaming to do us the good turn, when the Council (bad luck to 'em!) raises the duties."
"My horse is waiting; I really cannot stay."
"Arrah, and it's a fine baste that same, and the two of you looks well together, with the white cockatoo feathers, and the sword all gould and diamonds."
Here his Excellency showed signs of mounting his horse, so Mike hastened to whisper confidentially,
"Governor, dear, my heart's broken entirely for the ould country, and the poor father and mother that's looking out for me night and morning these forty years, to give me their blessing; and the woman at home, the crathur, kills me day-by-day with her going on; and I'd like to see ould Ireland once before I die, and Skibbereen, which your Honour knows is the finest place under God Almighty's blessed canopy, and I can't die in pace till I see it — 'deed I can't, Governor dear; and ther's a Man-of-war, no less than the Shannon herself, going to sail for the Indies, where I'd get passed on by Colonel Maxwell (God bless him for the rale gintleman!) only, Governor dear, spake the good word for me to Captain Widdicombe, and I'll be took to Calcutty free for nothing; and it's not a tinpenny-piece that I have in the world, the blessed Virgin pity me!" — Here his Excellency, being mounted on horseback, felt himself in more independent circumstances, and told Mike that he must not think of leaving the colony without his wife, as it would be most improper conduct (the Government would have to support her), and that he himself had no interest with Captain Widdicombe — His Excellency's charger, being of an impatient temper, allowed no further time for parley, but cantered off with his rider, leaving Mike rather at fault.
The more numerous the difficulties that appeared in the way of Mike's return to Skibbereen, the more yearning became his desire to lay his bones there. Every day he appeared at the Government-offices, and waylaid the Colonial-secretary, or the Attorney-General, or some other of the officials, entreating them to obtain a free passage for an old soldier, whose only desire on earth was to die among the bogs of Skibbereen.
He talked incessantly of that beautiful spot, and swore that he loved it better than the Garden of Eden. He pined after Skibbereen as the melancholy pelican pines for his desert home; but hope gradually seemed to leave him — all other friends had long since abandoned him, and he had fallen helplessly into the power of his arch-enemy the Rum-bottle, when a fellow-countryman arrived at Hobart Town from Western Australia. Mr. Denis Maguire listened patiently to Mike's pathetic lamentation over the lost Skibbereen, and then calmly replied, "Och, but it's little that I'd disthract myself for a place like that in the ould country; sure isn't there Skibbereen near the Swan River, belonging to Mr. O'Driscoll, and isn't it a beautifuller place entirely than any other Skibbereen in the world?" "What!" interrupted Mike, "is there Skibbereen at the Swan River, and is it Mr. O'Driscoll that's living there? Arrah! say that again, my darling, if you plaze." Maguire repeated the statement; on which Mike, starting up, began to dance an Irish hornpipe; and then, stopping short of a sudden swore that he was the happiest boy alive, and thanked the blessed Saints for all their goodness to him.
The next day he managed to sell all the remains of his property, and made a bargain with the owner of a small coasting-vessel to convey him and his wife (whom he was compelled to take with him) to Swan River, where he arrived in due course of time, and managed to locate himself at Skibbereen, where he built a hut, cultivated several acres of land, and became quite a reformed character.
Although his landlord, Mr. O'Driscoll, was his countryman, Mike managed to blarney him so that he did just what he liked, and never paid any rent either in cash or in kind. His yearning desire had been to live at Skibbereen, and now that he had attained his object he was (wonderful to say) contented and happy.
He frequently came to Perth for the sake of a little chat with the storekeepers and the gentry, and as he was sure to blarney some one into giving him a dinner, he always returned home light of heart and unimpaired in pocket. But alas! poor Mike was not destined to die in peace at Skibbereen. A large party of the natives had suddenly attacked the abode of a neighbouring settler, and put the owner to death. Michael Blake and two of his friends, without waiting for other assistance, hastened to the rescue, imperfectly armed. They were overpowered in an instant. Blake and one of his companions fell pierced with many spears, whilst the other, being on horseback, escaped, carrying with him four spears fixed in his body. Years afterwards, one of the natives who had assisted at the slaughter coolly related the particulars of the death of Michael Blake.
When he was lying on the ground, said this man, he turned round, and supporting himself on his arm, entreated for mercy in the most moving terms. The savages stood round him, looking on, and listening patiently to his address.
"Did you show him mercy?" asked my informant.
"No!" replied the savage, with calm indifference.
"What did you do?"
"We cut his tongue out."
"Wretch! what for?"
"He wongee (chattered) too much."
Poor Mike! his blarney could not save him; it had often before done him good service, but the savages valued it not.
WILD CATTLE HUNTING.
Having received intelligence that a numerous herd of wild cattle had lately been seen grazing upon some extensive plains a day's journey south of Perth, I got up a party with the intention of hunting them.
Our preparations were made the day before starting on the expedition. A bullock-cart was loaded with fire-arms, kegs of brandy, various kinds of provisions, and cloaks and blankets. A couple of natives had been engaged to act as guides, and these, with their wives and families, spent the greater part of the day lounging about my premises, idly inspecting the arrangements, and sleeping in the sunshine, lazy as the pigs, which they surpassed in filth. In the afternoon, taking with them a supply of flour, they commenced their journey, intending to sleep upon the road, and leave us to overtake them on the following day.
At day-break the next morning we were in our saddles, the bullock-cart having started during the night. The party consisted of three, who were all clad in blue hunting-shirts, and had polished horns hanging at their backs, filled with eau-de-vie, wine and water, or the simple fluid, according to the taste of the wearer. As we passed down the silent street at that early hour, one of the party, an officer, agreeably dispelled the slumbers of the peaceful inhabitants by a most able performance upon a key-bugle; the others gave vent to the exuberance of their spirits by loud "tally-ho's!" and cries of "hark away!" and other encouraging expressions addressed to imaginary dogs. Then we gave our able steeds the head, and dashed along with all those happy and exulting thoughts which bubble in the breast of youth hurrying to the chase. Is there any moment in life so dear to memory as those we have passed on horseback, in the fine air of morning, when we hurried along towards the haunt of cunning Reynard, and expected every instant to see him break cover? Less exciting by far is hunting in Australia, but still it is hunting, and we are on horseback, and eager as ever for a gallop. Passing over two well-built wooden bridges, connected by a causeway, we crossed the river, and took the road for the Canning.
Thick woods of banksia, wattle, and eucalypti, closed in the view on every side; but occasionally we ascended a gentle slope, and then looking back we could see a beautiful picture before us. In the still air and misty light of the morning, Perth water lay clear and tranquil amidst the vast forest by which it is surrounded. The heights of Mount Eliza looked down into the glittering mirror. On the right bank were the white houses of the capital; far to the left we caught glimpses of Melville water. Except the occasional flights of wild ducks, and the dark gusts which from time to time swept along the waters, heralding the rising land-wind, all was still and breathless. One could not help asking oneself how long this scene had existed as we now beheld it? Was it designed for thousands of years to be viewed only by savages, mindless as the birds or fishes that frequented its waters? Had it always existed thus, or been growing during centuries under the hand of Nature, until it should be adapted to the habitation of civilized man? And was that period now arrived, or were we premature in seizing upon our inheritance before it was thoroughly prepared for our reception? Many times have we asked ourselves this last question. This singular country appears to represent the ancient character of the earth in one of the earlier stages of formation. It represents that epoch when animal life was first developed in the lowest order of quadrupeds.
There are a few small exceptions, but it may be laid down as a general rule, that all the animals indigenous to this country are marsupial — from the kangaroo, the largest down to the little field-mouse.
The animals not indigenous are Man, the wild cattle, and the wild dogs. Many speculations have been hazarded as to the origin of the first: to me it appears there can be little doubt that the first tribes found their way hither from the eastern islands, having proceeded originally from India. The language of the natives bears more traces of the Hindu than of any other. This, I believe, is the opinion of the Rev. J. Mitchell, M.A., of the Middle Swan, whose long residence in India, and intimate acquaintance with some of the languages of that country, give weight to his conjectures. Many of the words used by the natives of both countries are identical in sound, and express the same meaning.
I have also noticed that the Coolies of India and the natives of this colony manage to understand one another much sooner than is the case between the latter and the whites.
The wild cattle have long existed in the interior, as appears from their remains. Both they and the wild dog have probably descended from animals cast ashore by shipwreck. The indigenous tribes are those of the kangaroo, the opossum, and the lizard. It is curious to observe how the distinguishing features of the first are manifested in a great variety of animals, of all sizes from the kangaroo downwards — the long hind, and short fore legs, the three toes on the former, the rat-like-head, the warm pouch, betokening the immature parturition. The opossums also are marsupial. All these animals seem to belong to an early age of the geological world. Many of the plants speak the same language — especially the Zamia. The rocks, too, of this portion of New Holland are all primary, except the limestone and sandstone near the coast. Is this country, then, a portion of the world that has remained in the same state for thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of years; or is it of comparatively recent formation, exhibiting that condition which at one period belonged to the whole surface of the earth? The latter, of course, must be the case; and if so, we cannot help thinking that further changes must take place in its geological character before it shall be permanently occupied by civilized man. At present, however, it must be admitted there is no sign of volcanic action going on to effect these changes. Our conjectures are purely speculative, and will probably meet with no sympathy from the reader, but we throw them out because the subject is full of wonder and mystery; and those who have brought personal observation to bear upon it, best know it to be so. As we wander through the lacustrine valleys which abound here; valleys once the beds of rivers, but now broad swamps choked up with lofty reeds — we feel as though we were in the land and the age of the Saurians.
The whole country swarms with lizards, some of which, to the northward, grow to the size of five feet; but the most common are the 'Iguana', or 'Guana', a creature some ten or twelve inches long, with a flat head, very wide mouth, and only the stump of a tail. They are perfectly harmless, and subsist upon frogs and insects. One variety of this species, found in the district of King George's Sound, was brought to my notice by my brother. It is usually found in a tuft of grass, where it lies completely hidden except its tongue, which is thrust upwards, and bears an exact resemblance to the petal of a flower, crimson and pink. Flies seem to delight in resting upon this deceptive flower, which being covered with an adhesive mucous substance, takes them prisoner, and proves their destruction.
We have now had a long canter, which has brought us to the neighbourhood of the Canning River. The country hereabouts resembles a wild English park. The trees are all of the eucalypti species, large and dispersed; the surface of the ground is level, affording a view of the Darling Hills, which appear to be close at hand. Crossing the river by a rustic bridge, we ascended the opposite bank, whilst our trumpeter blew a charge that was intended to announce our approach at a farm-house close at hand. As we rode up to the door, the proprietor, attended by three stalwart sons, hastened to greet us. He was a gentleman who had passed a good portion of his life on the Continent, but having a large family to bring up had resolved to seek his fortune in the Southern hemisphere. Breakfast was already set out for us in a large room which served as the baronial hall of the mansion; whilst our horses, partaking of the prodigal hospitality of the farmer colonist, were tethered in various parts of a fine field of clover.
Breakfast is a famous meal after an early morning ride, and people have then not only good appetites but good spirits. Half-a-dozen kangaroo-dogs, attracted by the clatter of knives and the tempting savour that arose from the large dish of sheep's fry, crowded round the open door, whilst they seemed to feel keenly the selfishness of those who appropriated the whole of the feast to themselves. Every now and then arose a howl of anguish from the group, as one of the young men would arrive with fresh supplies of coffee or fried bacon, and kicked a clear passage for himself into the room. One only of the canine race was allowed to approach the table — the venerable Tip, who having formerly, in times of scarcity, earned his master five pounds a-week by catching kangaroos for the market of Fremantle, was now entitled to sit at his right hand, where a few morsels were occasionally bestowed upon him, which he received with becoming gravity and decorum.
Breakfast finished, we saddled our horses and proceeded on our way, accompanied by one of the sons of our host. We pushed along towards the foot of the hills, over a sandy country covered with scrub, and trees of various magnitudes.
The birds that we saw were chiefly fly-catchers and parroquets; and occasionally the wild turkey, or bustard sailing along in the distance, made us sigh for a nearer acquaintance.
After a cheerful ride of several hours, having the hills on our left hand, we crossed a few small plains; and understanding from our guide, Tom H——-, that we were now at our destination, we began to look about us for our bullock-cart, whose track we had noticed from time to time as we came along. Our "cooeys" were answered by voices not far distant; and following the sound, we soon came within view of a column of smoke curling lightly above the trees; and on arriving at the spot whence it arose, we found our man, assisted by the natives, busily engaged in erecting a kind of hut, or rather skreen of boughs, for our night quarters. The bullocks were feeding quietly at a short distance; the cart was conveniently placed for being unpacked; and a group of three native women and their children, squatted round a fire of their own, about a hundred yards from ours, and busily occupied in baking flour-dampers, signalled our approach by shrill cries of welcome without rising from their places.
[sketch of "The Bivouac."]
Our horses were soon relieved of their saddles, and each man leading his own steed by the long tether-rope which had been carefully coiled round its neck, took it to a neighbouring pool to drink, and then proceeded in search of the best pasture. Our animals having been attended to, our next thought was of ourselves; and every one took his bundle of blankets and cloaks out of the cart, and unrolled it beneath the sloping skreen of boughs, and prepared his bed according to his particular taste or experience; testing the accommodation from time to time by flinging himself upon his couch, and ascertaining the different vents by which the wind would be likely to prove annoying during the night. These were next stopped up by handfuls of xanthorea leaves, or by strips of bark from the paper-tree.
The lodging being pronounced perfect, and the sun being level with the horizon, we hastened the preparation for our meal; and hampers and boxes soon gave forth their stores of cold fowls, tongues, hams, and meat-pies. Sausages are excellent things in bush-campaigns; and as every man toasts his own on the point of a long stick, a high degree of nervous excitement is felt by each, lest he should lose his savoury morsel in the fire.
The kettle soon boiled, and as we ate our tea-dinner, the sun went down, and night quickly swallowed up the short twilight, leaving us to depend entirely on our fire, which presented a goodly pile that shot forth cheerful flames, making the scenery around us bright with light. The ground for the space of many yards glittered beneath the flickering rays; the bowls of the tall trees seemed whiter than usual; even the brown cheeks of the natives looked less dark, as they chattered and laughed over their supper. Cold grog, or hot brandy-and-water, was leisurely sipped by those who lay on their couches in the full tranquillity of after-dinner ease; and as digestion proceeded, songs and catches awakened the echoes of the woods.
Tired at last, we sank to sleep, having first, however, visited our horses and changed their tether. During the night I woke up. All around were fast asleep in different postures; some rolling about uneasily in their dreams; others still as the dead. I heaped fresh logs upon the fire, which blazed forth anew. The natives were all huddled under their wigwams, which are about the size and shape of an open umbrella resting on its edge. The night was dark throughout the forest, and overhead; the little circle of light within which I stood, seemed like a magician's ring, sacred and safe from evil spirits that filled the air around. It was as the speck of Time amid the ocean of Eternity — as Hope, bright and solitary in the midst of unfathomable darkness. There I felt safe and secure — but without — who might tell what spirits roamed abroad, melancholy and malignant? Peering into that dark boundary of forest, the eye vainly endeavoured to pierce the gloom. Fancy peopled its confines with flitting shapes, and beheld a grinning hobgoblin in the grotesque stump of many a half-burnt tree, on which the light momentarily flickered. The ear listened eagerly for sounds in the distant solitude; and one almost expected to hear shrieks of laughter or of terror borne upon the night-wind from the recesses of the hills. Evil spirits seem peculiarly the companions of heathen savages. A wild, desert, and desolate region, traversed only in the day-time, and rarely even then, by straggling barbarians whose hearts have never known a single gentle emotion, seems naturally to be the haunt of the Spirits of Evil.
Chingi, the terror of our natives, is often seen by them, as they lie cowering under their kangaroo skins, and huddled together in the extremity of fear, stalking giant-like and gloomy along the summits of the hills, whilst the moon shrinks timidly behind her curtain of clouds.
On that night, however, there was no moon, and Chingi was not visible to me, nor did any sound break in upon the silence of the forest, save that of our horses eating their food, and giving an occasional snort as the sand affected their nostrils. Anxious to behold any spirits that might please to be visible, I walked to the spot occupied by my quadruped, with the intention of changing his quarters; but finding him comfortably stretched in repose, I left him to dream of his own distant manger and two quarterns of oats, and returned to my couch. The appearance of the bivouac, to one viewing it from the surrounding darkness, was very picturesque. Every object was lighted up by the cheerful blaze — the cart with its packages in or about it, the sleepers in their blue or red woollen shirts, under the sloping roof, their guns leaning against the uprights, their shot-belts and pouches hanging in front — the kangaroo-dogs lying round the fire, and as near to it as possible — the surrounding trees and shrubs glittering with a silvery light, their evergreen foliage rustling at the breath of the soft land-breeze — altogether formed a striking and peculiar scene.
Next morning we were up before the sun, and having breakfasted, proceeded on horseback in search of the herd of wild cattle, which we knew, from the reports of natives, to be somewhere in the neighbourhood. We rode down an extensive plain, covered plentifully with grass, and presenting numerous clumps of trees, which afforded shelter to bronze-winged pigeons and immense flights of white cockatoos. The latter screamed fearfully as we drew nigh, but did not remain long enough to allow us the chance of a shot. Many tracks of the cattle were visible, traversing these plains in every direction; but on reaching a small pool, we found such recent traces as led us to believe the animals could not be far distant. Remaining stationary for a few moments, we allowed the two natives who accompanied us to ascertain the direction in which the herd had wandered, and their signs soon led us to follow in profound silence. The natives walked rapidly ahead; the tracks were very apparent, and we were all in high glee, and growing extremely excited. The sun shone brightly, but as it was in the month of May, the air was mild and pleasant, without being hot. After proceeding along the plains for several miles we came to a thick jungle, through which the cattle had formed a path. The interior presented a rocky area of considerable extent. Fragments of rock lay jostled together, among which trees and shrubs appeared, and here and there an open space afforded room for the herbage which had tempted the cattle into this rough scene. In parts where grass refused to grow, beautiful purple flowers raised their heads in clusters — and ever in the most rugged and barren spots the gayest flowers are found to bloom. How grateful do we feel to Nature for bestowing such charms upon the wild desert! cheering our spirits with a sense of the beautiful, that else would droop and despond as we journeyed through the lone and dreary waste.
Although we sometimes proceeded over a surface of bare rock, and at others over large and loose stones, where no foot-print was visible to the eye of a white man, the natives never failed to discover the traces which they sought with unerring sagacity. After a ride of nearly two hours we observed one of the natives making signs to us to halt. "There they are!" passed in eager whispers from one to the other. Before us was a belt of wood, through which we could perceive about a dozen cattle grazing on a broad plain.
Already they had a suspicion of danger, and began to look around them. One of the natives, with my double-barrelled gun loaded with heavy ball was creeping toward them through the grass upon his hands and knees, whilst we cautiously drew up at the side of the wood.
The herd consisted of a huge mouse-coloured bull, with an enormous hunch on his shoulders, and about a dozen cows, with a few calves. The bull came slowly towards us, muttering low bellows, and shaking his fierce head and ponderous neck, on which grew a short, black mane. From some unexplained cause or other the native fired his gun before the animal was within range, and the bull, being a beast of discretion, stopped short, as though extremely surprised, and after a little hesitation, turned round and rejoined his female friends. The whole herd then began to trot off at a slow pace across the plain, which was thereabout a mile broad. We were now all eagerness for the pursuit; and Tom H——-, the most experienced of the party, calling on us to follow him, dashed off at right angles from the herd, and outside the belt of wood, in the belief that he would be able to head the animals by a little manoeuvring; but at the instant he started the old bull turned short on his course, and made across the plain in a new direction. I happened to be the last of our party, and was the only one who perceived this new disposition of the enemy. Anxious to be the first in the melee, I allowed my friends to gallop off, and dashed myself through the wood directly in pursuit of the herd. Thinking there was no time to lose, I waited not for my gun, but resolved to trust to the pistols in my holsters.
The cattle, who had begun their retreat at a steady trot, increased their speed as they saw me gallopping up to them. I was afraid of their crossing the plain, and escaping in the thick forest beyond, and so pushed my good horse to his utmost speed. He seemed to be as much excited as myself, and in a few minutes I headed the herd, and tried to turn them back; but they would not deviate from their course, and would have rushed through a regiment of foot, had it been in their way: I therefore avoided the old bull, who came charging along at the head of the phalanx, and found myself in the midst of the herd. It was a moment of delightful excitement; some skill was required to avoid the hurtling forest of horns, but I turned round and gallopped with the mass; and having perfect confidence in my horse and horsemanship, I felt that I could pick out any of the animals I pleased. My gun, however, was wanting to bring the huge bull to his bearings. He looked so enormous as I gallopped alongside of him, that I despaired of making any impression with a pistol, and resolved to limit my ambition to the slaughter of one of the cows. We were now across the plain, the bull had entered the forest, and the others were in the act of doing the same, when I rode against the outside cow, in the hope of turning her away from the thick cover, and keeping her in the open plain. She would not, however, turn aside, and I fired my first pistol at her eye, and though I only grazed her cheek, succeeded in separating her from her companions, and turning her up the long plain. At this moment four kangaroo-dogs, (a cross between a greyhound and a blood-hound, bold, powerful, and swift,) that had followed me in the chase, but had only gallopped alongside of the cattle, finding me seriously engaged with one of the number, made a simultaneous dash at the unfortunate cow, and endeavoured to impede her career by barking, and biting at her nostrils, dew-lap, and flanks.
It was a fine sight to see these four noble hounds chasing away on either side of the animal, whilst she, every now and then, stooped low her head and made a dash at them, without pausing in her career. Away she went at a slapping pace, keeping me on the gallop. Fearful of hurting the dogs, I refrained from firing for some time, but at length got a chance, and aimed a ball behind her shoulders, but it struck her ribs, and penetrated no deeper than the skin. Loading as I rode along, I delivered another ball with better success, and she began to abate her speed. The rest of the party now came up, cheering and hallooing, but the game had dashed into a swamp in which the reeds and shrubs were high enough to conceal horses and huntsmen; nevertheless, we pushed through, and found her on the bank of a muddy pool, where she stood at bay, whilst the dogs barked cautiously before her. She was covered with sweat, blood, and dirt, and perfectly furious; and the moment we approached she made a rush, trampling over several of the dogs; and darting madly against the nearest horseman, caught his charger on the flank, and steed and rider rolled together on the ground. The furious assailant stumbled over her prostrate foes, and was saluted with a discharge of fire-arms, which, however, did not prevent her from rushing against me in return for a ball in the shoulder, but I eluded the assault, and the animal fell exhausted to the ground.
All this may sound savage enough to those who read in cold blood, but it was very exciting at the time; and MAN, when a hunter, becomes for the moment ruthless and blood-thirsty. This was a very severe chase; the animal had run full five miles over a rough country at such a pace as to cover our horses with foam, and they now stood thoroughly blown, and shaking in every limb.
We returned to our home after a short rest, taking the tail with us as a trophy. A party was despatched in the evening with the cart, and a large portion of the carcase was brought in and skilfully salted by the experienced hand of Tom H.
This evening passed away as pleasantly as the last, and as we were all rather fatigued, we retired early, and slept until awakened by the sun.
A native arrived early in the morning with the intelligence that a herd of wild cattle was now grazing in a ravine of the hills about four miles distant. As we could not well follow them on horseback in that locality, we started off on foot armed with our rifles. The morning as usual was brilliant, but not too warm, and we walked along in high spirits. We had not proceeded far through the woods when one of the natives, who was in advance, stopped short on a sudden, and we all instinctively did the same. Stealing back to us, he took my rifle out of my hands without any ceremony, and telling us to remain perfectly still, crept slowly forward, stooping nearly to the ground. We now perceived a small plain about two hundred yards a-head of us, on which were six wild turkeys leisurely feeding and walking about.
The native had dived among the scrub, and we lost all signs of him. It soon, however, became evident that the turkeys suspected danger; they erected their tall brown and grey necks, and looked about them like alarmed sentinels. "They're off!" cried we — but just as they were preparing to run, which they do with great rapidity, one of them was seen to flutter his wings and tumble over, whilst the crack of the rifle proclaimed the triumph of Migo. We rushed through the brush-wood, elated as schoolboys who have shot their first throstle with a horse-pistol, and found the bustard flapping out its last breath in the hands of the native, whose dark visage gleamed with triumphant pride.
Resuming our march, we passed over the side of a hill covered with inferior Jarra trees, and soon entered the ravine in which we expected to find the cattle. They were not visible; so we crossed the valley, and passed up the other side for about half-a-mile, when we entered another valley, some distance up which we perceived a herd of cattle quietly grazing, or lying ruminating in the confidence of perfect security. We endeavoured to creep towards them as quietly as possible, but their senses of smelling and hearing were so acute that they became acquainted with their danger too soon for us, and trotted gently up the valley before we could reach them. We now dispersed in the hope of heading them. Attaching myself to Migo, who considered my rifle the most likely to prove successful, as he had killed the bustard with it, we walked for half an hour across the hill-side without seeing anything of our game. A rifle-shot and a loud shout prepared us for something, and in another minute we heard the crashing of branches and the tread of feet, and soon beheld half-a-dozen cows and two or three calves making their way up the hill at a short distance from us.
"What for you no get behind tree?" said the native in an angry whisper, and giving me a push that prevented my staring idly any longer, and sent me into a proper position.
"Oh! why will they go in that direction? Why will they not come within range? I will give everything I have on earth for one good point-blank shot!"
And sure enough a bouncing bull-calf, turning aside from a thick clump of trees, came within about a hundred yards of me apparently wild with fright, and not knowing which way to run. Just as he was turning off again, I fired, and he fell upon his knees, struck in the shoulder.
Migo was upon him in an instant, and felled him to the earth with a blow of his stone-hammer. I shouted the paean of victory, and was answered by a loud "cooey" from the valley and the voice of my friend Mr. B. calling out, "I have killed a splendid cow and dispersed the herd. The bull and several cows are gone down the valley towards the plains."
All the party, with the exception of Tom N., were soon assembled round the body of B.'s cow, which was black and fine-limbed. She was evidently in milk, and there was little doubt that the calf slain by me had belonged to her.
Every one now asked what had become of Tom, whose assistance was absolutely necessary in cutting up the carcases. B. had heard his rifle down the valley, and we now began to "cooey" for him. In a few moments we heard a faint "cooey" in reply, and started in that direction. After walking for about ten minutes towards the opening of the valley we heard distinctly, and at no great distance, the bellowing of a bull. Proceeding cautiously, with our rifles all ready, we soon arrived at the spot, and there beheld a huge bull tearing up the ground with his feet and horns, and bellowing in the most savage manner. A shout of joy directed our attention among the boughs of a low banksia tree, where our unfortunate friend Tom sat painfully perched, only just out of reach of danger. The animal below every now and then fell upon his knees, crushing and smashing something which we had great difficulty in recognising as poor Tom's rifle.
"He is badly wounded," cried Tom, "pitch into him, and don't be afraid!"
Without waiting for this exhortation, we let fly a volley, which brought the animal down upon his knees; and after a few staggering efforts to run at us, he sank to rise no more; whilst his first assailant, Tom, slipped down from his perch, and limped towards the remains of his rifle, execrating the dying bull in a furious manner, and even venting his wrath in a kick. As Tom wore a red shirt that only reached to his hips, he had no chance of concealing an enormous rent in his nether garment, through which protruded the remains of a shirt, which at the best of times was probably far from presenting the appearance of virgin purity, but now was stained with blood. As people in Tom's plight, when not seriously hurt, are usually more laughed at than pitied, the chagrin of our friend enhanced the interest with which we listened to his story.
Knowing that there was no escape for the herd of cattle up the valleys, as they terminated in steep rocks, and that therefore they would either cross over the side of the hill, or return down the first valley towards the plains, Tom hung back, leaving the rest of the party to head them. After some time had elapsed, he distinguished the bull and several cows trotting along the hill-side; and hastening to meet them, he posted himself behind a tree, close to which he saw they would soon pass.
Anxious, however, to get a view of the game, he stepped out from his ambush just as the bull had approached within fifty yards. Each saw the other at the same moment. The bull stopped short, and Tom felt rather queer. He did not like to fire at the vast head of the animal, lest the ball should glance off without effect. The bull, instead of turning aside, began to bellow and tear up the ground with his hoofs. The cows stood still, and stared at Tom, who began to think the state of his affairs looked gloomy; but he knew that his best policy was to remain stock-still; so he looked at the bull and the cows, and the bull and the cows looked at Tom. At length the bull had sufficiently nerved his resolution, and began to advance, tearing up the ground and bellowing as he came on. Tom took aim between the shoulder-blade and the neck, and fired; the enemy staggered, and roared with fury, rushing like a whirlwind upon Tom, who took to his heels, and began dodging round the trees. But the bull was in earnest; and savage with rage as a thousand lions, he tore round the trees more quickly even than Tom, carrying his head close to the ground, and his tail straight out behind, whilst his eyes, Tom said, glared with such fury, that our poor friend's heart froze up within him. Luckily he espied a banksia tree which seemed easy to ascend; but just as he reached it the bull was upon him. The bull roared, and Tom, roaring almost as loudly, made a spring at the tree but slipped down again just upon the horns of the animal. The next hoist, however, rent his garments, and lacerated a portion of his person which he had always considered especially sacred; but as the thrust heaved him upwards at the same time, and gave a fresh impulse to his agility, he succeeded in scrambling upon a bough that kept him just out of danger. No one may describe the pangs of despair by which he was assailed when he beheld the utter destruction of his only rifle. He threw his cap in the face of the bull, but he only lost his cap as well as his rifle by this rash and inconsiderate action, which was the highest proof he could have given of the extremity of his distress.
Poor Tom! he had often been made a butt of, but had never been so butted before.
The cup went merrily round that evening, and many and jovial were the songs that were sung, and witty and pleasant were the jokes that passed freely at the expense of the unfortunate 'tauricide', who, bereft of his rifle, and dilapidated in reputation and pantaloons, was heartily glad to be able to hide his sorrows in sleep.
[footnote] *This is a more sentimental story than that of Michael Blake, but I owe them both to the same authority.
There is a pleasant ride along the shore from Fremantle to a little bay about seven miles distant, one side of which, covered with lofty trees, runs far into the sea, and is called Woodman's Point. The sea in this part appears to be only a few miles broad; Garden-island forming the opposite shore, the southern extremity of which seems almost to join Cape Perron, and thus presents the appearance of a vast bay. Not long ago, the blackened remains of a small house, or hovel, were to be seen on the verge of the wood, facing towards Cape Perron. Around it might be distinguished the traces of a garden of considerable extent; a few stunted vines still continued annually to put forth the appearance of verdure, which served only to tempt the appetite of the stray cattle that wandered down to this solitary spot. A large bed of geraniums had extended itself across the path which used to lead to the door of the house; and their varied and beautiful flowers, rejoicing in this congenial climate, gave additional melancholy to the scene. It was evident those plants had been reared, and tended, and prized for their beauty; they had once been carefully cultured, pruned, and watered — now they were left to bloom or to die, as accident permitted. Near to this bed of geraniums, but apart and solitary, untouched even by weeds, of which there were only few in that sandy soil, grew an English rose-tree. Its long, unpruned boughs straggled wildly on the ground. It looked the picture of desolation and despair. A few imperfect flowers occasionally peeped forth, but knew only a short and precarious existence, for the shrub being no longer sheltered behind the house, was now exposed to the daily violence of the sea-breeze.
This widowed rose, deprived of the hand which had tended it so carefully, and of the heart which its beauty had gladdened, seemed now in its careless desolation awaiting the hour when it should die. It really looked, with its drooping boughs, its torn blossoms, and its brown leaves, rustling and sighing to the breeze, like a sentient being mourning without hope. Those who have never lived in exile from their native land, can have no idea of the feelings with which a lonely colonist, long separated from all the associations of home, would regard a solitary plant which so peculiarly calls up home memories. Pardon us, good reader, this appearance of sentiment; you who will read these lines in Old England — that land which we must ever think of with pardonable emotion — will evince but little sympathy with us, who necessarily feel some fond regard for the Mother from whom we are parted, and are naturally drawn towards the inanimate things by which we are reminded of her. There is in this colony of western Australia a single daisy root; and never was the most costly hot-house plant in England so highly prized as this humble little exile. The fortunate possessor pays it far more attention than he bestows upon any of the gorgeous flowers that bloom about it; and those who visit his garden of rare plants find nothing there that fills them with so profound a feeling of interest as the meek and lowly flower which recalls to their memories the pleasant pastures of Old England.
But to return to the ruins of Woodman's Point. This plot of land, now so neglected and forlorn, was once the blooming garden of a very singular old man, who owed his support to the vegetables which it produced, and to the fish that he caught from the little cobble which danced at anchor in the bay, whenever the weather permitted the fisherman to exercise his art. No one knew his history, but his conversation and deportment told you that he was of gentle birth, and had been well educated. His manners were particularly amiable and retiring, and every one who visited the solitary old man came away impressed with a melancholy interest in his fate.
He always welcomed a visitor with gentle pleasure, and seemed glad of the opportunity of showing his crops of vegetables and the flowers in which he delighted.
The rose-tree never failed to arrest his steps for a moment. He had brought it himself from England as a cutting, and there was evidently some history attached to it; but he never shared his confidence with any one; and the history of the rose-tree, like his own, was never revealed.
There was only one point on which he betrayed any feeling of pride — and that was his name. No one else would perhaps have been so proud of it, but he himself ever seemed to regard it with veneration.
He called himself Anthony Elisha Simson; and never failed to make you observe that his patronymic was spelt without a "p".
Nothing irritated him so much as to receive a note addressed, "A. E. Simpson, Esq."
The Simsons, he would assure you, were an old family in the northern counties of England, and traced back their genealogy to the Conquest; whereas the Simpsons were of quite a different, and doubtless inferior origin. Nothing more than this did he ever relate concerning his family or his personal history.
He arrived in the colony a few years after its foundation, without any other effects than what were contained in a portmanteau and carpet-bag, and with only a few sovereigns in his purse. Without associating himself with any one, he early fixed upon the spot where he afterwards built his house, and established his permanent abode. Here he began to make his garden, and did not disdain to earn a few shillings occasionally by cutting fire-wood for a man who supplied Fremantle with that necessary article. It was this occupation that caused the settlers, who knew nothing more of him, to give him the title of "The Woodman" — a name which soon attached to the locality.
After he had been some time in the colony, Mr. Simson began to express great impatience for the arrival of letters from England. Whenever a vessel arrived at the port, he would put on his old shooting-coat, and walk along the shore to Fremantle, where, after having inquired in vain at the post-office, he would purchase a pound of tea, and then return home again.
Years went by. Every time that a vessel arrived, poor Simson would hurry to Fremantle. He would watch, with eyes of ill-repressed eagerness, the mail carried to the post-office in boxes and large sacks. Surely amid that multitude of letters there must be one for him! Patiently would he wait for hours at the window, whilst the post-master and his assistants sorted the letters; and when he had received the usual answer to his inquiry, he would return to his abode with down-cast looks.
As time passed on he grew more fretful and impatient. Receiving no intelligence from England, he seemed to be anxious to return thither. He would drop expressions which led his visitors (generally government officers who called upon him in their rides) to believe he would depart from the colony were he rich enough to pay his passage, or were he not restrained by some other powerful motive.
His mind ran altogether upon the Old Country, and it was with reluctance that he planted the vegetables and cured the fish which were essential to his support.
For many hours during the day he used to be seen standing fixed as a sentinel on the low rock which formed the extremity of the ridge called after himself — the Woodman's Point — and looking homewards.
Doubtless, thought was busy within him — the thought of all he had left or acted there. None had written to him; none remembered or perhaps wished to remember him. But home was in his heart, even whilst he felt there was no longer a home for him. A restless anxiety preyed upon his mind, and he grew thin and feeble; but still whenever a sail was seen coming round the north end of Rottnest, and approaching the port, he would seize his staff, and set out upon his long journey to Fremantle to inquire if there were, at last, a letter awaiting him.
May we imagine the growing despair in the heart of this poor old exile, as life seemed ebbing away, and yet there came no news, no hope to him from home? Frequently he wrote himself, but always to the same address — that of a broker, it was supposed, in Throgmorton-street. But no answer was ever returned. Had he no children — no friends?
Naturally weak-minded, he had now grown almost imbecile; but his manners were still so gentle, and every thing about him seemed to betoken so amiable and so resigned a spirit, that those who visited him could scarcely part again without tears. As he grew more feeble in body, he became more anxious to receive a letter from home; he expected that every one who approached his dwelling was the bearer of the intelligence so long hoped for in vain; and he would hasten to greet him at the gate with eager looks and flushed cheeks — again only to be disappointed.
At length it was with difficulty that he tottered to the Point, to look for a vessel which might bring him news. Although no ship had arrived since he last sent to the post-office, he would urge his visitor, though with hesitating earnestness, to be so good as to call there on his return, and ascertain if by chance a letter were not awaiting him. He said he felt that his hour was approaching, but he could not bear to think of setting out on that long journey without having once heard from home. Sometimes he muttered, as it were to himself, that treachery had been practised against him, and he would go and expose it; but he never allowed himself to indulge long in this strain. Sometimes he would try to raise money enough by drawing bills to pay his passage, but no one would advance anything upon them.
Daily he became more feeble, and men began to talk of sending him a nurse. The last visitor who beheld him alive, found him seated in the chair which he had himself constructed, and appearing less depressed than usual. He said he expected soon to receive news from home, and smiled with child-like glee. His friend helped him to walk as far as the rose-tree, which was then putting forth its buds. "Promise," said the old man, laying his trembling hand upon the other's arm, "promise that when I am gone you will come and see them in full blow? Promise! you will make me happy."
The next day they sent a lad from Fremantle to attend upon him. The boy found him seated in his chair. He was dead. A mound of earth at the foot of a mahogany-tree, still marks the spot where he was buried. Those 'friends' at home who neglected or repulsed him when living, may by chance meet with this record from the hand of a stranger — but it will not move them; nor need it now.
HOW THE LAWS OF ENGLAND AFFECT THE NATIVES.
The native population of our colony are said to be a much more peaceable and harmless race than those of any other part of Australia. In the early days of the settlement they caused a good deal of trouble, and were very destructive to the pigs and sheep of the colonists; but a little well-timed severity, and a steadily pursued system of government, soon reduced them into well-conducted subjects of the British Crown. There appears, however, to be little hope of civilizing them, and teaching them European arts and habits. Those of mature age, though indolent, and seldom inclined to be useful in the smallest degree, are peaceful in their habits; and when in want of a little flour will exert themselves to earn it, by carrying letters, shooting wild ducks with a gun lent to them, driving home cattle, or any other easy pursuit; but they appear to be incapable of elevation above their original condition. Considerable pains have been bestowed (especially by the Wesleyans) upon the native children, many of whom are educated in schools at Perth, Fremantle, and other places, in the hope of making them eventually useful servants to the settlers. Most of these, however, betake themselves to the bush, and resume their hereditary pursuits, just at the age when it is hoped they will become useful. Very frequently they die at that age of mesenteric disorders; and very few indeed become permanently civilized in their habits.
Nothing could be more anomalous and perplexing than the position of the Aborigines as British subjects. Our brave and conscientious Britons, whilst taking possession of their territory, have been most careful and anxious to make it universally known, that Australia is not a conquered country; and successive Secretaries of State, who write to their governors in a tone like that in which men of sour tempers address their maladroit domestics, have repeatedly commanded that it must never be forgotten "that our possession of this territory is based on a right of occupancy."
A "right of occupancy!" Amiable sophistry! Why not say boldly at once, the right of power? We have seized upon the country, and shot down the inhabitants, until the survivors have found it expedient to submit to our rule. We have acted exactly as Julius Caesar did when he took possession of Britain. But Caesar was not so hypocritical as to pretend any moral right to possession. On what grounds can we possibly claim a right to the occupancy of the land? We are told, because civilized people are justified in extending themselves over uncivilized countries. According to this doctrine, were there a nation in the world superior to ourselves in the arts of life, and of a different religious faith, it would be equally entitled (had it the physical power) to the possession of Old England under the "right of occupancy;" for the sole purpose of our moral and social improvement, and to make us participants in the supposed truths of a new creed.
We have a right to our Australian possessions; but it is the right of Conquest, and we hold them with the grasp of Power. Unless we proceed on this foundation, our conduct towards the native population can be considered only as a monstrous absurdity. However Secretaries of State may choose to phrase the matter, we can have no other right of occupancy. We resolve to found a colony in a country, the inhabitants of which are not strong enough to prevent our so doing, though they evince their repugnance by a thousand acts of hostility.
We build houses and cultivate the soil, and for our own protection we find it necessary to declare the native population subject to our laws.
This would be an easy and simple matter were it the case of conquerors dictating to the conquered; but our Secretaries of State, exhibiting an interesting display of conscientiousness and timidity, shrink from the responsibility of having sanctioned a conquest over a nation of miserable savages, protected by the oracles at Exeter Hall, and reject with sharp cries of anger the scurrilous imputation. Instead, therefore, of being in possession by right of arms, we modestly appropriate the land to ourselves, whilst making the most civil assurances that we take not this liberty as conquerors, but merely in order to gratify a praiseworthy desire of occupying the country. We then declare ourselves seised in fee by right of occupancy. But now comes the difficulty. What right have we to impose laws upon people whom we profess not to have conquered, and who have never annexed themselves or their country to the British Empire by any written or even verbal treaty?
And if this people and country be not subject to our rule by conquest, and have never consented or desired (but the contrary) to accept of our code of laws, and to submit themselves to our authority, are they really within the jurisdiction of the laws of England — 'especially for offences committed inter se?'
Such is the anomalous position in which the native inhabitants are placed through the tender consciences of our rulers at home. A member of a tribe has been speared by one of another tribe, who happens to be patronized by a farm-settler, and is occasionally useful in hunting-up stray cattle. The friends of the dead man proceed to punish the assassin according to their own hereditary laws; they surprise him suddenly, and spear him. The farmer writes an account of the fact to the Protector of Natives at Perth; and this energetic individual, rising hastily from dinner, calls for his horse, and endowing himself with a blue woollen shirt, and a pair of dragoon spurs, with a blanket tied round his waist, fearlessly commits himself to the forest, and repairs to the scene of slaughter.
He learns from the mouth of the farm-settler, that the facts are really what he had been already apprised of by letter; and then, having left word that the offender may be caught as soon as possible, and forwarded to Fremantle gaol, he hastens back again to his anxious family; and the next morning delivers a suitable report to his Excellency the Governor of all that he has performed. In course of time the native is apprehended — betrayed by a friend for a pound of flour — and brought to the bar of justice. His natural defence would be that he certainly slew an enemy, as he is accused of having done, but then it was a meritorious and necessary act; he glories in it; his own laws required that he should slay the murderer of his relative; and his own laws, therefore, accuse him not. What are English customs, prejudices, or laws to him? He is not a British subject, for he is not the inhabitant of a conquered country (as English governors tell him), nor has he, or any of his tribe or complexion, consented or wished to be placed under the protection of our laws. Why, then, should he be violently dragged from the arms of his 'wilgied' squaws, and his little pot-bellied piccaninnies, and required to plead for his life in the midst of a large room filled with frowning white faces? Much obliged is he to the judge, who kindly tells him, through the interpreter, that he is not bound to convict himself, and need not acknowledge anything that may operate to his disadvantage in the minds of the jury.
The unfortunate savage disregards the friendly caution, and heeds it not; he maintains, stoutly, that he 'gidgied' Womera through the back, because Womera had 'gidgied' Domera through the belly. He enters into minute details to the gentlemen of the jury of the manner in which these slaughters were effected, and describes the extent and direction of the wounds, and every other interesting particular that occurs to him. The gentlemen of the jury, after duly considering the case, return (of necessity) a verdict of "Wilful murder," and the judge pronounces sentence of death — which is afterwards commuted by the Governor to transportation for life to the Isle of Rottnest.
Now if our laws had been imposed upon this people as a conquered nation, or if they had annexed themselves and their country to our rule and empire by anything like a treaty, all these proceedings would be right and proper. But as it is, we are two nations occupying the same land, and we have no more right to try them by our laws for offences committed 'inter se', than they have to seize and spear an Englishman, according to their law, because he has laid himself open to an action of 'crim. con.' at the suit of his next-door neighbour.
Look at the question in another point of view. Is jurisdiction a necessary incident of sovereignty? Do a people become subject to our laws by the very act of planting the British standard on the top of a hill? If so, they have been subject to them from the days of Captain Cook; and the despatches of Her Majesty's Secretaries of State, declaring that the natives should be considered amenable to our laws for all offences which they might commit among themselves, were very useless compositions. We claim the sovereignty, yet we disclaim having obtained it by conquest; we acknowledge that it was not by treaty; we should be very sorry to allow that it was by fraud; and how, in the name of wonder, then, can we defend our claim? Secretaries of State have discovered the means, and tell us that Her Majesty's claim to possession and sovereignty is "based on a right of occupancy." Jurisdiction, however, is not the necessary incident of territorial sovereignty, unless that sovereignty were acquired by conquest or treaty. We question, indeed, whether it is the necessary consequence even of conquest — the laws of the conqueror must first be expressly imposed. The old Saxon laws prevailed among the people of England after the Conquest, until the Norman forms were expressly introduced.
It is well known in colonies, that the laws propounded in certain despatches are more powerful, and more regarded and reverenced, than any others, human or divine. A kind of moral gun-cotton, they drive through the most stupendous difficulties, and rend rocks that appeared to be insuperable barriers in the eyes of common sense or common justice. Judges are compelled to yield to their authority, and do violence to their own consciences whilst they help to lay the healing unction to those of their lawgivers.
The most convenient and the most sensible proceeding, on the part of our rulers at home, would be to consider this country in the light of a recent conquest. Instead of declaring, as now, that the natives are to be treated in every way as British subjects — thus making them amenable to the English law in all its complexity, whilst their own laws and habits are so entirely opposite in character — it would be better to pass a few simple ordinances, in the nature of military law, which would be intelligible to the natives themselves, and which would avoid the difficulty of applying the cumbrous machinery of our criminal code to the government of savages who can never be made to comprehend its valuable properties. It is most essential that the natives who commit offences against the persons or property of the whites should be brought to punishment. At the same time it is most difficult to establish the guilt of the party accused, according to the strict rules of legal evidence. The only witnesses, probably, were natives, who understand not the nature of an oath, and who lie like the Prince of Darkness whenever they have wit enough to perceive it is their interest to do so. In general, the only chance of obtaining a legal conviction is through the confession of the prisoner; and as it is most desirable that he should be convicted, when there is no moral doubt of his guilt, as his acquittal would be looked upon as a triumph by his fellows, and make them more daring in their opposition to the law, very little delicacy is used in obtaining that confession.
Were the prisoner defended by counsel, who did his duty to his client, without regard to the interests of the public, the guilty person would escape in almost every instance. As it is, the law is outraged, and a trial by jury made an occasion of mockery and gross absurdity, in order to obtain a conviction which is necessary to the welfare of the white population. Nothing would be more easy than to legislate for the proper government of the Aborigines; but you must begin 'de novo', and throw aside with scorn the morbid sentimentality that refuses to look upon those as a conquered people, whom, nevertheless, it subjects to the heavy thraldom of laws which they are not yet fitted to endure.
REMARKS ON THE PHYSICAL ORGANIZATION OF THE NATIVES.
The native inhabitants of Western Australia are only superior in the scale of human beings to the Bosjemans of Southern Africa. Their intellectual capacity appears to be very small, and their physical structure is extremely feeble. In some respects the Australian peculiarly assimilates to two of the five varieties of the human race. In the form of his face and the texture of his hair he resembles the Malay; in the narrow forehead, the prominent cheek-bones, and the knees turned in, he approaches towards the Ethiopian.* There is a remarkable difference between the jaws and teeth of the Australian and those of any other existing race. The incisores are thick and round, not, as usual, flattened into edges, but resembling truncated cones; the cuspidati are not pointed, but broad and flat on the masticating surface, like the neighbouring bicuspides. This may be attributable to mechanical attrition, depending on the nature of the food which the teeth are employed in masticating. The upper does not overlap the under jaw, but the teeth meet at their surfaces. This peculiarity of teeth has been noticed by Blumenbach as a characteristic of the Egyptian mummy; but he thinks the nature of the food not sufficient to account for it, and imagines it to depend on a natural variety. He observes, that "although it seemed most easy to account for this appearance by attributing it to the nature of the food used by the Egyptians, yet the generality of its occurrence in Egyptian mummies, and its absence in other races, are remarkable; and it affords some probability that the peculiarity depends upon a natural variety."** A constant uniformity in the structure and arrangement of the teeth is an important particular in the identification of species; and if any human race were found to deviate materially in its dentition from the rest of mankind, the fact would give rise to a strong suspicion of a real specific diversity. I have examined the teeth of infants and children, and found them in every respect similar to those of Europeans of similar ages. Moreover, the process of degradation may be traced in natives of different ages up to the teeth worn to the level of the gums in the old man. I therefore consider it the effect of attrition; but it becomes an interesting question to determine what may be the nature of the food which produced the same character in the ancient Egyptian and the modern Australian. Did the fathers of science live on barks and roots, like the wretched Australian? Although attrition may cause this singular appearance of the teeth, the real question is, why does the lower jaw so perfectly and exactly meet its fellow? And is this confined to these two examples?
[footnote] *The observations in this chapter were contributed by Henry Landor, Esq., Colonial Surgeon on the Gold Coast, who resided five years among the natives of Western Australia, and is intimately acquainted with all their habits and peculiarities.
[footnote] **In a former chapter (13.) I have expressed an opinion that the natives are descended from the old inhabitants of India, which I think is exceedingly probable. It is interesting to remember, that the ancient Egyptians are supposed to have originally come from the same country.
There is no fixed law determining invariably the human stature, although there is a standard, as in other animals, from which deviations are not very considerable in either direction. Some varieties exceed, others fall short of, the ordinary stature in a small degree. The source of these deviations is in the breed; they are quite independent of external influences.
In all the five human varieties, some nations are conspicuous for height and strength, others for lower stature and inferior muscular power; but in no case is the peculiarity confined to any particular temperature, climate, or mode of life. The Australians, in general, are of a moderate stature, with slender limbs, thin arms, and long taper fingers. Although in general stature there is nothing to distinguish one variety of man from another, yet in the comparative length of the different parts of the human frame there are striking differences. In the highest and most intellectual variety (the Caucasian) the arm (os humeri) exceeds the fore-arm in length by two or three inches — in none less than two inches. In monkeys the fore-arm and arm are of the same length, and in some monkeys the fore-arm is the longer. In the Negro, the 'ulna', the longest bone of the fore-arm, is nearly of the same length as the 'os humeri', the latter being from one to two inches longer. In a Negro in the lunatic asylum of Liverpool (says Mr. White) the ulna was twelve and a half inches, and the humerus only thirteen and a half. In the Australian, the ulna in some I have measured was ten and a half, nine, ten, eleven and a half; the humerus was in those individuals respectively eleven and a half, ten and a half, eleven and a half, twelve and a half. Thus, in none of the measurements did the humerus exceed the ulna two inches, which in the Caucasian variety is the lowest number. In all the black races the arm is longer in proportion to the stature than in the white. The length of the leg of the Australian averages thirty-six inches; in one man it was only thirty-three and a half, and the tibia of that man measured sixteen and a half, leaving only seventeen to the femur — a very remarkable disproportion.
Thus in the proportion of their limbs, the Australian ranks far below the European; nay, even below the Negro, and approaches far nearer to the simiae than any of the other races of mankind. Perron, in his voyage, made an estimate of the average strength of the arms and loins of the Australian, and of some French and English; this is the result in French measures: —
ARMS. LOINS. Kilogrammes. Myriagrammes. Australian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50.8 . . . . . . . .10.2 Natives of Timor . . . . . . . . . . . 58.7 . . . . . . . 11.6 French . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69.2 . . . . . . . .15.2 English . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71.4 . . . . . . . .16.3
Thus in whatever manner the capacity of the race is tested, its inferiority is strikingly exhibited. We shall find, when examining the skull, that the coronal suture falls on the temporal instead of the sphenoid bone, which is one of the strongest marks of the simiae, and does not occur in other human skulls.
I have no desire to place the Australian lower in the scale of intelligence than he is fairly entitled to rank, but I cannot shut my eyes to facts; and if his organization is in conformity with his inferiority, there he must rank, in spite of the wishes of his warmest friends. At the same time I agree with the most enthusiastic philanthropist that no attempt should be left untried to amend his condition, and bestow upon him the blessings which Providence has lavished upon us; but I cannot help fearing the result will be disappointment. A fair comparative experiment says Mr. Lawrence, has been made of the white and dark races of North America; and no trial in natural philosophy has had a more unequivocal result. The native races have not advanced a single step in 300 years; neither example nor persuasion has induced them, except in very small numbers and in few instances, to exchange the precarious supply of hunting, and fishing for agriculture and the arts of settled life.
The colour of the skin is chocolate, and resembles the Malay, although perhaps a little darker. The colour of the skin is, of course, greatly dependent upon the nature of the climate and the constant exposure of the surface of the body to the sun; the parts under the arms are of a brighter colour than those more exposed. We find in human races, as in vegetation, that every successive level alters its character; thus indicating that the state of the temperature of high regions assimilates to high latitudes. If, therefore, complexions depend upon climate and external conditions, we should expect to find them varying in reference to elevation of surface; and if they should be actually found to undergo such variations, this will be a strong argument in favour of the supposition that these external characters do in fact depend upon local conditions. The Swiss in the high mountains above the plains of Lombardy have sandy or brown hair. What a contrast presents itself to the traveller in the Milanese, where the peasants have black hair and almost Oriental features! The Basques, of the tracts approaching the Pyrenees, says Colonel Napier, are a strikingly different people from the inhabitants of the low parts around, whether Spaniards or Biscayans. They are finely made, tall men, with aquiline noses, fair complexions, light eyes, and flaxen hair; instead of the swarthy complexion, black hair, and dark eyes of the Castilian. And in Africa what striking differences of complexion exist between the Negro of the plains and of the mountains, even whilst the osteology is the same, therefore I pass over the hair and skin of the Australian as parts too much subjected to the influence of climate to afford means of legitimate deduction. It is the general opinion that these natives are not a long-lived race. The poverty of their food may account for this, together with the want of shelter from the vicissitudes of the climate. The care taken by civilized man to preserve health is, by increasing susceptibility, the indirect cause of disease; the more rigid is the observance of regimen, the more pernicious will be the slightest aberration from it; but a total disregard of all the comforts of regular food, and efficient shelter, the habit of cramming the stomach when food is plentiful, and of enduring long abstinence when it cannot be procured, has a far more baneful effect upon the human constitution than all the excesses of the white man. As man recedes from one hastener of destruction, he inevitably approaches another:
"Gross riot treasures up a wealthy fund Of plagues, but more immedicable ills Attend the lean extreme."
I have observed that the natives mix the gum of certain trees with the bark, and masticate both together. This is attributed to the difficulty of masticating the gum alone; but I am persuaded that it has another cause also, and that it arises from that experience of the necessity of an additional stimulus to the digestive organ which has taught the Esquimaux and Ottomacs to add sawdust or clay to their train-oil. It arises from the fact that (paradoxical as it may appear) an animal may be starved by giving it continually too simple and too nutritious food; aliment in such a state of condensation does not impart the necessary stimulus, which requires to be partly mechanical and partly chemical, and to be exerted at once on the irritability of the capillaries of the stomach to promote its secretions, and on the muscular fibres to promote its contractions.
I shall now point out the difference between the Australian skull and those of some other races, without giving a description of skulls in general, which would unnecessarily lengthen these observations. "Of all the peculiarities in the form of the bony fabric, those of the skull are the most striking and distinguishing. It is in the head that we find the varieties most strongly characteristic of the different races. The characters of the countenance, and the shape of the features depend chiefly on the conformation of the bones of the head."
The Australian skull belongs to that variety called the prognathous, or narrow elongated variety; yet it is not so striking an example of this variety as the Negro skull. If the skull be held in the hand so that the observer look upon the vertex, the first point he remarks is the extreme narrowness of the frontal bone, and a slight bulging where the parietal and occipital bones unite. He also sees distinctly through the zygomatic arches on both sides, which in the European skull is impossible, as the lateral portions of the frontal bone are more developed. The summit of the head rises in a longitudinal ridge in the direction of the sagittal suture; so that from the sagittal suture to that portion of the cranium where the diameter is greatest the head slopes like the roof of a house. The forehead is generally flat; the upper jaw rather prominent; the frontal sinuses large; the occipital bone is flat, and there is a remarkable receding of the bone from the posterior insertion of the 'occipitofrontalis' muscle to the 'foramen magnum'. It is a peculiar character of the Australian skull to have a very singular depression at the junction of the nasal bones with the nasal processes of the frontal bone. This may be seen in an engraving in Dr. Pritchard's work. I have before described the teeth, and mentioned the remarkable junction of the temporal and parietal bones at the coronal suture, and consequently the complete separation of the sphenoid from the parietal, which in European skulls meet for the space of nearly half an inch. Professor Owen has observed this conformation in six out of seven skulls of young chimpanzees, and Professor Mayo has also noticed it in the skulls he has examined. But although this is a peculiarity found in this race alone, it is not constant. I have a skull in which the sphenoid touches the parietal on one side, whilst on the other they are separated a sixth of an inch; and in the engraving, before referred to, the bones are slightly separated, but by no means to the extent that they are in European skulls. The super and infra orbital foramina are very large, and the orbits are broad, with the orbital ridge sharp and prominent. All the foramina for the transmission of the sensiferous nerves are large, the auditory particularly so; while the foramen, through which the carotid artery enters the skull, is small. The mastoid processes are large, which might be expected, as their hearing is acute. The styloid process is small; in monkeys it is wanting. The position of the 'foramen magnum', as in all savage tribes, is more behind the middle transverse diameter than in Europeans; but this arises in a great measure, though not entirely, from the prominence of the alveolar processes of the upper jaw. Owing to constant exposure to all seasons, the skulls of savages are of greater density, and weigh heavier than those of Europeans: —
Avoirdupois. lb. oz. Skull of a Greek . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 11 1/2 " Negro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 " Mulatto . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 10 " Chinese . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1 7 1/2 " Gipsy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 0 " Australian . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 12 1/2
Upon an examination of the foregoing points of diversity, it is unquestionable that the Australian skull is inferior in development to the European, and the capacity of the cranium of much less.
SKETCHES OF LIFE AMONG THE NATIVES.
The Natives have very few traditions, and most of those which they relate resemble the disconnected phantasies of a dream rather than the record of a series of facts.
They have some indistinct ideas about Chingi, the Evil Spirit, but no notion whatever of a Supreme God. When first the English arrived, many of the Aborigines considered them to be the spirits of their deceased relatives; and some of them fancied they could trace the features of former friends in the lineaments of individuals among the whites. One of these natives, still living, has more than once told me that his late uncle is now a certain eloquent and popular member of the Legislative Council. The nephew and resuscitated uncle occasionally meet, when the former never fails to claim the relationship, which the latter good-humouredly acknowledges; and the relatives separate with mutual expressions of politeness and good-will.
One of their most remarkable and most intelligible traditions was recorded some time ago in the 'Perth Inquirer', by Mr. Armstrong, Interpreter to the Natives.
It is as follows: — "The natives assert that they have been told from age to age, that when man first began to exist, there were two beings, male and female, named Wal-lyne-up (the father) and Doronop (the mother); that they had a son called Biu-dir-woor, who received a deadly wound, which they carefully endeavoured to heal, but without success; whereupon it was declared by Wal-lyne-up, that all who came after him should also die in like manner. Could the wound have been healed in this case, being the first, the natives think death would have had no power over them. The place where the scene occurred, and where Bin-dir-woor was buried, the natives imagine to have been on the southern plains, between Clarence and the Murray; and the instrument used is said to have been a spear thrown by some unknown being, and directed by some supernatural power. The tradition goes on to state that Bin-dir-woor, the son, although deprived of life and buried in his grave, did not remain there, but arose and went to the west; to the unknown land of spirits across the sea. The parents followed after their son, but (as the natives suppose) were unable to prevail upon him to return, and they have remained with him ever since."