The order for the advance was then formed. It was similar to that which was to receive them on the shore end of the jetty. One could not help admiring their methods. Ceremonial parades all over the world, held at coronations of kings, in commemoration of the proclamation of a country's victories, aided by the pomp and glory of all modern accessories, failed to convey the solemnity, such as it was, of the advance of that tribe down that jetty. Led by the chief and chieftains of the tribe, followed by their "braves," that is, their fighting men, the march down the jetty began. There was no band, and no music but their battle-cry—a battle-cry that had made them redoubtable enemies and had forced us to send a large expeditionary force, with all the then best military resources, to overcome them. Down the jetty they came, moving in complete unison that shook the structure itself as they beat it in their advance. As they came forward their hosts joined in rhythm with their advance, stamping on the shore end till the ground, too, shook. The scene became quite inspiring. I have never been present at any review or parade—and I have seen many in many parts of the world—which has so impressed me or left such a keen impression in my mind as that of the moment when the two tribes met at the shore end of that jetty. You may think this is rather a far-fetched thought, but it isn't, and you wouldn't have thought so if you had been there.
The official meeting of the chiefs first took place. The rhythmical beating of the ground by the hundreds of feet of the hosts and guests suddenly ceased, and a friendly greeting of all, which, in the usage of the Maoris, took the form of rubbing noses, began and held full sway. The arriving tribe settled down then to the camp provided for them by the authorities. Two days afterwards the third tribe arrived, and the same ceremony took place. The ground then again shook unmistakably. It took one back—as many of the residents of Tauranga (who after fighting in the Maori War had settled in the district) remembered—to the days of that campaign and to the battle-cry of the advancing Maoris whom they had fought against. But these very men were now engaged in the pursuits of peace, and all of them welcomed with delight the presence of their late enemies. It was the source of much profit to them.
This particular case was duly settled by the court. Its decision was given in favour, if I remember rightly, of the tribe that swam across from the south. The court officials were entrusted with the settlement of the expenses incurred by the tribes. After paying all these expenses a sum of some one thousand pounds remained as the amount to be paid in compensation, in accordance with the edict of Exeter Hall, to the winners.
The final celebration had now to take place. The chief of the victorious tribe invited the losing tribes to a farewell festival. A great Maori haka was held, to which not only the natives themselves, but the whole of the English inhabitants, were invited. The braves of all the tribes took part in this. It was a wonderful scene. It took place upon a moonlight night. There was an inner circle, in the centre of which the triumphant chief and his chieftains, surrounded by the chief and chieftains of the other two tribes, stood. Around them was a palisade of sticks, on which the one thousand odd pounds in notes, paid to them as a result of the court's finding, were festooned. Immediately surrounding this circle were the braves of the losing tribes, and beyond, all round, the womenfolk and the children and European guests. Fires flared in all directions. You have no doubt read about the natives of different parts of the world, but you may not know that the Maori race was, without exception, one of the best indigenous types in our Empire.
Well, the scene was set and the war-dance started. Victors and losers joined, in complete accord with their own customs, and I doubt if a more inspiring sight, taking in view their numbers, has been seen. As their enthusiasm increased the greater became their rhythmical movements. As their vigour increased the more weird became the scene. They were fighting, in their minds, their old battles against their old foe—battles which they had fought with their native weapons against weapons of civilization. Their old war-cries leapt forth from their hearts and mouths as they had done when they fell before their enemy. They looked bewitched, and stayed not nor stopped in their wild orgy until physical distress forced them.
Next day they departed to their own settlement, and peace and quiet reigned in Tauranga, whose residents were more than grateful to Exeter Hall for the result of the great interest which the promoters of the meetings for the welfare of the poor Maori had aroused. Tauranga's civil population revelled in profit. When the tribes left the whole of the camp equipments were left behind. The Government did not want them, and the whole concern was put up to auction. Who was going to bid? Only the local suppliers. There was no opposition, and the whole equipment was sold to the only bidders. Verbum sap.
AN OFFER FROM THE GOVERNOR OF TASMANIA
My life in Tauranga was becoming every day more interesting. Fishing, both fresh water in the Wairoa, and deep sea, was excellent. Any amount of shooting could be got within easy driving distance from the township—red-legged partridges, rabbits, and any number of pheasants; as a matter of fact, these were looked upon by the farmers as vermin, they were so plentiful, and they did much damage to their grain crops. Some eighteen miles away one reached the border of the King Country, the large tract of land then in the hands of the Maoris. At this border the natural bush commenced. Wonderful timber, among which semi-tropical creeping plants revelled in forming almost impassable barriers, so luxurious were their growth. Wild boar hunting was most exciting as well as dangerous. Supple-jack was one of the most treacherous parasites of the giant forest trunks, for, notwithstanding hand axes, the deeper you cut your way, the more entangled you became. Our patrolling duties often necessitated our being away for five or six days, and enabled us to get some excellent sport. There was but little trouble with the Maoris. They somewhat objected to the making of roads, which were then being extended inland towards the west coast, and they were a source of some annoyance to the working parties; but the appearance of one of our armed patrols soon brought them to reason.
Ohinemutu was a Maori village at the foot of the wonderful hills up whose slopes rose the marvellous pink and white terraces which were, a few years later, to be wiped off the face of the earth by the terrible volcanic eruptions that devastated that part of the North Island. Acting upon the advice of our doctor I decided to take a short course of the sulphur mud baths which were scattered here and there over the ground. Having obtained permission from Te-Whiti, the then king, I spent eight days at Ohinemutu. The two chief guides, Maria and Sophia, were well known in those days to all tourists who were fortunate enough to visit that wonderful region. I had been free from any rheumatic pains since my landing at Dunedin, but the doctor assured me that the sulphur baths would complete the cure. He was right, as I am thankful to say that from that day to this the old enemy has never tackled me again, though I am afraid I have sorely tempted him.
It was one day shortly after my sojourn at Ohinemutu that I received a letter from Sir Frederick Weld, the then Governor of Tasmania, offering me the position of private secretary, which had become vacant. I had taken out letters of introduction to him from some mutual friends, which I had posted on my arrival in Dunedin; hence his offer. I was naturally delighted, and cabled accepting. Without delay I tendered my resignation to the officer in command of our district, Major Swinley, who told me I could count upon its being accepted, and could make my arrangements to leave for Tasmania as soon as a steamer was available. I found there would be one leaving Auckland for Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin in a few days. This was indeed fortunate, for it would enable me to see Auckland, call upon our chief, Colonel Reader, at Wellington, thank him for his kindness in giving me the appointment at Tauranga, and say good-bye to all my old friends at Dunedin. At Auckland, a beautifully situated city with an excellent and picturesque harbour, I spent some four days, having ridden from Tauranga through the Kati-kati settlement, the old Thames Gold Fields, and finishing my most interesting journey in a little steamer, the Rotomahana, sailing from Grahamstown. On arrival at Wellington I called on Colonel Reader. He expressed much surprise at seeing me, and told me that as he had no recollection of having received any application from me for leave, he failed to understand on what grounds I had come to Wellington. I was, of course, surprised myself that he had not heard from Major Swinley, and explained to him exactly what had happened. He appeared considerably annoyed, and told me that Major Swinley should not have permitted me to leave Tauranga before the application for leave had been approved by himself; but, as he had done so, he would not stand in the way of my bettering my position, and would accept my resignation. I thanked him and returned to the steamer, which sailed next morning for Christchurch.
In due course I arrived in Dunedin. Here a real surprise awaited me. It was a cable from Sir Frederick Weld to the effect that he had received instructions from the Colonial Office to proceed without delay to Singapore, where he had been appointed Governor, and where his presence was urgently required. He expressed his regret that the alteration in his plans forced him to cancel his offer, and hoped that it would not cause me much inconvenience. There was nothing for it but to bow to the inevitable, break my journey, and put my thinking-cap on.
I had wired to some of my friends in Dunedin, advising them of the fact that the steamer would be calling at the port, and that I would be glad to see them again. Two or three of them were waiting on the pier on the steamer's arrival. They were much concerned at my bad news, did their best to cheer me up, and promised me a good time while I stayed with them. Being young, I put aside my troubles for the time and determined to take them at their word and enjoy myself. Plenty of time for worry by and by. At the end of the week the senior officer of the local garrison battery came to see me. He said his officers had asked him to apply to the Government to have me appointed as artillery instructor to the district, which then included the port of Invercargill, otherwise the Bluff, and that he had that day sent on an application to that effect, supported by the local Members of Parliament, and other influential citizens. He was quite optimistic as to the result, but I had my doubts. He had not been present at my interview with Colonel Reader at Wellington. I felt convinced that the chief had been much annoyed at what he no doubt thought the cavalier way in which I had left my job at Tauranga, after his having given me the appointment to that district so quickly after my application. However, hope is the mother of cheer, and I felt more reconciled to my lot. Later on arrived Colonel Reader's answer. It was short and to the point, but a bad point for me. He regretted he was unable to recommend the reappointment of an officer who had resigned at such short notice.
It was all over. I had fallen between two stools. Well, it could not be helped; why cry over spilt milk? After all, I had been more than fortunate in regaining my health. I had spent some six months in one of the most beautiful and interesting countries in the world, gained much experience, enjoyed endless good sport, made many friends. Why despond? Nothing in it. Life was still before me. My friends in Dunedin and Christchurch invited me to visit their stations, fish, shoot, eat, dance and play. I would put in some three months enjoying myself, and then make for home and Wardhouse again. The journey homewards would give me the opportunity of visiting Australia, India and Egypt, and on arrival home I would have been round the world. Some experience, as an American would say, for a young man who, twelve months before, had boarded a sailing vessel in the London Docks with little hope of leaving the ship alive.
One of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had occurred while I made the attempt to climb the peak of that lofty mountain, Mount Cook. The time of the year was not the best to venture on such an expedition. On both occasions, when we tackled the venture, ill-luck befell us. Our first attempt was foiled by fogs, which, when driven away by a fierce, bitterly cold gale, that seemed to blow from any and every point of the compass at the same time, were succeeded by sleet and hailstorms that forced us to give up the fight and return home sadder but wiser men. The second time of asking, after a splendid start, once again the Fates were against us, and a heavy fall of snow, which lasted three days, put an end to our ambitious undertaking.
Then my round of visits came to an end, and I took my passage to Melbourne, sorry to leave so many friends, and little thinking that, in after years, I would again see them and enjoy their hospitality in those beautiful southern islands.
I BECOME A NEWSPAPER PROPRIETOR
On arrival in Melbourne I took up my quarters in the old White Hart Hotel at the corner of Bourke Street and Spring Gardens, at that time one of the most comfortable hotels in Melbourne. Situated as it is just opposite the present Federal Houses of Parliament, it is well known indeed by many members both of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The topic of the day was the opening of the Exhibition, and the official representatives of the foreign nations who were taking part had by this time arrived in Melbourne. The representative of the German Empire was in residence, amongst others, at the White Hart Hotel.
I must tell you of a little incident which should have finished in someone's death, but did not. The German Commissioner's private secretary had just been long enough in Melbourne to fall in love with the daughter of a well-known tradesman. She was certainly a strikingly handsome girl, and her charms had completely roped in the affections of that gentleman. This girl, then about eighteen years of age, was engaged, or going to be engaged, to be married to a local man. The private secretary was so persistent in his attentions and admiration that he roused the devil in the heart of her fiance, who challenged the private secretary to a mortal duel. It was to be a fight to the death, so he stated in the challenge, which arrived at our hotel at about 10 P.M. on a Tuesday evening, just as we were sitting down to a game of whist. The private secretary solemnly handed the written challenge to his chief. The Commissioner read it, then said: "Write a note in answer stating that our under-secretary will represent you, and meet at once a representative of your opponent here at the hotel, with the view of arranging a meeting between you at five o'clock to-morrow morning." It was summer time. "Would you prefer swords or pistols?"
"Swords," said the private secretary.
The letter was written and sent, and swords were to be the weapons.
Our game of cards was put off for the moment, but, as I was afterwards informed, the intervening minutes while the letter was being written had been taken advantage of by the Commissioner to avoid a scandal. He sent word to the German Consul requesting his immediate presence at the hotel. On the Consul's arrival the Commissioner met him privately, explained the situation, and requested the Consul at once to inform the Commissioner of Police of the intended duel between the two lovers, and to ask the Commissioner to prevent it. The Consul quickly left the hotel to carry out his instructions. The game of whist then proceeded. The private secretary was not playing too well. No wonder. Even a German under the circumstances could not have been but somewhat nervous. He needed not to have been nervous if he had been made aware of the Commissioner's instructions to the Consul.
At about a quarter to twelve o'clock, as we were finishing our last rubber, the waiter brought in word that two gentlemen desired to see the Commissioner. He asked the waiter to show them into the room. On their coming in they informed the Commissioner that they were extremely sorry to disturb him at that late hour, that they were police officers, that information had been received that a breach of the peace was contemplated, that the private secretary was one of the persons concerned, and, further, that their orders were to arrest him. As, however, he was a guest of the Government, it would be more than sufficient if the Commissioner would guarantee that no breach of the peace by any one of his staff would take place. I was looking at the private secretary as this statement was made. I do not think I ever saw upon anyone's face such a look of relief as came to his.
This ended his affair, as he was made to promise by the Commissioner that the lady-love was to be forgotten and not to be spoken to again during their stay in Melbourne.
Having determined to see as much of Australia as possible before I went home, I bethought myself of the letters of introduction which I had brought out with me from home. Amongst them was one to General Sir Peter Scratchley, R.E., who had been, at the request of the Australian Colonies, sent out by the War Office to advise them as to suitable positions and type of fortifications to be erected for the protection of the chief harbours and other vulnerable localities along the Australian coast. I called on him. He was affable and kind. He gave me considerable encouragement by telling me that as some of the forts were being completed it was becoming necessary to increase the Permanent Artillery Force to man them, and that—it seemed to him—I had just arrived in time, as my qualifications were satisfactory. He undertook to introduce me personally to the Premier, Mr. Graham Berry, who advised me to send in a written application for an appointment and promised General Scratchley to give it his favourable consideration when the opportunity arose. Just about this time I received a letter from my old friend, Sir Frederick Weld, at Singapore, stating that he was reorganizing the Native Police Force in that colony and wanted to appoint a few British officers to it. He offered me the position of second in command. This offer was most alluring to me, but General Scratchley simply ridiculed it. He told me he knew Singapore only too well, and that if I went I would probably die in a few years—if I lived as long, and at any rate that I would become an old man before my time. Far better, he said, stay in a glorious country like Australia than go and work in a country only fit for niggers, and poor at that. Taking his advice I declined Sir Frederick Weld's kind offer. I wrote to him, thanking him, and pointed out that I was somewhat afraid to go and live in such a hot and moist climate after my sad experiences during my voyage out in the tropical regions, specially as since my landing in New Zealand I had not felt a twinge of rheumatism.
So I made up my mind to wait in Melbourne until I obtained my military appointment. I could not, however, afford to live in idleness, so I looked round for some suitable occupation which would bring in grist to the mill. I had always been, as you know, very fond of sport, and horse racing is the leading sport in Australia. I had been attending the meetings in and near Melbourne regularly and had become acquainted with a good many sporting men and the principal bookmakers and trainers. It struck me that it was a pity that a large city, the capital of a most thriving colony, where all kind of sport was rife, possessed no daily sporting paper. The one evening paper in Melbourne, The Herald, usually devoted some space to sport, but it was not published till too late in the day to be of any value to race-goers and punters. I determined to start a "sporting news-sheet," to be published for the ten days covering the forthcoming Melbourne Cup Meeting. This news-sheet would be on sale at 10 A.M. in the morning, and give the latest information even up to the last morning's gallops—if any—the scratchings, and latest betting prices. I at once set to work and got two reliable sporting men possessing good all-round racing information to join me in the venture. Then I took a set of offices, which were really much too extravagant and in too good a position. The offices were in the best part of Collins Street. But I was a very sanguine young man in those days. It was my first venture in business bar the roller-skating. As a matter of fact, not one of us three had any knowledge or experience in business. We arranged that it should be my work to collect advertisements, attend to the editing and printing, do the financing, and see to the sale of the Turf Tissue, the name selected for the publication. My two partners' business was to visit the training tracks, watch the horses at work, get all the information they could out of trainers, jockeys and stable-boys, and advise the public what horses to back.
Looking at it without prejudice, it seemed quite a good proposition on paper. So on we went. The Turf Tissue was to be sold to the public at twopence a copy, a half-penny of which was to go to the seller. It was a good commission, but by giving it we hoped to attract a very large number of the newsboys who sold the evening paper, in view of the fact that by publishing the Tissue at 10 A.M. the sale would be all finished some time before the evening papers came out.
Difficulties began early. I found that it was by no means so easy to collect advertisements, knowing, of course, nothing about it, and I tackled the job badly. Those who took up advertising space stipulated for an actual distribution of ten thousand copies of the Tissue each day, which had to be guaranteed and be carried out before they paid for the advertisements. I could see no other way out of the difficulty than to consent to their terms. Next came how to print the Tissue. We had no printing plant of our own, so we had to find what I think they called "a job printer" to pull us through. This was by no means easy, as I was unable to find one who would promise that the paper would actually be printed each day and be ready for issue at the stipulated time. Besides, the price to be charged seemed to me to be nearly ruinous. Yet if our venture was worth trying it was worth paying for at first. The Turf Tissue was to become a genuine daily newspaper. There would be more than ample profits by and by.
The time was near when the first issue was to take place, namely, the Thursday of the week before the day on which the Melbourne Cup was to be run, the first Tuesday in November. We decided that the first issue was to be given free to the newsvendors and sellers by way of advertisement, and notices were put up inviting all such who were willing to sell the Turf Tissue to assemble outside the offices of the paper on the Thursday morning by 10 A.M. That morning came and so did the crowds of would-be sellers to obtain their free issue for which they were to charge 2d. each. In such numbers were they that the traffic was interfered with, and the police took the matter in hand. I found out that a mistake had undoubtedly been made in fixing the main thoroughfare as a place of distribution, and that the mistake was entirely due to my inexperience as an editor and newspaper proprietor. For such I was. In a short time the first ten thousand copies of the first number of the newly-fledged sporting paper were being sold throughout Melbourne town. Looking out of the window of my office I could hear the loud cries of "Buy a Turf Tissue," "All the tips," "Latest gallops," "Only twopence." All was going well, and the firm adjourned to Scott's Hotel. A couple of bottles of "bubbly" christened the very first sheet out of the printing press, which I have still.
To avoid the scenes in the street of that morning, I arranged for light carts to proceed next morning to convenient localities, where, under proper supervision, the regular distribution to sellers would take place, and these localities were duly and largely advertised that afternoon.
My two partners left me to ferret out what information they could, particularly to spot, if possible, the winner for the coming Saturday's races. If we could only strike, say, three or four winners for Saturday our fortune was made. I looked forward to printing an issue of fifty thousand copies on the Tuesday morning, the Cup Day, giving the last and final and correct tip for that great race. I treated myself to an excellent dinner at my club, and could hardly realize that with all the disadvantages of inexperience and want of knowledge in business matters my success had been so quickly and soundly assured. The first of the rather rude awakenings, which came to me next morning, was a message sent on to the office, where I was sitting after having supervised the departure of the delivery carts to their several distributing localities, arranged for on the previous day, to the effect that no news-sellers were available at the arranged places, and asking for instructions. I sent for a cab and started for the places where the delivery carts were waiting. What a change from the previous day! Either something had gone radically wrong with the advertising of the change in the place and mode of distribution, or else the news-sellers had been tampered with in some way or another. Not one was to be found. Then I remembered the agreement with the advertisers. Ten thousand copies had to be distributed throughout the city and suburbs. There was only one remedy. The delivery carts must deliver them, as widely as was possible, but, of course, free of charge. You will doubtless have noticed that this was the second issue of the paper which had been made without as yet one penny having been returned to the promoters.
On returning to the office I found a well-known Jew of that day, who, I had been told, was the boss of the news-sellers and who practically had them all in the palm of his hand. He informed me straight out that he had passed the word round that any vendor, man, woman or child, who sold the Turf Tissue would be struck off the list of their evening paper sellers, whom he absolutely controlled. The explanation for the morning's failure was clear. But what was more clear was the unrelenting spirit in which my visitor absolutely refused to come to any terms which might lead to an amicable settlement. He delivered his ultimatum like a Napoleon. He would have no truck with new-fangled ideas which might interfere with the sale of the old-established newspaper. He informed me he had not the slightest ill-feeling personally in the matter; in fact, he went so far as to say that if I had only conferred with him before launching my scheme he would have gladly advised me of the futility of it. Bowing himself out, he departed. I had not the least inclination to step over to Scott's and have a glass of bubbly. I simply had to count up what our losses then amounted to. They were as follows, roughly:
(1) The cost of printing of the two issues by the job printer, in addition to the cost of the paper.
(2) The cost of a fair distribution of ten thousand copies daily, in order to keep faith with the advertisers.
(3) Our rent of the offices for three months, plus the cost of the office accessories, lighting, etc.
These were all chargeable to the debit side. On the credit side, nil. No matter how clever my sporting confreres might be in spotting winners, we could add not one penny to the credit side. I summoned my two partners to a conference that afternoon. Somewhat to my surprise they seemed cheerful. "Things are not so bad as they look," they said. "We have a real 'dead bird' for the Melbourne Cup. We are going to borrow every penny we can, pledge any credit we have with the bookmakers, and on Tuesday evening, after the race, we shall have enough to pay our liabilities on the Tissue and plenty more besides. So cheer up; just raise as much money as you can, and we shall put it all on on Monday evening. On the Tuesday, the morning of the race, we will print twenty thousand copies of the Tissue with the name of the winner. We will scatter the Tissue all over the city and the race-course. The public will back him for all they are worth, for he is a good horse. He may shorten in price. If so we can lay off and stand on velvet."
This cheered me up a good deal. Their confidence in their plan was catching. So we went to Scott's, after all, had a bottle, and I went home, calculating what my third share of our losses in the Tissue would amount to, and how much ready cash I could lay my hands on to back our tip so as to balance the account. I was not the least ambitious to make a fortune. All I wanted was to get clean clear of my journalistic enterprise and cease to be the proprietor, editor and publisher of a newspaper.
I put aside my worries for the week-end. As a matter of fact, three of our tips out of six races came off on the Saturday, which gave the public considerable confidence in our selection for the winner of the Cup on the Tuesday. Then, casting sorrows to the winds, I arranged for a quiet week-end down at Sorrento. The weather was hot; Sorrento beach was delightful. The lapping waves on the beach were fresh and briny; Nature smiled, and I put worries away.
Then came Monday. It was the evening we were to put our money on our horse, our pick, nay, our "dead bird" for the Cup. We three met at the office. Our office boy, rather a wag in his way, had decorated my office table with flowers. My two partners, who seemed to me to have spent the week-end without any sleep, visiting training stables, waiting for the first streaks of dawn to watch the early Sunday and Monday morning gallops, and doing all that is expected of racing touts, were more than convinced of the certainty of their choice. There was nothing in it but "Mata." "Mata" could not be beaten. The race was all over. "Mata," however, was at a short price, and I could see it would require a good deal of money to enable me to get round my share of our losses. Still, what was the use of all our exertions and hard work and financial risks if the two partners specially selected for their intimate knowledge of the true form of the horses were not to be believed? There was nothing for it but to sink or swim together. We duly published the Tissue on the Tuesday morning, the Cup morning. By a quarter past ten you could pick up a copy of the Tissue anywhere in the city. We sent cabs full of them to Flemington and scattered them all over the road and the course. Every one was saying "Mata" would win all right.
The Melbourne Cup was run that afternoon, and Mata did not win. As a matter of fact, he was one of the two last horses to finish. Grand Flaneur won—our tip for a place. All was up with the Turf Tissue. Nothing was left but for myself and my two partners to try to look happy and pay our responsibilities. I attended the office on the Wednesday, but my partners did not turn up, as I expected. I found out afterwards that they had lost their all, and that, as I had undertaken the financial responsibilities of the venture, it was left to me to have the pleasure of winding up our company's affairs. I had in this respect to stand a great deal of good-natured chaff from my friends and General Scratchley, who thought it was quite a good joke.
I am reminded that years afterwards the following amusing incident occurred in Melbourne. The Melbourne Cup of 1896 was to take place. Some two months before the race the Duke of the Abruzzi, cousin of the King of Italy, then a young man and a sailor, arrived in Adelaide on an Italian man-of-war. He was making a tour round the world. I saw a good deal of him during his stay in Adelaide. I was then Commandant of South Australia. The duke was much interested in the Cup, and he was most anxious to get a good tip. A mare called Auraria, belonging to Mr. David James, of Adelaide, was in the race. She was a good mare, and a good deal fancied for the race by the talent in Adelaide. She had, at any rate, an outside show. So I suggested to the duke and his staff to put some money on, as the odds against her at the time were about thirty to one, and if she improved before the day of the race that price was sure to shorten and they could lay off. He made me write the name "Auraria" in his notebook, so that he wouldn't forget. He continued his tour, and I had forgotten the incident. Later on I was in Melbourne, staying with Lord Hopetoun for the Cup carnival. I had backed Auraria myself, hoping to lay off. However, when the day came, nobody wanted to back her. As a matter of fact, you could get forty to one about her as the horses went to the post. The race started. Coming up the straight it was an open race. When they got to the distance the crowd yelled the names of several horses as the winners. At the half distance there came a regular roar. "Auraria, Auraria wins!" A few seconds more and Auraria was first past the post.
After the race we went to afternoon tea with their Excellencies. The room was full, but there were only one or two of us winners, when one of the A.D.C.s told His Excellency that the Duke of the Abruzzi was just outside and he had asked him to come in. In he came, with two of his staff, full of smiles, rushed towards His Excellency and said, "Look! I backed Auraria. We"—he pointed to his A.D.C.—"backed Auraria. We each win L160. Look! All here in our pockets," which were bulging with gold and notes. And, turning round to the admiring crowd, he suddenly saw me. In a moment he was embracing me with both arms round my neck, saying, "Auraria, my friend! The beautiful Adelaide Auraria." He then explained that it had been mere chance that he had been enabled to leave Sydney the night before, and had arrived at Flemington race-course just in time for the race, and they had backed Auraria with the cash bookmakers, obtaining the useful odds of forty to one. He then pulled out his pocket-book and said, "You see the name 'Auraria'? You wrote it for me in Adelaide. I came to put my money on. It is splendid." And so it was.
A MERCHANT, THEN AN ACTOR
Well, something else had to be done to recover my losses and fill in time. Having the offices on my hands—for I had taken them on a three months' lease—it struck me that if I became a commission agent, and if I secured something good to sell, I might make some money.
So I decided to interview several firms in the exhibition with a view to becoming their agent. My first endeavours met with what I thought was considerable success. They were mostly foreign firms that I approached, as I am a good linguist, and they appeared to be delighted to have my services as their agent. Amongst them, I remember, was a German firm which had quite a wonderful turning lathe which could turn out table legs, ornamental posts, banisters for staircases, and in fact all sorts of wooden legs and posts, in marvellous quick time. Then there was an American firm with a very reliable and still cheap line of watches, and so on. But I was not made aware that these firms had already imported large stocks of their particular goods and were selling them on their own account, so that there were not many opportunities left of doing further business for the time being. In the meantime I spent quite a fair sum of money in advertising their goods, for which, no doubt, they were inwardly thankful.
Sitting in my office one day I had a visit from a gentleman, who asked me if I would act as agent for what he informed me was a sure and good line to sell. I told him it depended on what it was. To my surprise he said, "Yorkshire hams." I looked at him, wondering whether he was all right in the head. He noticed my hesitation in answering him, but said:
"All right. The position is this. I am closely in touch with many of the boats arriving in harbour from England. Most of them are now bringing certain quantities of Yorkshire hams by way of a little speculation amongst some of the ship's company. Knowing most of them, they have asked me if I could place their hams. I have no time myself to do so, but I thought a firm like yours would take it on."
Well, it didn't appear to me there was any harm in selling "Yorkshire hams" and getting a good commission out of them, and, at any rate, there were always people who would eat "Yorkshire hams," and if the market wasn't glutted they could soon be disposed of. The terms of my commission were fixed up, and my visitor undertook to start delivering the hams at the offices in a couple of days. I may tell you that there was a back entrance to the offices from a side street, and as the offices were fairly large, one room was set aside for the storage of the hams. It was to be his business to deliver them and store them. We began operations at once, and I succeeded in getting orders fairly easily. I discovered afterwards that the reason of this was that my price was lower than the actual market price. Having no previous experience in selling hams, and, as a matter of fact, of selling anything, I had no suspicion that there might be something wrong in connexion with the business. I just kept on selling hams as long as there were any available.
Things were looking up, I thought. If I could only get people to buy a few legs for tables, and banisters for their staircases, good old-fashioned four-poster beds, and some of the other goods for which I was presumably agent, business would look up and a fair start would be made.
But Nemesis was again after me. I received a visit one morning from a gentleman I knew quite well. He was, as a matter of fact, one of the senior Customs officers. He was very nice, but he advised me to give up selling hams. It appeared that these very good hams were all being smuggled, and found their way up to my offices by all manner of means, sometimes in cabs, sometimes in sacks on wheelbarrows, and that consequently I was taking part in a transaction which duly qualified me for a heavy fine, in addition to a somewhat healthy term of imprisonment. So my friend the Customs House officer, who was quite aware that I was innocent of fraud and had no knowledge of what was going on, had come round to warn me. He hoped, he said, very soon to get hold of the kind gentleman who had been good enough to introduce the business to me. Well, there was nothing to be done but "Hands off hams," and as I had been a commission agent then for some six weeks, and the only merchandise I had sold was "the hams," I considered it high time to close the business, in case I might let myself in for something more serious.
Just about this time the notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly, who had been captured close to Benalla, Victoria, was sentenced to death, and he was to be hanged at the Melbourne Jail at eight o'clock one morning.
I felt a certain amount of curiosity. I thought it would be an unique experience to witness his execution. I was a personal friend of the chief magistrate of the city, and besides, having arranged with one or two New Zealand papers to communicate to them any matters which might be of interest during my stay in Australia, I could obtain permission to be present at the execution as a representative of the Press. The White Hart Hotel was not far distant from the jail.
I did not feel in the least happy the afternoon before the morning of the execution, when a permit to be present was handed to me by a police officer. My dinner that night seemed to disagree with me, and I went to my bed feeling that I was about to witness a scene that was more than likely to leave such impressions in my mind as I would probably regret for the rest of my life. However, it had to be done. I was up early after a sleepless and restless night, and then walked to the jail. I arrived at the big entrance gates, the sad and solemn entrance to the forbidding-looking building, about ten minutes to eight in the morning. Around those gates a large crowd had congregated.
There was not a sound to be heard from that crowd. There was dead silence. I made my way to those big entrance gates. A small wicket gate with a bell-rope attached was in front of me. I pulled the bell-rope. The little door was quietly opened. Just at the moment a cab arrived, and three men stepped out. Naturally thinking they were officials connected with the execution, I stood aside to let them pass through the little door. I noticed that one of them seemed to be somewhat under the influence of drink. They passed on into the confines of the jail. I then asked the gatekeeper who those men were. He said, "That one is the hangman." He was the one whom I had noticed. My wish, or my intention rather, to step inside those gates vanished. I thanked the gatekeeper and told him that I would not trouble him to let me through. The little door was then shut, and I was more than glad to remain outside. I became one of that silent crowd who waited outside the gates. It was some twenty minutes afterwards that the black flag was hoisted on the building. The full penalty of the law had been paid by Ned Kelly.
I dare say many of those who read this may have seen exhibited the iron case which Kelly wore over his head at the time of his capture, and on which the dents of two or three bullets which had struck it when he had been captured were plainly visible.
I had now been, as you see, really hard at work for over two months, so I thought I was entitled to a holiday; for there appeared to be no probability of the appointment for which I was waiting being made just then.
It was Christmas time, very hot, so the seaside was the place to go to, and I selected Geelong—why, I know not. I was there but a few days when I was introduced to some residents whose business was that of wool broking. We had several mutual friends.
I had told them that I had not been very successful in my business enterprises, and after two or three days they were good enough to offer me a position in their offices. I thanked them very much and left Geelong, as I was afraid that if I started business again so soon after my late experiences I might get into further difficulties.
But, as a matter of fact, the real reason of my refusing their offer was that what I almost looked upon as a divine inspiration had come to me in the meantime. Why should the experiences I had gained while managing the Royal Artillery Theatre at Woolwich for one whole week be lost to the world, and particularly to Australia? I had been manager for that week, and I had been one of the stars of the company. Why, of course, it would be criminal not to give the Melbourne public the opportunity to judge of my capabilities as an actor. So, on a Monday midday I called at the Bijou Theatre, Bourke Street, of which the lessee was Mr. Wybert Reeve, who was running his own company and playing at that time The Woman in White. He was a good, sound, old-fashioned actor. I interviewed him in his sanctum and told him that I was anxious to go on the stage.
"Have you acted before?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," I said, quite in a lordly way; and I told him of my experiences at Woolwich. He was not in the least impressed.
"What salary do you expect?" he then asked.
"I should think that four pounds a week would be a fair commencement," I answered.
You should have seen the expression on his face. He looked at me for a few moments in silence, and then exclaimed:
"Why, good gracious! Do you know that I was acting nearly five years before I earned a pound a week? And you want to begin with four pounds a week."
"Well," I said, "you must have begun a considerable number of years ago. Times change. Besides, I have some very excellent clothes, and they are surely worth something in their way."
Well, he laughed, for he appeared to have been somewhat favourably impressed by what he no doubt considered my impertinence and self-conceit, and told me that at the moment his company was full, but that if I left him my address he would communicate with me as soon as an opportunity arose.
On the very next Thursday afternoon I received a note from him at the old White Hart Hotel, asking me if I would call upon him as soon as convenient. I arrived there at seven that evening, and found him waiting for me in his dressing-room, where he was preparing to make up for his part as Count Fosco, in which he had been quite a success. He opened the conversation by asking me if I was prepared to take on the part of Careless in The School for Scandal, which he had advertised to produce on the Saturday night next. He explained that the artist whom he had engaged for the part had been missing for two days, and, from what he had gathered, even if he presented himself at the theatre, it was more than doubtful if he would be in a fit condition to appear before the public.
The proposition was a difficult one. To study the part in two days, appearing in it on the evening of the second day, without an opportunity of rehearsal, would be a bold venture for one who was setting forth to earn fame and a high reputation as an actor. I thought for a moment or two. I remembered that I had seen The School for Scandal played once or twice in my life. My recollections of the part of Careless were that he was a somewhat light-hearted, jovial, easy-going person, whose life was a pleasure to him, and who did not take too serious a view of the things in this world. Well, was I not, at that moment, in a position when I might with advantage take on the mantle of Careless's temperament and chance the result? Yes; I consented. Wybert was evidently relieved. He told me afterwards, in confidence, that he so admired what he considered my consummate self-confidence that he decided to give me the opportunity, subject to an informal rehearsal to be held on the next day, Friday, in the afternoon. I then inquired whether Careless's costume would be ready for me. A serious look came over his face.
"By Jove!" he said, "the Careless that's missing is only about five foot nine. It's quite impossible to put your six feet two inches into his clothes. What's to be done? Can you get them made in time?"
I relieved his mind by telling him that, as good fortune would have it, I had been at a fancy dress ball at a friend's house in Toorak just ten days before, and that a friend of mine, who was private secretary to one of the then Governors of Australia, and who was about my height and build, had appeared at the ball as Careless, and his costume was a particularly handsome one. I had no doubt if I asked him he would lend it to me. Once more the smile came across his face. He looked at me for a bit and then remarked:
"I'm beginning to think honestly that you're pulling my leg all the time. Say so, if you are; otherwise I shall postpone the production of The School for Scandal and continue The Woman in White for another week."
I felt sorry for a moment that he had considered me to have been somewhat flippant. I had no doubt he had some right to think so, so I very sincerely and seriously told him that such a thing as pulling anybody's leg had never entered my mind. Indeed, very far from it; that my experience since I had been in Melbourne was exactly the opposite, and that it was I who had suffered much from having my leg pulled by other people, especially those commercial magnates whose business I had been so anxious to promote. My explanation seemed to please him. There was one more point which required arranging, and an important point too, and that was whether my salary would be four pounds a week or not. So I asked him. He answered very readily that if he was satisfied with the results of the rehearsal next day, and in view of the fact that I was finding my own wardrobe, and that an expensive one, he would pay the four pounds a week. I at once thought to myself that I had made a mistake. I was giving myself away too cheap, but I would keep it in mind for our next business interview. I did remember, as you will see presently.
Friday afternoon came, and, as the stage was occupied in preparing the new scenery for The School for Scandal, we held a so-called rehearsal in one of the corridors. It was very informal, but I had mastered my book. Wybert closed on our bargain, and the comedy was produced on the Saturday night before a very large, select and enthusiastic audience, amongst whom there seemed to be an inordinate number of my own personal friends. All went well. I had made up my mind to succeed or go right down under. I was in a very happy mood. My friend the private secretary's clothes fitted me to perfection, and, to the astonishment not only of Wybert Reeve himself, the company, and the professional critics in front, I introduced at times some light dancing steps, which cheered me on in my efforts and apparently highly pleased our audience. Between the acts Wybert took the opportunity, while encouraging me, to suggest that it would be an awful pity to spoil the splendid work I was putting in, as he called it, by overdoing it. I could see how anxious he was. I opened a good bottle of champagne, we had a drink together, and I assured him that all would be well. And so it was; and at the end of the performance we answered repeated calls before the curtain. When we had made our last bows to the audience, the company met in what was then an old institution at the back of the scenes, namely, the green-room, where Wybert himself insisted on opening the champagne and was no longer anxious as to how many glasses we drank to the success of The School for Scandal.
Sunday was a happy day. I spent it with some friends near Point Cook, at Port Phillip Bay, which spot, years afterwards, I selected to establish the first aviation school in Australia. Most of the country in that district belonged to the Chirnside family, the first of whom had made good in the early days of the Colony of Victoria. Werribee House was their headquarters. So had the Clarkes made good, the Manifolds, the Blacks and many others whom in after years I had to thank for much kindness and hospitality.
On the Monday, which was known amongst actors as Treasury morning, I duly attended Wybert's office to collect my first hard-earned wage. It had been arranged that, though my engagement dated only from the previous Thursday, I would be entitled to a week's wages if all was well on the opening night. I was as contented as anyone could be, for I knew I had made good. The two leading morning papers had most favourable notices, the production was a success, and even Careless had been favourably commented on by them. I duly received four golden sovereigns. I felt this was a much better line of business than editing sporting newspapers or selling hams and table legs.
But I was remembering the fact, yes, that I had asked for too low a salary, and that having come out on top I was entitled to more money. How much was it to be? I bethought to myself that a rise of two pounds would not be an extravagant request, taking everything into consideration. So, after thanking Wybert, I informed him that I could not think of continuing in the play unless he raised my salary to six pounds a week. He was cross, I could see, and he also pretended to be hurt.
"How can you make such a request after the chance I have given you? It is preposterous. I am surprised at you."
"Well," I said, "I agree with you as far as being surprised. I am surprised myself. And it would never do for you to lose another Careless within a week, and unless I get the extra two pounds a week I might be lost to-night myself." The idea of such a happening seemed to strike him as possible. He hesitated; then he gave in, and my salary was fixed at six pounds a week, but, more than that, he took me on at that rate for a term of six weeks. I practically became a real live member of his company, and was to be ready to play any part from Hamlet to an imbecile old butler in a fool of a farce, if asked to do so. I was not downhearted. I felt I could play anything. The six weeks passed only too quickly. Wybert produced three other plays within that time, and then came the end of his lease and the breaking up of our company.
Our leading lady was Madame le Grand, who, I think, was (or had been) Mrs. Kyrle Bellew in private life. Mr. Ireland was one of our leading men, the father of that gifted young actress, Miss Harry Ireland. Maggie Oliver, an irrepressible and most clever soubrette, was ever happy and a source of pleasure to us all. Old Daniels, a Jew, was the funny man. He was a first-rate low comedian who never overdid his part. Then there was Hans Phillips, a polished actor, who, I think, married the daughter of Gordon, then the best scenic painter in Australia. Poor Hans Phillips unfortunately died at a comparatively early age. Then I remember those two charming sisters, Constance and Alice Deorwyn, who afterwards became, one, Mrs. Stewart, and the other Mrs. Holloway, the mother of another charming young actress, Beatrice Holloway.
During this time I was introduced to, and became intimate with, many of the leading managers and actors in Australia. There was Coppin, the doyen of the profession. Maggie Moore and her husband, J. C. Williamson, had "struck oil." The four Stewart Sisters were at their best. In a pantomime the youngest of them, Nelly, then only about sixteen, was bewitching her many admirers, singing "For he wore a penny paper collar round his throat," and dancing like a sylph. What a favourite she became, and how for many years she continued to be at the top of her profession, all Australia knows. Who that saw her can forget her as Sweet Nell, and who that had had the pleasure of knowing her but thinks of her, not as "Sweet Nell of Old Drury," but as Sweet Nellie Stewart herself.
The friendships I made then have lasted till death has intervened. During the many years I spent in Australia I counted many shining lights of the theatrical profession as close personal friends—and I do so now. Violet Loraine was the last. At the end of my first and short engagement we got up a benefit on behalf of the two Deorwyn sisters.
The opening piece was a farce named Turn Him Out, in which I played the leading part, Eglantine Roseleaf. This was my last public appearance as a professional actor.
An event happened which put an end to any reasons why I should stay in Victoria awaiting the military appointment which had been promised me. The finances of the colony were in a low state, retrenchment was imperative, and the Premier, Graham Berry, set to work to carry it out with a heavy hand. The public services suffered heavily, and amongst them the military vote heaviest of all. Instead of any new military appointment being made, a large percentage of the officers serving were retrenched. I felt bitterly disappointed, but I could not blame my friend, General Scratchley; in fact I could not blame anybody.
My friends, or at least some of them, advised me to continue my theatrical efforts. They even offered me a tempting rise on my last salary and fairly long engagements, but I was in no way keen. I had tried it only as an experiment, and the ways of the theatre were not alluring to me, and especially after having gone through them personally. There is a good deal of fun to be got out of it, but few people know how hard one has to work, and what a slave to duty one has to become in order to rise to the top of the tree.
There was nothing for it now but to return home. I said good-bye to all my friends and left for Adelaide, South Australia, en route for Scotland.
AS POLICEMAN IN ADELAIDE
On arrival at Adelaide I called on the Governor of South Australia, then Sir William Jervois, the distinguished Engineer officer, who, with General Scratchley in Melbourne, was advising the Australian Colonies with regard to the land defences. As I was shown into the private secretary's room I was more than surprised to meet his son, Captain John Jervois, who had been a cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, with me. We had a long chat. I told him of my varied experiences, some of which naturally amused him much.
His father, the Governor, happened to be away, but he said he would arrange for me to see him the next day. Next morning I received a message from him to say that his father would be glad to see me, and would I lunch with them? I did so, and after lunch His Excellency, Sir William, asked me to his study. His son had told him all about me. Sir William informed me that one of the forts which he had designed for South Australia, Fort Glanville, had just been completed, that it had become necessary to raise a small artillery unit to man it, and that he thought I was just the man to raise and command it.
I must say I couldn't help smiling. I suggested to him whether, in view of my experiences as regarded appointments, he really thought that I ought to accept his very kind offer. He said "Certainly; go and see the commandant"—General Downes, R.A. "I have already had a chat with him about you. Talk it over with him and let me know what you decide. In the meantime go and see the Chief Commissioner of Police, Mr. George Hamilton, who lives at the Adelaide Club, and who will do all he can to make you comfortable." The result of my interview with the general was that I decided to stay on in the hopes of obtaining the appointment. He promised to recommend me for it.
Later on in the day I called upon Mr. George Hamilton at the Adelaide Club. He was a charming personality, well advanced in years. He was kindness itself to me, and put me up as an honorary member of the club. He told me that on the next day, which was the last day of the month, he would be making his usual monthly inspection of the mounted and foot police attached to the city of Adelaide. The police barracks were situated not far from the club, on the other side of North Terrace and beyond the Government House grounds. The front portion of the building was being utilized as the Military Staff Office. It was a peculiarity of the mounted police in Adelaide that they were all mounted on grey horses, Mr. George Hamilton being of the opinion that the police force was intended more to prevent crime than to punish criminals. He held that mounted policemen on grey or white horses would be seen at a greater distance, and recognized as such, better than if they were mounted on horses of other colours, and their presence being quicker recognized, would act as a deterrent to crime if such was premeditated. I accompanied him on his inspection, and that small force, mounted and foot, was a credit to South Australia.
I had been thinking seriously to myself, during the inspection, as to what I was to do while waiting for my appointment. It occurred to me that I had exhausted most means of making a livelihood that I knew of, and I recognized the fact that I could not afford to let the days go by without making some money to meet my living expenses. Walking back to the club after the inspection, I asked the Commissioner what were the pay and emoluments of a mounted police trooper. "Eight shillings and sixpence a day," he said, "is their pay, free quarters, free uniform and travelling allowance while on duty necessitating more than four hours' absence from the barracks." Considering that the pay of a lieutenant of the Royal Artillery was somewhere about six and fourpence a day and no emoluments, the lot of a mounted policeman seemed a happy one. I straight away asked Mr. Hamilton whether he would take me into the force. He seemed very surprised, but I assured him I was quite in earnest. "Well," he said, "there is a vacancy, but before I can promise you anything you must talk the matter over with His Excellency the Governor, and take his advice." His Excellency thought it was quite a good idea, and informed me that I was to tell the Commissioner that he would be very pleased if I was taken on. So it was arranged that I should join up on the seventh of the month.
By this time I had been introduced to most of the members of the club and some of their families. But it was quite evident that if I was to become a policeman I couldn't remain at the club, nor could I be on visiting terms with the elite of Adelaide. I therefore made up my mind to be a policeman, a real policeman, and give up social festivities for the time being. This decision met with the full approval of His Excellency and the general, and, I need hardly say, of the Commissioner. The only exceptions to this rule were that I would occasionally lunch at Government House and at the General's home when convenient. I duly joined, and, remembering my New Zealand experience, I swore to myself that I was not going to resign until after being duly appointed to my next billet.
It is not to be wondered at that not only the corporal in charge of the barracks, but the mounted troopers under his charge, were surprised to see the Commissioner's young friend, who had been inspecting them a few days before, joining their ranks. Only the mounted police were quartered at the barracks, the foot police lived privately in their respective districts and suburbs. I spent my first night in the barrack-room, and I was glad to find that amongst the twenty-five or thereabouts of the number of troopers, no less than six or seven were ex-officers or N.C. officers of the army or navy, and the remainder were men who had been selected from the pick of the many candidates who were continually offering their services to the Commissioner.
A word about the corporal in charge—Corporal Campbell, an ex-salt, a hard-headed, kind-hearted Scotsman. Corporal Campbell had to his credit some thirty-five years of mounted police work in South Australia. The greater number of those years he had spent in the northern districts of the then young colony. In those early days the duties of the mounted police in the far-off, unsettled districts were more than serious. They lived away from civilization, supervising huge tracts of country, necessitating travelling hundreds of miles at a stretch across uninhabited country, lacking in food and water. It required men of iron constitution and iron will to perform their duties. It wanted even more; it wanted self-confidence and a thorough knowledge of their work to deal equitably with the many points of dispute that from time to time arose between the settlers and the native tribes. Practically the mounted trooper was a magistrate. It was up to the mounted trooper to make all preliminary inquiries not only into criminal charges, but in many cases into civil disputes. Having done so it was up to him to prepare the cases for the justice of the peace before whose jurisdiction those cases had to be submitted.
The justices of the peace were men selected because they happened to hold some interest in the district. What knowledge had they of the law? What experience had they ever had of sitting as magistrates? Generally none. Consequently the justices of the peace leant for support on the mounted constables. It is to the credit of the mounted police of Australia, right throughout the whole of it, in every colony, that within my recollection, covering many years, I do not remember a single case of any serious complaint against the force of mis-direction in advising the magistrates when asked to do so.
While I had made up my mind to give up all social festivities, I reserved to myself one privilege, so that occasionally I could be reminded of my old social days. Perhaps my choice was guided by my success in the theatrical profession. I took a seat in the theatre in what was the best part of the house, next to the club box, for every Friday night. I used to treat myself to a good dinner in one of the hotels, all alone, and then went forth to enjoy the play. Adelaide at that time possessed only one really first-class theatre, the Theatre Royal, in Hindley Street. On these Friday nights I used to meet my men friends, but I did not allow myself to have the pleasure of meeting their lady friends. I was a policeman, and a policeman I had to be. It was really quite quaint. Everybody knew me; they all knew who I was. But it was obviously up to me to play the game.
A pleasing surprise awaited me the Monday morning following the day I joined. Corporal Campbell informed me that the then drill instructor who supervised the riding school and the instruction in sword and carbine exercises, musketry and revolver practice, had sent in his resignation, as he was going to get married and had decided to open an hotel in the flourishing district on the Mount Lofty ranges, at the foot of which the city of Adelaide is situated. He further told me that I had been appointed drill instructor in his place, and that the rank of acting-corporal had been conferred on me. This was indeed quick promotion. Besides, it carried with it many privileges. In the first place I could have a room to myself instead of sleeping in one of the barrack-rooms; secondly, I was off routine duties, such as serving summonses, investigating offences against the Police Act, and doing night patrol duties. My daily pay was raised to ten shillings and twopence a day, but I had to share with Corporal Campbell the responsibility of being in charge of the barracks. My short experience in the North Island of New Zealand stood me in good stead. My knowledge of military law and procedure came in most useful, as it naturally comprised an intimate acquaintance with the rules of evidence, most necessary in the preparation of police-court cases. I felt that I was fairly qualified to take on my new duties without any misgivings. Besides, Corporal Campbell kindly offered to coach me in carrying on the discipline and economic duties in connexion with the barracks, and the official correspondence with the Commissioner's office.
One of the privileges of the drill instructor was to have his horse attended to by one of the troopers. I did not avail myself of this.
A young horse, rising four, had just been bought, one of the handsomest dappled greys I had ever seen, standing about fifteen hands three, full of breeding. I selected him for my mount, and determined to look after him myself. Cold work it was too in the early winter mornings to wash him down, groom him and keep the saddlery and accoutrements in order. I schooled him myself, and he promised to become a perfect hack and police horse. A police horse needs to be taught the best of manners. He must be thoroughly quiet, good tempered, and capable of being ridden in amongst a crowd without being frightened. I succeeded beyond my expectations in training him, and I was very pleased that he was turning out so well. After about two months, however, he rapidly developed the worst of habits. Suddenly, without any apparent reason, he would stop and refuse to move. He would do this anywhere, on a country road or in the middle of the street. It was no use plying the whip, or using a powerful spur. He would not go forward. He would rear, or lash out with his hind legs, but he would not move on. This happened only very occasionally, but, when it did, it was most awkward, especially if I was in charge of an escort, or on a ceremonial parade. It turned out that he was suffering from a sort of horse-mania produced by having fed when young on a plant known in the district, where he was bred, as the Darling Pea. Feeding on this plant had this extraordinary effect upon horses. I was returning one day, after being on duty at the races at Victoria Park, to the barracks. As I was passing the Adelaide Hospital he stopped dead. After a few moments of gentle persuasion I gave him a sharp touch with my spurs. He reared straight up and fell backwards on the road. Luckily my face escaped injury, but my chest and back were nearly flattened out. A few days in hospital put me all right, and I returned to duty. He chose a fit place to hurt me.
The overland railway to Melbourne was then being constructed, and a very large railway camp was established in the Mount Lofty ranges, near a place called Aldgate. In this camp were congregated all classes and conditions of men, of several nationalities. I was in charge of the barracks one evening when a report came in from the foot police station that a girl had been nearly murdered. She had been found in the backyard of a small house in a disreputable quarter of the city, with her throat cut and a dagger wound in her breast. The nature of the wound pointed to the attempted murder being the work of a foreigner, probably an Italian, of whom there was a considerable number at the railway camp. I at once ordered all the available troopers out to make the necessary inquiries in the city and suburbs, and decided to proceed myself direct to the railway camp at Aldgate.
Having a fair knowledge of the language I thought I might pick up some valuable information on the way if I met any of the Italians. I started about 10.30 P.M., dressed as an ordinary bushman, riding an old bay horse which we kept for these occasions, and my revolver hidden but handy. The distance to the camp at Aldgate was about eighteen miles, taking short cuts with which I had already become acquainted.
I pulled up at several public houses on the road in the hopes of picking up some clue. I failed till I reached a well-known hotel, the Eagle-on-the-Hill, roughly half-way to Aldgate. The landlord, whom I had to wake up, and whom I knew, told me that he had served with drinks, amongst others, two foreigners, who had ridden up on one horse, and who said they were on the way to the camp. They had evidently had a good deal of drink; he had given them some more, and they had managed to climb on to the horse again and had ridden away. He could not, however, tell me what nationality they were. This had taken place about 11 o'clock, P.M. It was now about 1 o'clock, A.M. The two men would be at the camp about this time. I could reach it comfortably about 3 A.M. I got no further information until I arrived at the camp. I had hoped to make my entry quietly at that time of the morning, but I was disappointed. I had hardly got near the tents on the left of the road when a whole troop of mongrels commenced to bark furiously. I could not get into the camp without being seen, as I had hoped. However, I found my way, after inquiries, to where the man in charge lived.
When I had satisfied him as to who I was and on what business I was bent, he put his services at my disposal at once. I told him I wanted if possible to get hold of two men who had ridden up on one horse, that they were foreigners, and I suspected Italians. To my joy he told me that he had several men he could depend on who kept an eye on the camp generally for him, both by day and night, and one of them might have noticed their arrival, as the dogs were almost certain to have greeted them in the same way as they had greeted me, especially if the horse they were riding had come up to the tents.
He asked me to go with him while he made his inquiries. The first man he roused up did not know anything about the matter. The second, however, did. He had been late himself getting home, and curiously enough the two men on the horse had passed him on the road about a couple of miles before reaching the camp. It was a moonlight night, and he had noticed they were pretty drunk, hardly being able to hold on to the horse. As they passed him they called out to him, and he recognized them as two Italians who were engaged in tunnelling, bad characters, red-hot tempered, but good workers when sober. This was indeed a piece of luck. I asked him if he could guide me to their tent. That was more difficult. He was not sure; but he knew where the ganger who was in charge of the tunnelling party hung out, and he would probably know their whereabouts.
I went back to where I had left my horse, got a pair of handcuffs I had brought with me, and took one of the stirrup leathers off my saddle. When I returned the ganger had been found and took us towards the portion of the camp where the two men shared one of the dirtiest of tents I had ever seen. By this time dawn was just breaking. I arranged with the ganger—he was a good sort—that on arrival at the tent I would go inside and would hold the two of them up. As they would be most probably in a heavy sleep this would be a simple matter. Then, having handcuffed one, I would make secure the other one's hands behind his back with the stirrup leather and march them off to Adelaide; but in case anything went wrong inside and I called out he was to rush in to my help. He agreed. I slipped out my revolver, asked the ganger to hold up the lantern he was carrying so that I could see inside the tent when I opened the tattered flap, and, raising it, slipped inside. I had to stoop nearly double, the tent being very low, and I could just see with the aid of the ganger's lantern.
A more filthy place is difficult to imagine. On very low stretchers covered with rags by way of bedclothes lay the two men, one on each side of me, with their heads towards the entrance to the tent. They were sleeping heavily. I turned first towards the man on my right and suddenly dropped heavily on him with my right knee on his chest, and before he awoke to his senses I had him handcuffed. I turned over to the other one, who was just trying to sit up, apparently dazed. I threw the stirrup leather, the end of which I had passed through the buckle, making a noose of it, over his head, and pulling at the end of it with all my might, I backed out of the tent, dragging him after me. It was all done in a minute, and I had them both bagged. The ganger was quite delighted as he took hold of the stirrup leather to make the man secure while I went in to pull out his handcuffed mate. This was easily done under the persuasion of my revolver.
By the time they were both outside the tent they were wide awake. We made them sit on the ground. I handed the revolver to the ganger and left them in his charge while I searched their filthy abode. I was quite rewarded. Underneath some rags which had served as a pillow to the handcuffed man I found a knife with a blade about five inches long by some three-quarters of an inch broad, such as is much in use amongst Italians. It was covered with blood, some of which had not quite dried up. I also picked up a dirty woollen comforter which he had evidently worn the night before and on which were blood-stains of very recent date. I was satisfied; I found nothing more of any value as evidence. My job was done; all that was left was to escort my two prisoners to Adelaide.
It was now daylight. As there had been no noise few of the early risers who came slouching out of their tents knew that any arrest had been made until we were nearly out of the camp, and they took but little notice. I thanked the man in charge and the ganger for their assistance, and, after partaking of some coffee at the little cottage where the man in charge lived, I started off with my two prisoners tied together, making for an hotel not far off where I knew I could obtain a vehicle to drive them down to Adelaide. I arrived in Adelaide all well, and by two o'clock they were quickly and safely locked up in the police station. They were duly charged and tried. The girl had recovered from her injuries, and the culprit escaped with a long term of imprisonment instead of being hanged; the other received a short sentence. My first attempt to hunt down criminals had come off satisfactorily.
Shortly after I had joined the police my good friend, Mr. George Hamilton, retired from his position and Mr. Peterswald was appointed Commissioner. Mr. Peterswald, having been Mr. Hamilton's right-hand man, was thoroughly fitted for the appointment. He held it for many years, during which time the efficiency of the police force of South Australia was well maintained. As Commissioner I personally received from him during the time I was in the force every consideration. We had become personal friends as far as it was consistent with our respective positions, and, as soon as I received my first appointment as an officer in the South Australian Military Forces, he was one of the very first to welcome me to his house.
It was just before Christmas, 1881, that General Downes, the Commandant, sent for me to see him at his office. I walked across the barrack square to the Military Offices, and in a few minutes was shown into his room. He informed me that he had been unable to arrange with the Government to raise the nucleus of the Permanent Artillery Force which was required to take charge of the lately constructed Fort Glanville, and that, as a matter of fact, the contractors had asked for an extension of the time for its final handing over to the Government. He had, however, pointed out the necessity for a duly qualified Staff Instructor to be appointed to the Volunteer Force. Several new units had been formed throughout the colony. The localities in which the units had been raised were far distant from the headquarters at Adelaide, and, unless the services of some such Staff Instructor were made available, it could not be expected that they could be held together. The Government had considered his recommendation and had approved of it. He had, therefore, recommended me for the position, pending the raising of the artillery unit, and he had that morning been notified that his recommendation had met with their approval.
"I have much pleasure," he said, "in telling you this. I have been watching your work, while you have been in the police, and instructing them, with keen interest, and, I am satisfied that you are quite capable of carrying out the duties attached to your new appointment. I have seen Mr. Peterswald, your Commissioner, and he is quite prepared to grant you your discharge from the police. Please arrange to see him, and tell him that I sent you, because I would like you to start your new duties from the first of the year."
I have wondered, ever since that fateful interview with the general, whether there is such a thing as second sight, or—to put it another way, whether a person is permitted at times to have a glimpse into the future. While the general was talking to me, and as soon as he told me that his recommendation had been approved of, and that the appointment was actually made, I was looking at him sitting in his chair at his office desk, and I thought that I saw myself sitting in that very chair, actually in his place, as Commandant of South Australia. The vision was a passing one, but I well remember being seized with a determination to do all I could to make that vision come true. As will be seen later on, it did come true, and in much shorter time than I or anybody else could have possibly expected.
I at once, in accordance with the general's wishes, called on Mr. Peterswald. He was delighted at the good news. He, of course, knew about it from the general. He told me I could have leave of absence up to January 1, the date on which I was to take up my work at the Military Staff Office. My next business was to cable home to my father to inform him of my appointment. I knew what a pleasure it would be, most particularly to my mother, to hear the news. From the time that I had left home my only letters had been to my mother, and the only letters I had received had been from her. She always kept me fully informed of all the different doings of our large Gordon family.
Yet it is wonderful to think what a difference it makes to one's ideas when you decide to place some 16,000 miles between all your own best friends and your solitary self. Your solitary self goes forth alone. You go into new worlds, you leave behind all the pals of your youth, all those whose friendship in after life would be an anchor to you; all those sweet girls whom you love, all those relations who always protested they were so ready and keen to help you in your troubles, but who, when the time of trouble comes, suddenly have so many troubles of their own that they really can do nothing for you; but the one whom you feel most to leave behind is your mother.
On the day following the news of my appointment I called at Government House. My Woolwich mate, Johnny Jervois, was more than delighted at the result of his advice to me to remain in Adelaide. He and I had some exciting times later on when the Russian scare occurred in Australia in 1885; of which, more presently. His Excellency the Governor, Sir William, gave me much encouragement by the kind way in which he received me, and I need hardly say that I felt somewhat overcome by what appeared to me the extraordinary kindness of my South Australian friends. With the exception of my having been at Woolwich with young Jervois, all were strangers to me on my arrival in Adelaide. My resignation having been accepted I had ceased to be a policeman, and I felt at full liberty to accept any of the many invitations which were kindly given to me for the forthcoming festive season. It was a happy Christmas and New Year's time. My Christmas Day was spent with the general and his charming wife and family, at their home at Mitcham, near Adelaide.
On New Year's Eve and New Year's Day respectively I was the guest of the Governor and the new Commissioner, Mr. Peterswald. I also obtained permission from the Commissioner to invite my late police comrades to a social evening at their barracks. That evening is one of the happiest recollections of my life. During the months I had been with them I had had no occasion, either as their instructor or while in charge of the barracks, to find any fault with their work. We had been brought closely together, and, if at times a few hard words had to be spoken as regards their duties, they fully recognized that they were merited, and they bore no personal ill-will. The South Australian Police were then, and have been since, and are now, an efficient and fine body of men.
On January 1, 1882, I took up my duties at the Military Staff Office. My mind was made up not to fail, but to give effect to the vision I had, at the time of my interview with the general, which had pointed to the Commandant's chair as my future lot.
How it was realized you will learn as you read on.
MILITARY APPOINTMENTS AND PROMOTIONS OF BRIGADIER-GENERAL JOSEPH MARIA GORDON, C.B.
1874—Joined Military Academy, Woolwich. 1876—Lieutenant, Royal Artillery. 1881—Police Instructor, South Australia. 1882—Staff Instructor, Military Forces, South Australia. " —Lieutenant Commanding South Australian Permanent Artillery. 1883—Captain. 1885—Major. 1892—Lieutenant-Colonel on the Staff. " —Acting Commandant. 1893—Colonel on the Staff. " —Commandant, South Australian Military Forces. 1896—Re-appointed Commandant, under new Defence Act. 1898—Inspector, Warlike Stores, and Military Adviser for Australian Colonies, in England. 1899—Returned to South Australia, Commandant. " —Special Service Officer, South African War. 1900—Colonel, Imperial Land Forces. " —Chief Staff Officer to all Overseas Colonial Forces, on the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts. " —and commanded a Mounted Column, South Africa. " —Brigadier-General, Adelaide. 1901—Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath. 1902—Commandant of the State of Victoria. 1905—Commandant of the State of New South Wales. 1912—Chief of the General Staff, Commonwealth Military Forces, and First Member of the Military Board of Control, Australia. Retired, owing to age limit, 1st August, 1914.
SOLDIERING IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA
On January 2, 1882, I attended the staff office and began my new duties. The general asked me to draw up a short memorandum setting out how best to utilize my time up to the end of the financial year—June 30. My special work was the instruction of the Volunteer Companies and detachments stationed in the country, as apart from the units maintained within the metropolitan area of Adelaide. It is worth while for you to study the map of South Australia. In order to carry out these duties very large tracts of country had to be covered by rail and road.
The amount of money placed on the estimates to cover travelling expenses was by no means large, so it was very necessary to work out an itinerary for the half-year, which, while enabling the units to get as much instruction as possible, would not entail any expenditure beyond that placed at my disposal. In addition to this, I was in charge of the office work in connexion with the whole of the Volunteer branch of the military forces at that time serving in South Australia. With the assistance of a smart clerk placed at my disposal by the general I was well able to fulfil these duties to his satisfaction. By the end of the week the itinerary submitted by me received approval and a fair start was made.
The Colony of South Australia was founded upon lines that differed from those on which the rest of the Australian Colonies started their existence. The Chartered Company of South Australia was entrusted by the British Government with the development of an immense tract of country stretching right up through the centre of Australia from the south to the north coast. The Northern Territory came under its administration. This tract of country approached in size nearly to one-third of the whole of Australia. South Australia has been called the "Cinderella" of the Australian Colonies, not only because she was the youngest, but also because of the character of her constitution. The original settlers had landed on virgin soil, untainted by previous settlements of convict prisoners. South Australia had not begun as a Crown Colony. The Chartered Company had been granted self government from the day that the ships conveying the original settlers cast their anchors off the shores of Glenelg, and they held their first official meeting under the spreading branches of the gum tree whose bent old trunk still marks that historic spot. It was on December 28, 1836, that the landing took place. Every year since that date the anniversary of that auspicious day has been set aside for a national holiday. The now exceedingly prosperous seaside resort of Glenelg hums each December 28 with joyous holiday makers. A banquet, presided over by the mayor, and attended by the Governor, the Premier, members of the Government and Parliament, is held to commemorate the birthday of the Colony and do honour to the few surviving veteran colonists who took part in the ceremony of the proclamation under the shade of the historic gum tree in 1836.
I have just looked up last year's Press account of this ceremony, and I find the following names mentioned, there are only two dating from 1836—Miss Marianne Fisher and Mrs. M. A. Boneham, who were on that date still alive.
The capital of South Australia is Adelaide. I have travelled over many parts of the world, and venture to say I have seen every important city and town in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. I have no hesitation in proclaiming Adelaide the best as regards situation, laying out, and climate. The genuine hospitality of its citizens is well known. Its site was most carefully selected and surveyed, and the city itself laid out and planned by a very able Engineer officer, Colonel Light. There was no hurry, no fuss, when this was done. Colonel Light was given an absolute free hand, besides ample time in which to complete his work. No better monument exists to his memory than the city of Adelaide itself. Colonel Light gave full consideration to the chief requirements of a city. He appears to have selected from different parts of the world the best characteristics of their cities and to have embodied them in his conception and plan of Adelaide. Nothing which could be of benefit in days to come seems to have been overlooked. The most important item, perhaps—namely, facility for a perfect system of drainage—had been evidently kept in view when the site was chosen. In after years, when it was deemed advisable to instal what is known as the deep drainage system, the best known up to date, it was found that it could be carried out without the slightest difficulty, not only throughout the city proper, but also in the numerous suburbs, which are steadily growing in population outside the beautiful park lands surrounding it. Practically Adelaide proper covers one square mile of ground, East Terrace being the only broken side. Around this square mile lies a belt of park lands averaging about a quarter of a mile wide. The suburbs commence beyond these park lands, the oldest and chief one, North Adelaide, being itself surrounded by a similar belt.
The park lands are indeed the lungs of the city. It is forbidden to erect any private buildings thereon. No portions of them may be alienated except for general purposes, such as public institutions, gardens, exhibitions, racecourses, cricket and football ovals. The rights of the citizens to their park lands are guarded by impenetrable legal safeguards. Adelaide has been at times called the "city of the five squares," also the "city of the twin towers," namely, those of the post office and Town Hall. In the middle of the centre square marking the heart of the city stands the statue of Queen Victoria. What city do you know whose citizens can, after a day of heat, within a few minutes' walk from their homes be enjoying the advantages of being in the country by visiting the park lands? I know none other.
Adelaide nestles at the foot of a beautiful range of hills, the highest point of which, "Mount Lofty," some 2,000 feet high, rises overlooking the city. Numbers of spurs slope gracefully towards the plain, whose shores the sea washes—the sea whence the cool breezes blow over the city. What a glorious sight can be seen from Mount Lofty on a full moonlight night! Stand on Mount Lofty, look up and revel in the sight of an Australian summer night's sky, the dark but ethereally clear bluish dome overhead, myriads of little stars, blinking at the steady brilliant light of the greater constellations. Look right and left—on all sides the spurs, covered with misty haze, lose themselves as they merge into the plains. Look west towards the city and the sea. There beneath the soft and silvery rays of the moon lies Adelaide and its suburbs, wrapt in the peace and quiet of the night. Its thousands of street lights shine so clear that they seem to lie at your feet. You see deep, dark places amongst the lights; there are the park lands. Then raise your eyes and look farther west; there is the sea. It shines as a silver mirror. The soft winds from the west are blowing, and the wavelets, dancing in the light of the moon, play with her shining rays as they leap on to break gently on the sandy beach. Many times have I revelled in this sight while staying with my friend, John Bakewell, whose beautiful home is close to the top of the mount.
Colonel Light must have also kept in mind the climatic conditions. From any part of the city a drive of less than a couple of hours will take one up some fifteen to eighteen hundred feet above the sea. The railways, and afterwards the advent of the motor-cars, have brought the hills down to Adelaide and the plain, and the many and beautiful homes now adorning the crests of the ridges and nestled there might almost be suburbs. See the lovely foliage of the trees, gathered from all parts of the world. Look at the gardens, luxuriant in blooms, where the flowers revel in rivalling each other in beauty and colour and in profusion of blossoms. See the ripening fruits festooning the trees in the orchards.
It is amongst such surroundings that the fortunate citizens of Adelaide live, and there it was my privilege to spend—I say so without the slightest reservation—the happiest years of my life. Would they could come again.
You are not surprised now, are you, that the citizens of Adelaide fully recognize the debt of gratitude they owe Colonel Light? His memory they cherish. His name will ever be an honoured one. His monument, Adelaide itself, a living one which will last until the day when the last trumpet shall sound "the assembly." His recompense, the gratitude of her citizens right up to that day.
The development of the defence system of the colony of South Australia was as follows: In its early days the British Government maintained a small garrison of regular soldiers, with their headquarters in Adelaide. This garrison was at the disposal of the local Government; the Governor was Commander-in-Chief. It was not anticipated then that troops from Australia would be required to do battle for the Empire in European wars. There was little trouble to fear from the aboriginal tribes. History repeated itself in the case of South Australia. As it had happened in the older colonies, the aborigines did not give cause for the slightest anxiety, except on a few occasions when intrepid and daring explorers went forth into the wild bush country miles and miles away from any habitation. Barracks were built for the regular garrison. On the date I started my duties the building was being utilized as an institution for the poor and infirm. The military staff office and the mounted police barracks were adjacent to it.