There was a large and pleasant party at dinner, and in the evening an 'At home,' at which I was interested to meet several Sussex people. The world is very small after all!
Wednesday, July 6th.—I had a busy morning, and at noon went on board the yacht, returning by three o'clock to meet Mr. Montefiore at the large picture-gallery. Thence we went to look at Mr. Bray's collection of curiosities from New Guinea and the Islands, and spent a pleasant and instructive hour. Some of our party returned to Government House for an early dinner, while Tom, Mabelle, and others went on board the yacht to entertain the officers of the Naval Volunteer force which has been established in Sydney, on the model of the corps which Tom was instrumental in raising at home. At eight o'clock I went down to the shore and looked at the Volunteers drilling in the open. They certainly are a splendid body of men, and their drill is quite wonderful. I have never seen such good cutlass drill anywhere, and I have 'assisted' at many similar inspections.
Thursday, July 7th.—To-day we called on the Mayor, and were taken all over the fine buildings which are being erected as a memorial of the Centenary of New South Wales. Afterwards we visited the Picturesque Atlas Printing Office, and watched the processes of printing, engraving, lithographing, &c. Dinner was again early, and after it, Lady Carrington, Mabelle, Mr. Egerton, and others went to a Zerbini quartette, whilst Lord Carrington, Tom, and the remainder of the party set off to a shoeblacks' concert, the performers at which had originally been some of the roughest ragamuffins in the city.
Tuesday, July 12th.—The morning was pouring wet. Tom started at half-past nine to meet Mr. Inglis, who had arranged to conduct him round the docks at Cockatoo Island and over the 'Vernon' reformatory-ship, an institution which owes its origin to Sir Henry Parkes. He was much interested with what he saw on board the 'Vernon.' The most hopeless characters do not seem beyond the reach of the wholesome influence of the band.
At 1.45 some friends came on board the 'Sunbeam' to lunch, and directly afterwards people began to arrive for an 'At home,' which lasted until 5 P.M. Luckily the weather cleared a little, or I do not know what we should have done to amuse our guests. There were a few gleams of sunshine at intervals, which served to dry the awnings and to make things look more cheerful and comfortable.
At five o'clock we all went to the Legislative Council and heard Mr. Watts speak, and then to the Legislative Assembly, where a debate was also going on. We were afterwards shown over the Chambers and their libraries by Sir Henry Parkes. I admired the dining-room, which was much prettier than that of our own House of Commons. From its balcony there is a magnificent view of Sydney town and harbour. The libraries seemed well furnished with books and looked thoroughly comfortable. It is the oldest Parliament House south of the Line, having been built early in the century. The members all seemed wonderfully fresh and untired, considering that it was 7.30 A.M. before the House rose this morning. The powers of human endurance are possibly strengthened by the fine climate.
Wednesday, July 13th.—I had, as usual, a busy morning, and left at eleven o'clock, with Tom, Mabelle, and Captain Gascoigne, to lunch on board the German man-of-war 'Bismarck.' Captain and Mrs. Bosanquet and several officers were there; and we had a pleasant party, enlivened by the strains of an excellent band. We had to hurry away directly afterwards to be in time for the meeting which the Governor had kindly convened at Government House in connection with the St. John Ambulance Association. The meeting, held in the drawing-room, was well attended and successful. That over, there was only scant time to rest before an early dinner, after which we went to a meeting of the Geographical Society at the Freemasons' Hall, where Mr. Bevan the explorer gave us an interesting account of his fourth and latest voyage to New Guinea. These explorations were undertaken, the first in a Chinese junk, the second in a big cutter, the third in a schooner, and the last in the steamer 'Victory.'
Thursday, July 14th.—The children and Tom went out riding, and I had a busy morning with Mr. Wright, working until half-past eleven, when I went with Mr. Bevan to see some interesting New Guinea curiosities at the establishment of Messrs. Burn and Philps, the enterprising firm who sent him out to make his explorations. Tom had made an appointment with Captain Hammill to visit the Goodenough Sailors' Home, but, having a great deal to do on board the 'Sunbeam,' he asked me to go on his behalf and meet the manager and the committee of the institution. We had great difficulty in finding the place, and, after driving half over Sydney without discovering its whereabouts, went to the town-hall for information, and were there directed to two houses—Trafalgar House, and the Goodenough Home, established by Sir Anthony Hoskins when he was out here as Commodore. The houses in both cases are small, but look beautifully clean.
Mr. Shearston, the manager, seems a perfect enthusiast, and too much cannot be said in praise of his self-denial. He has given up the whole of his private house, except one bedroom and the tiniest little scrap of an office, for the purposes of the Home. Truly the promoters of the movement deserve every assistance in their good work; and it makes one feel inclined to help them to secure the new site so urgently required, when it is seen how earnestly they labour in the good cause themselves. They not only take in good characters, but go into the streets at night and pick up sailors, no matter how intoxicated they may be. They put them to bed, and endeavour to send them back to their ships in the morning, so far recovered as to escape reprimand and perhaps dismissal. The inspection of this institution took some time, and on our way back we passed the proposed new site for the Home.
Captain Hammill and Mr. Bevan lunched with us on board the 'Sunbeam,' and later on the yacht was shown to a large number of people. After Lady Carrington's 'At home' in the afternoon, Tom, Tab, and Captain Gascoigne went to dine at the Yacht Club, and we had a quiet dinner, after which I did a good deal more work with Mr. Wright.
Friday, July 15th.—An early start had to be made this morning in order to meet Sir Henry Parkes at the station at nine o'clock. Tom, Baby, and I were the only members of the party who turned up, and we found that Mr. Salomons and the Chinese Commissioners had been invited to accompany us. Precisely at nine we left the station in a comfortable saloon carriage, and, passing through the suburbs of Sydney, reached Parramatta at 9.30. This is one of the oldest townships in New South Wales. Conspicuous in the landscape rise the double spires of its handsome church, which is more than a hundred years old. The township has for years past derived considerable importance from its wool trade and manufactures; and has now an excellent fruit trade, which has sprung up quite lately. Fruit-orchards surround the town, and the orange groves look bright and green and beautiful with their shiny leaves and globes of golden fruit. It was almost accidentally that oranges were first grown here. The unexpected success of the first few orange-pips, which grew and prospered amazingly, led to the industry being taken up, and splendid orange groves now surround the town.
After leaving Parramatta our way still lay through orchards and vineyards, until we reached Seven Hills Grove, commanding a beautiful view. Thence we went on to Blacktown, which takes its name from the large number of aboriginals who formerly lived in the neighbourhood; but they are now almost extinct. At intervals we either crossed or ran alongside of the old bullock-track, now a good high road, to Bathurst. Bathurst can now be reached in a few hours from Sydney. In the old times it took four days to get there by coach, and much longer, of course, by bullock team! We crossed a large river, the Nepean, passing through some charming fern-gullies, and soon afterwards reached the zigzags of the railway. They are so abrupt, that instead of the train turning round, it is alternately pulled and pushed up the steep incline. This seems to me a dangerous plan, and it certainly does not economise labour or steam force. It was interesting to find at one of the stations that the engine-driver who was taking the train up had worked for Mr. Brassey for many years in France and elsewhere, had married Tom's nurse, and had danced with me at the ball given in the engine-sheds at Shrewsbury at the great fete on the occasion of our marriage. At another place where we stopped the station-master for many years occupied a similar position at Aylesford, near my brother-in-law's place. They were both anxious to come and see the yacht, and I was rather amused to hear at lunch that while we were going up the mountain they had immediately returned to Sydney and had gone on board.
The view from Springwood is beautiful, and close by lies Sassafras, or 'Flying Fox' Gully, so called from the number of flying foxes found there. We next passed Falconberg, Sir Henry Parkes's place, and went on to Lawoon, where we stopped a short time, and where a man brought us some curious little black snakes—great pets at present. Not far from here are the beautiful Wentworth Falls, and the views became superb; I had not expected anything half so lovely. Distant glimpses of undulating forests were interrupted by abrupt sandstone cliffs, so steep that it was impossible not to believe a large stream ran beneath them. There is no river here, however, although the many small creeks and rivulets make beautiful falls, tumbling over the sandstone cliffs through luxuriant creepers and tropical ferns. It is impossible to exaggerate the beauty of the scene. The charm of the landscape was the really Indian blue of the distant hills, from which they derive their name of Blue Mountains. It is not a blue haze, but a vivid blue, with tints varying from darkest indigo to palest cerulean blue; but the colour is everywhere intense, and there are no half-tones. Perhaps one of the most attractive views is that just before reaching Katoomba, nearly 3,500 feet above the sea-level. The train was stopped before reaching the station to let us admire the distant landscape. I should have liked to stay for hours.
Further on is Blackheath Hill, from which the view is said to be the finest in the whole of the Blue Mountains, though some maintain that the outlook from the big zigzag near Lithgow Down is still finer. On the return journey we had to wait nearly half an hour at Blackheath, and as I was not able to walk far I utilised the time by taking photographs. But no sun-picture can ever give the least idea of this scenery. Its finest effects require the brush of the painter. On our return journey the noonday sun had dispersed the mists, and all the delicate details of the more distant landscapes were brought clearly into view. We travelled at a terrible pace, and the sharpness of the curves threatened every moment to send the train off the line. These sudden turns and jerks had the effect of making us all rather uncomfortable, and poor Baby and I felt quite sea-sick. The sensation was the same as when the ship makes a deep curtsy and seems to leave you behind as she dips into the waves!
There is a branch line at Katoomba to the Yenoolan or Fish River Caves, which I should have liked to have visited had there been more time. I had to console myself with the reflection that I had seen the caves at Adelsberg, Neptune's Caves in Sardinia, the caves at Moulmein, and other vast limestone caves in various parts of the world.
After passing Sir Alfred Stephen's magnificent place we reached Falconberg, and by this time I felt so tired that I was truly glad of my carrying-chair. I do not think I could have walked even the short distance between the station and the house. Arrived there, I was obliged to ask leave to lie down instead of going to see the beautiful fern-glens with the rest of the party. It was a great disappointment. I was able, however, to enjoy the lovely distant view from the verandah, as well as the closer view of the rocky sandstone cliffs and fern-clad gullies; and I could hear the mocking note of the rarely seen lyre-bird, the curious cachinnation of the laughing jackass, and the occasional distant note of the bell-bird. Even this brief rest amidst these pleasant surroundings refreshed me greatly, and I felt much better when later on we resumed our journey. The engine-driver was told to go slowly round the sharp curves, and we were spared a repetition of the unpleasant experience of the morning. We arrived in Sydney a little after six, feeling much indebted to Sir Henry Parkes for his great kindness.
There was no time to think of rest, for I had to dress immediately and go with Tom, Mabelle, and others to the Ambulance meeting at the town-hall. It was a very good one, and afterwards the committee of the Williamstown and Port Melbourne Sailors' Home presented me with a testimonial, in order, as they said, to express their gratitude for what we have been able to do for them. Tom and Mabelle went on from the meeting to Mrs. Tooth's ball.
Saturday, July 16th.—I awoke feeling so tired that Dr. Hoffmeister made me remain in bed till the middle of the day in order to keep quiet, though I contrived to get through much work with pen and pencil.
Lunch was ordered early, and a little after two we went on board the yacht to receive the ladies of the Wollahra centre of the St. John Ambulance Association, to whom, according to previous arrangement, I presented certificates. At half-past three the contractors who gave Tom the charming picnic up the Hawkesbury River last Saturday came on board with their wives and lady friends, and were soon followed by the members of the Royal Sydney Yacht Club and their friends. The boys' band from the 'Vernon' played extremely well during the afternoon, the music and brilliant sunshine adding cheerfulness to the proceedings. When the general company had left, the boys had a hearty meal of tea and cake, and were delighted at being shown over the yacht.
[Footnote 5: See Appendix.]
Tom and I were obliged to hurry away at half-past four in order to see the Naval Brigade at exercise, under the command of Captain Hixson. A very interesting sight it proved to be. Their drilling and marching past were admirable, as were also their volley and file firing; while the rapidity with which they formed into rallying squares to resist cavalry was really marvellous. Towards the close of the proceedings it was growing dusk, and the bright-coloured tongues of flame from the rifles showed sharply against the dark blue sky. Tom presented the medals to the men and made them a speech; and after all was over we returned to Government House.
Sunday, July 17th.—Tom and Mabelle went on board H.M.S. 'Nelson' at 10.30 A.M. for church-service, and then on to H.M.S. 'Opal,' where they met Admiral and Mrs. Fairfax, and Captain and Mrs. Bosanquet, and a few other friends.
The day turned out so lovely that I was persuaded to go round the Botanical Gardens in a bath-chair. I admired immensely the taste with which these gardens are laid out, and the skill with which a great portion of the site has been reclaimed from the sea. What seems so puzzling in this climate is the existence of tropical, semi-tropical, and temperate plants side by side. I saw violets, geraniums, roses, strelitzias, in full bloom, some growing under the shade of palms from Ceylon, Central Africa, and the warmest parts of North Australia, while others flourished beneath the bare branches of the oak, beech, birch, and lime trees of the old country.
In the afternoon I had intended to go to the cathedral with Lady Carrington, but felt so unwell that I was obliged to lie down for a time, and then sit in the sun and try to recruit. I had, however, to go to bed at five; but I made an effort and got up again at seven in order to appear at our last dinner at this charming house, where we have spent so many happy days and received so much kindness. After dinner we had a long talk over new and old times, and all felt quite sad at the prospect of the inevitable parting which must come to-morrow.
NEW SOUTH WALES (continued).
Monday, July 18th.—Lovely sunrise—the last we shall see, alas! in this beautiful place. Very busy; rather a worrying morning; so much to settle and arrange. Did some final shopping with the children. Met Lord Shaftesbury at lunch. Went off to the 'Sunbeam,' feeling quite sad that the moment of departure had at last arrived. The Admiral came on board 'Sunbeam' at the last moment, bringing some violets as a farewell offering. Sailed slowly away, and gradually lost sight of the Heads in the darkness.
Tuesday, July 19th.—At half-past twelve Tom came below to announce our arrival off the port of Newcastle. The wind had been so fresh and fair that we made a smart run of seven hours, sighting the lights at Nobby Head at about half-past ten. Our head was then put off the land, and we hove to, to wait for the tug. This is a process which to the old salt seems a pleasure nearly equal to that of going ashore, at all events to dropping anchor in a well-sheltered harbour. Though I certainty cannot call myself an inexperienced sailor, it appears to me to be the acme of discomfort. Even in a heavy gale it affords but slight relief from the storm-tossed motion of the ship. On the present occasion it was a change from pleasantly gliding along through the water at a speed of nine or ten knots an hour to a nasty pitching motion which made us all very wretched. Everything began to roll and tumble about in a most tiresome manner; doors commenced to bang, glasses to smash, books to tumble out of their shelves, and there was a general upset of the usually peaceful equilibrium of the yacht. So unpleasant was this, that I suggested to Tom that, instead of waiting outside for the reception tug, we should get up steam and go into harbour at daylight so as to have a few hours' rest. This we did, and glided into the harbour precisely at 5.30 A.M., anchoring just off the railway-pier, and quite taking the good people of Newcastle by surprise. The town presented a great contrast to its namesake at home, for the morning dawned bright and lovely, with hardly a smoke-wreath to intercept the charming view. We looked out on a noble river with a busy town on its banks and low hills in the background.
About eight o'clock the chairman of the reception committee, Lieutenant Gardner, of the Royal Naval Brigade, came on board to arrange the order of the proceedings. Everybody was most kindly anxious to show us everything there was to be seen, but Tom thought the lengthy programme would be too much for my strength, and suggested that the original arrangement should be adhered to. Punctually at half-past ten the Mayor and Corporation came on board to give us a cordial welcome and present an address. At 11.15 we embarked in two steam-launches and went up the harbour, which looked gay and beautiful, the port being crowded with shipping. We were told, however, that it is not nearly so full as it used to be a year or two ago. They say that bad times have affected this like every other place, and that only a quarter of the number of vessels are in harbour now, compared to the returns of this time last year.
Our first visit was to the hydraulic cranes, by which a ship can take in a thousand tons of coal in ten hours. From the cranes we went a little further up the harbour, to the landing-place, where a dense crowd eagerly awaited us. Carriages were in readiness, but Tom rather upset the plans by his usual wish to walk instead of going in state in a coach. I fear he severely tried the lungs and legs of his entertainers by taking them at a brisk pace up a steep hill to the high-level reservoir. As soon as I got into the carriage a basket of fragrant violets was given to me by the school children of Lampton, one of the collier townships in the neighbourhood. We drove past the reserve and up to the reservoir, from which there is a fine view of the town and surrounding country. We stayed a long time at the top of the breezy hill watching the dark blue waves turn to pale green as they curled their white-crested heads into great rollers and dashed against the steep cliffs of the many little headlands and promontories of the bay. Looking in another direction, the view extends over the rich alluvial plain which surrounds Newcastle, thickly studded with houses and colliery townships. One new colliery has been started quite close to the shore, and not improbably it will be carried, like the old Botallack mine in Cornwall, right under the sea, where the richest seam of coal runs. While we were taking in the characteristic features of the landscape the sun became so powerful, in spite of a cold wind, that umbrellas and sunshades were found necessary.
After leaving the reservoir we drove through another quarter of the town. Every house had at its door a smiling group of people who greeted us warmly. Leaving the town, we went on to Nobby Head. The position is fortified, and garrisoned with a company of the Permanent force. From this point the town is better seen than from the reservoir, and there is a good prospect of the entrance to the harbour. Though it was comparatively calm to-day, the waves rolled in with great force; and it is said that in bad weather the sea is perfectly frightful. Just inside the Heads, not thirty yards from the shore, a small black buoy marks the spot where a steamer went down with every soul on board, not only in sight of land, but actually in port. While Tom was inspecting we rested in the signal-station and talked to the signalman.
On leaving the fort we drove to Mr. Black's wool-shed, where the various processes of dumping and preparing the wool for shipment were explained to us. It is wonderful to see how the bulk of a bale can be reduced by hydraulic pressure. The shed is perfectly empty at this moment, but in a few weeks it will be at its fullest, for the shearing season has already commenced. To-day its ample space was utilised to hold a large luncheon-party, at which a number of ladies and gentlemen were present. The speeches at this banquet, though short, were good. Having partaken of their hospitable entertainment, we were conducted by our kind hosts into a train which was waiting, literally, at the door of the shed, and were taken off, more or less through the streets of the town, to the Newcastle Colliery Company's Works.
As soon as we cleared the suburbs the country became very pretty, and the place where we left the train, to descend the coal-mine, was really quite romantic, and entirely different to what one sees in the Black Country at home. There were several charmingly designed triumphal arches for us to pass under, all made of semi-tropical flowers and palms. The contrast between these flowers and plants and the brisk keen mountain air, blowing cold and fresh in spite of the hot sun, was remarkable. After admiring the beauty of the various specimens of flowers, and inspecting the works at the pit's mouth—where men were hard at work filling skips and emptying them into trucks waiting for their loads—some of the party got into the cage and descended 400 or 500 feet into the bowels of the earth. A few of the ladies declared they felt nervous; but there was really nothing to make them so except the total darkness. Arrived at the bottom, we found many miners with candles stuck in the front of their hats, and carrying lamps of the simplest construction, a piece of waste stuck into the spout of an ordinary can filled with what is called China oil (a decoction of mutton fat), waiting to light us on our darksome path. Several trucks were ready prepared, into one of which I got with the children, and we started, a large and merry party. On our way in we met all the miners coming out, for they leave off work at 3.30 in order to be at the pit's mouth at four, only working eight hours a day.
All mines bear a greater or less resemblance to each other, whether they contain black diamonds, like the one in which we then found ourselves, white diamonds, gold, silver, tin, copper, gypsum, or any other mineral. There is the same descent in a cage, the same walk through workings—higher or lower, as the case may be—or ride in a trolly or truck along lightly-laid rails, and the same universal darkness, griminess, and sloppiness about the whole affair, which render a visit, however interesting, somewhat of an undertaking. This mine seemed to contain a particularly good quality of coal, and the sides shone and glistened in the lamplight as we passed along them. Our walk through the levels of pit 'B' was much longer than I had expected, and must have been quite half a mile. The temperature was always over 80 deg., the atmosphere sometimes very bad, and the walking rather uneven. Thousands, not to say millions, of cockroaches of portentous size enlivened if they did not add to the pleasure of the walk. We passed a great many horses, in good condition, going back to their stables for the night. They are, it is said, very happy down in the pit; so much so, that when during the Jubilee they were taken up for three days' holiday, there was the greatest difficulty in preventing them from returning to the pit's mouth, at which men had to be stationed to drive them back for fear they might try to put themselves into the cages and so tumble down the shaft. Horses very quickly adapt themselves to circumstances; and I dare say the garish light of day was painful to their eyes, and that they were anxious to return from the cold on the surface of the ground to the even temperature of 80 deg. in the pit.
Our walk was a long and weary one, and I felt thankful when we approached the pit's mouth and could breathe cooler and purer air. Our hosts were anxious that I should go a little further; but I could not do so, and sank down into a chair to rest. The others went on, as I thought, to see some other workings; but I afterwards heard that they soon reached a beautiful room hollowed out of the solid coal, with sides like ebony, and sparkling with black diamonds. The walls were decorated with arches and cleverly arranged geometrical patterns, formed of the fronds of various kinds of Adiantium, an inscription with cordial words of welcome being traced in the same delicate greenery. In the centre stood a table with light refreshments of various kinds. The entertainment afforded the opportunity for speeches, in which the rapid development of the mining industry of this district was detailed in telling figures, and mutual sentiments of kindness were most cordially conveyed. At the pit's mouth crowds of women and children had assembled to see us, and a little further off a train was drawn up, filled by ladies and gentlemen who had preferred to wander about park-like glades, while their more energetic friends had made the descent into the coal-mine. The united party—numbering, I should think, nearly one hundred—next proceeded on board the 'Sunbeam,' for a very late five-o'clock tea and a hasty inspection of the vessel. At an early hour I retired to rest, utterly worn out.
Wednesday, July 20th.—Contrary to my usual habit of awaking between four and five o'clock, I was sound asleep when tea was brought at 5 A.M.; and I should dearly have liked to have slept for two or three hours longer, so completely was I exhausted by yesterday's hard work. But it could not be; and after a cup of tea, and a little chat over future plans, I set to work sorting papers, and putting names in books, to be given to our kind hosts of yesterday, in remembrance of our visit. At 7.15 we entered the boat which was waiting alongside, and proceeded to the shore, Tom, as usual, pulling an oar. Poor 'Sir Roger,' who has been explosively happy during the past two days at having us on board again, made a desperate effort to stow himself away in the boat, which, unhappily, could not be allowed on account of the quarantine regulations. It seems very hard that the poor doggies can never have a run on shore whilst we are in Australian waters. Their only chance of change and exercise consists in being sent in a boat to some quarantine island for an hour or two.
Arrived at the landing-place, Mr. Gardner, to whom we were much indebted for making our visit to Newcastle so very pleasant, was waiting to take us to the station. We started punctually at the time fixed, and passed through a dull but fertile-looking country, until we reached West Maitland, where I received a charming present of a basket of fragrant flowers. About twelve o'clock we were glad to have some lunch in the train. At Tamworth Mr. King met us with his little girl, who shyly offered me a large and lovely bouquet of violets.
From Tamworth the country became prettier and the scenery more mountainous. At one station there was quite a typical colonial landscape: park-like ground heavily wooded with big gum-trees, and a winding river with a little weir, where one felt it might be quite possible to catch trout. The country continued to improve in beauty, and we saw on all sides evidences of its excellence from a squatter's point of view. At one place a herd of splendid cattle were being driven along the road by a stockman, and we passed many large flocks of sheep. About eight Armadale was reached.
The line from Armadale to Tenterfield is the highest in Australia, and is considered a good piece of engineering work. It is in that respect a great contrast to the line over the Blue Mountains, where the engineers had a comparatively easy task in following the tracks of the old bullock-road.
The country round Tenterfield is something like the New Forest, with fine trees and a good many boggy bottoms. About fourteen or fifteen miles from here the local 'Ben Lomond' rises to a height of 4,500 feet. In the clear starlight night we had occasional glimpses of its deep glens and rocky peaks.
Thursday, July 21st.—The train reached Tenterfield about one o'clock this morning, and we drove straight to the Commercial Hotel, where we found comfortable rooms and blazing fires. Everything looked clean and tidy, and a cold supper awaited belated travellers, of whom there were many besides ourselves. I was awakened at 7.30 A.M. by the sun shining gloriously through the windows of my room. The air felt delightfully fresh, reminding one of a lovely spring morning in England about April. Soon after eleven came Mr. Walker, of Tenterfield, who had kindly called to show us everything worth seeing in the township near his station. His is a large holding, even for Australia, 300 square miles in extent, and stretching fourteen miles in one direction and eighteen in another.
After lunch all the party except the children, who were out riding, started in two waggonettes for Tenterfield Station. The township of Tenterfield, like all new Australian towns, is laid out in square blocks, with corrugated iron houses, and various places of worship for different denominations. The views of the country around are pleasing, and the land looks fairly fertile, and is well wooded, with distant mountains seen through purple haze. We first went to the settlement at the station, where we saw a good thoroughbred horse, 'Cultivator,' who has done well in racing both at home and in the colonies; 'Lord Cleveland' (son of the 'Duke of Cleveland'), a good coach-horse with fair action, eighteen hands high; and a little cart-horse with sloping shoulders, short bone between fetlock and knee, and square back like a thoroughbred shorthorn bull.
From the stables we went to look at the old store which in days gone by used to be sufficient for the needs of the whole neighbourhood for a hundred miles round. Then we proceeded to the wool-shed, built of corrugated iron, the wooden shed having been burnt down. Mr. Walker has about 70,000 head of cattle usually, and from 50,000 to 100,000 sheep, but his stock is somewhat reduced this year on account of the long drought. He has 300 thoroughbred Berkshire pigs, besides some wonderful milch cows and a fine Jersey bull. The cows are much wilder here than they are at home, and Mr. Walker has a most ingenious contrivance for securing the animals for milking. They are driven through a large gate into a passage, which gets narrower and narrower until it reaches a point where the cow can be secured.
After looking at the station buildings we went into the house, a comfortable cottage residence with a nice verandah all round, and what must be a pretty garden in summer. Even now it is full of violets, and some fine specimens of English trees—oaks, elms, limes, and pines. After tea we went for a second drive all round the township, and up some low hills to get a view of the town from a distance and of the mountains from a different point of view. Next we took a few photographs, and should have taken more had not the focussing-glass of the camera got broken. Then we drove back into the town, and, I think, round almost every street, and saw all the public buildings, which are indeed creditable to such a new and rising township. We dined again at the table d'hote, and after dinner Mr. and Mrs. Walker called with all sorts of stuffed birds and beasts and other curiosities, which they had kindly brought as a remembrance of our visit. They took off Mabelle to a concert, for which the superior of the convent had sent to beg my patronage in the morning. I could not promise to be present, and was much startled during dinner to hear that old-fashioned English institution, the crier, going round with his bell and lustily announcing that a concert 'was to be held this evening under the patronage of Lady Brassey and the Honourable two Miss Brasseys.' He kept walking up and down shouting this out until the concert commenced, and when he disappeared the Salvation Army appeared upon the scene with a brass band, the sounds of which are still ringing in my ears as I am trying to write this, preparatory to going to bed betimes to secure some rest before an early start in the morning.
Friday, July 22nd.—This was evidently not to be a night of rest for me. Between one and two I was awakened by the first arrivals by the mail train. At three o'clock people began to get up and go away, and we could fully appreciate how Australian buildings let in every sound. Between four and five the bugle sounded to call the gallant New South Wales Light Horse to parade. At five o'clock I was called. It was a cold, bright morning, with a hard frost, and as soon as my fire and lamps were lighted I got up and began preparing for the journey. We heard much galloping of horses in the early morning, and soon gentlemen in scarlet uniforms began to appear from various parts. We waited until a quarter to seven, and then, as our proffered escort did not turn up, we had to go to the station without it, for fear of missing the train. Five gallant members of the troop joined us on the way. The commanding officer wore blue undress uniform, and the others were in scarlet. It was amusing, on our way to the station, to see late-comers galloping furiously along the road, and it needed a little judicious delay to enable the scattered troopers to collect themselves and form into line. At the station we met our old friends the Chinese Commissioners, looking very curious in travelling-gowns over their national costumes.
In spite of the strict injunctions we had received to be punctual to seven o'clock, it was 7.15 before the train started. We passed through a pretty but barren country, and reached Warrangarra, on the frontier, in about three-quarters of an hour. There I saw the most extraordinary-looking coaches, dating, I should think, from the time of Queen Elizabeth, with enormous reflecting-lamps, which produced a curious effect in the day, but doubtless are useful for bush-travelling at night. No sooner had we alighted from the train than—I cannot say to my surprise, for familiar faces are always turning up in unexpected places—the grandson of an old wheelwright at Catsfield came to speak to me, inquiring first after our family and then after his own belongings at home. I was able to give him good news, and to tell him of the alterations going on at Normanhurst, where he had worked for a long time. He has been out here four years, and did very well until last year, when times became so bad; but things are looking up again, and he told me he had four months' certain work before him, and a very good chance of an opening in the new township as the railway approaches completion. He looks exceedingly well, and says his wife and children also enjoy excellent health. He consulted me about taking the advice of his relations and going home. I told him I thought it would be a great pity to do so at present. Working men in the colonies have a good time if they can only keep sober and are honest and industrious. Indeed those in the old country can scarcely form an idea of how superior the working man's condition is out here. Of course there are quite as many ne'er-do-wells here as in the old country, and I fear that the policy of the Government rather encourages this class, and that there is trouble in store in the near future. The so-called unemployed are mostly utter loafers, who will not give a good day's work for a fair day's wage. They refuse to work for less than eight shillings a day, and many of them if offered work at that price only dawdle about for a few hours and do really nothing.
At Warrangarra Station we left the train and stepped through the rail fence which divides New South Wales from Queensland. A walk of about two hundred yards brought us to the Queensland train, where we found a comfortable carriage prepared for our reception. The Chinese Commissioners were in another carriage, and we proceeded as far as Stanthorpe, where they were met by a great many of their fellow-countrymen and carried off to see the extensive tin mines close to the township, where 600 Chinamen are employed. From Stanthorpe we went on climbing up till we reached Thulunbah, upwards of 3,000 feet above the level of the sea. Thence we went on to Warwick, which was reached about 12.40. Here a dear little boy appeared at the station and handed me a large and beautiful bunch of violets. It is very pleasant to receive flowers from people whom I have never before seen, and who only know my books.
After leaving Warwick we entered on the tract of country known as the Darling Downs, and a splendid stretch of land it is, covered with magnificent stock, both sheep and cattle looking well even now after the long summer drought. How much better they will look in a few weeks' time when the new grass has had time to grow can scarcely be imagined. The first station we passed through was one of the largest private stations on the downs; the next was called the Clifton Station, and belongs to a company. Edenvale Station could be seen in the distance; and on the opposite side stretched a large station belonging to Mr. Tyssen, whose landed estates are valued at five millions. This extensive table-land looks something like the prairies of South America, only with more trees and fewer undulations. The occasional fires we met with on our way heightened the resemblance. On reaching Tawoomba, one of the largest and pleasantest towns in this neighbourhood, a lady came to the carriage door and gave me another bunch of violets. The violets of Australia have more perfume than any we grow in England; certainly they are more fragrant than those one gets on the Riviera.
From Tawoomba the railway rapidly descends, dropping as much as 1,300 feet in ten miles. The scenery somewhat resembles that of the Blue Mountains, and is even more beautiful. The exquisite effects produced by the waning daylight lent a peculiar charm to this landscape. The forest close to us looked dark and sombre, whilst the valley further off was bathed in sunlight, and in the dim distance the mountains over which we had passed early in the day faded into a delicious pale blue chiaroscuro. The banks beneath or above us were cleft by little gullies, with struggling rivulets, edged by delicate ferns and strange plants. The railway stations even seemed prettier and more homelike than any we have yet seen in Australia. They were surrounded by gardens, and quite overgrown with creepers. The line must have been expensive to make, and evidently required great engineering ability. A more direct line could perhaps have been constructed which would have saved heavy gradients and much rock-cutting.
At Helidon Mr. Laidby joined the train. He had been late for the train at Tawoomba and had ridden down to Helidon, the train taking one hour and a quarter to do the twelve miles. I was sorry to hear that he and his mother had been summoned from Brisbane to see a brother who was some 400 miles off in the bush suffering terribly from rheumatic fever. The sick man had been carried to a civilised place by some bushmen, who were nursing him day and night. I am happy to say he is now in a fair way to recovery. Mrs. Laidby is already a great supporter of the St. John Ambulance Association, and declares herself more than ever convinced of its utility.
I caught a severe cold on my arrival at Brisbane, and have been in bed for three days. I have therefore nothing to chronicle, and shall accordingly make use of Tom's diary for that time:—
'July 20th.—Returned on board the "Sunbeam," and cast off from the buoy, making sail for Brisbane with a fresh breeze from the north-west.
'July 21st-22nd.—We continued under sail with variable winds and generally fine weather. The chief features of the fine stretch of coast between Newcastle and Brisbane are the Boughton Islands, Cape Hawke, a densely wooded promontory rising to the height of 800 feet, and the Solitary Islands, a detached group scattered over a space of 22 miles in a north and south direction, at a distance of four to six miles from the shore. A light is exhibited from the south Solitary, and a signal establishment is kept up. We communicated with this isolated port. An islet adjacent to the south Solitary Island is remarkable for a large natural arch, which the ceaseless breaking of the sea has opened through the rock.
'Passing north from the Solitaries we again closed with the coast at Cape Byron. The scenery is magnificent. The coast range attains to a great elevation. Mount Warning, the loftiest peak, rises to a height of 3,840 feet, and is visible fully sixty miles. It was our guiding mark in the navigation of the coast for a space of twenty-four hours. At Danger Point the boundary line between Queensland and New South Wales descends to the coast from the high summits of the Macpherson Range.
'July 23rd.—At noon we were off the entrance to the narrow channel which divides Stradbroke Island from Moreton Island, tearing along at twelve knots an hour, under lower canvas only, with a strong wind off the land and smooth water. It was a splendid bit of yachting. We passed a steamer which had come out with the Mayor and a large party from Brisbane to meet us. They welcomed us to Queensland with hearty cheers, to which we cordially responded. We stood in close under the land and followed the high coast of Moreton Island. Its northern extremity is a fresh, verdure-clad, and well-wooded point of land, on which stands a lighthouse. On this sunny, breezy day the scenery of this fine coast was quite beautiful.
'Off the north end of Moreton Island we took a pilot, and proceeding under steam arrived at 10 P.M. off Government House, Brisbane, a distance of 50 miles from Cape Moreton. The navigation from the bar of the river to Brisbane, a distance of 25 miles, is extremely intricate. Everything has been done which it is possible to do, by leading lights at frequent intervals, to assist the pilots; but we passed a steamer of the British India Company—which had entered the river an hour ahead of the 'Sunbeam'—aground on a bank, from which she was not floated until after a delay of two days.'
Monday, July 25th.—In the afternoon drove to 'One-tree Hill,' a richly-wooded height, commanding a splendid view of Brisbane, and of the far-extending range of mountains running parallel with the coast. On our return to Government House the horses bolted, the carriage was smashed to pieces, one of the horses was fearfully injured, and we had a narrow escape from a fatal accident.
Tuesday, July 26th.—After a busy morning, went on board the Queensland Government gunboat. The Governor, Mr. and Mrs. de Burgh Persse, and one or two others, came to lunch on board the 'Sunbeam,' and I had an 'At home' afterwards.
Wednesday, July 27th.—We all rose early and started by the 9.30 train, with the Governor, Sir Samuel Griffith, the Mayor, and a large party, for the first Agricultural Show ever held at Marburg. The train ran through a pretty country for about an hour, to Ipswich, an important town, near which there is a breeding establishment for first-class horses. On reaching the station we were received by a number of school children, who sang 'God save the Queen' and then presented Mabelle and me each with a lovely bouquet. After some little discussion over arrangements we were packed into various carriages and started off, the Governor's carriage of course leading the way. The horses of our carriage appeared somewhat erratic from the first, and soon we were nearly brought to a standstill against the trunk of a large tree. Fortunately the eucalyptus has so soft a bark that it tore off, and we did not break anything. We shaved the next big tree in our road by a hair's-breadth, and then discovered that the reins were coupled in an extraordinary manner. Having rectified this mistake, we proceeded on our way rejoicing; but again we were on the point of colliding with a monarch of the forest, when one of our own sailors who was on the box of the carriage seized the reins and pulled the horses round. Tom remarked that it was rather stupid driving. The man who was driving (a German) said, 'Not at all, sir: the horses have never been in harness before.' When the other carriages came up we changed into a less pretentious vehicle, drawn by quieter horses.
'Marburg is an interesting German settlement, formed in the last twenty years. The settlers have, by the most laborious efforts, cut down the dense scrub with which this part of the country was covered. Their frugality, their patience under many privations, and their industry have been rewarded. They grow maize, sugar, tobacco, and vegetables, but their cattle seem to be the most thriving and successful part of their business. In some seasons want of water, and in every season the heavy rainfall at the period when the grain is coming to maturity, are serious drawbacks to agriculture in this district. On the whole, it may be said that Queensland is far more adapted to be a pastoral than an agricultural country.'
Every house in the neat little settlement was decorated, and many triumphal arches had been erected. An incident of a somewhat comic nature occurred at the Show. An address was being presented to the Governor by a man on horseback, who dropped his reins to give more emphasis to his delivery, and his horse, finding itself free, began to nibble the reins of the horses attached to the Governor's carriage. A general scrimmage seemed imminent, of which the man on horseback took not the least notice. He went on reading the address with the most imperturbable countenance, until two Volunteers rushed to the horses' heads and separated them. The Show was duly opened by the Governor, and we waited to see some of the animals tried. Luncheon was served in a sort of half-house, half-tent, and some very good though short speeches were made. We drove back by another road to Rosewood in order to enable us to see more of the scenery of this fine country.
But our adventures were not over for the day. In going down a steep hill our driver did not allow quite enough room, and caught the back of one of the long low German waggons which are used in this district. The hind wheels came off, and a woman and child who were seated in the waggon were thrown into the road shrieking and screaming. Fortunately they proved to be more frightened than hurt, and the waggon having been repaired and the child and its mother comforted with pictures and sugar-plums which I happened to have with me, they went on their way, and we reached the station a few minutes late, but picked up our time before getting back to Brisbane. After a hasty dinner I had to be off to an Ambulance meeting kindly convened by the Mayor. Considering the short notice given, the meeting was a wonderful success. Tom, Lady Musgrave, and Mabelle went on to the Liedertafel Concert afterwards, and the rest of the party to the Jubilee Singers' entertainment, both of which were excellent.
Thursday, July 28th.—Was called early, and passed a very busy morning. At ten o'clock I went for a drive in Mr. Stevenson's drag to his house at Fernberg, from which there is a good view over Brisbane and its surroundings. Muenie came with me, and the rest of the party rode in the same direction, but went further than we did. At twelve we received an address, very prettily decorated with seaweed, from the Sailing Club of Brisbane. We were to have embarked in the 'Sunbeam' at half-past twelve, but unfortunately two tubes of the boiler had burst, and we had to wait for some time while they were being repaired. When we started the people assembled on the high banks cheered us all the way down. But we were a good deal delayed by the faulty tubes, and did not leave the mouth of the river till dusk. The scenery of the bank on each side is pleasing, and we all enjoyed the sail down.
Friday, July 29th.—We sailed merrily all night and all to-day, with a fair fresh breeze; but there was a considerable roll, and having been on shore so long, we more or less felt the motion. During the night the question of stopping at Maryborough was definitely settled, and we sailed outside Sandy or Fraser Island instead of inside it. This prevented us from accepting the kind and hospitable invitation of the Mayor and inhabitants of the township. At noon we had run 204 knots, and were able to shape our course more towards land, the water becoming smoother with every knot we made. We saw Elliott Island, where if it had been calm it would have been very nice to stop. It swarms with turtle and sea-birds of every kind, which are reported to be perfectly tame, as the island is seldom visited. Cape Bustard was made later on, and we had a quieter evening; but about 10 P.M. the yacht began to roll again heavily, the wind having shifted a little, obliging us to alter our course.
Saturday, July 30th.—At 5 A.M. we dropped anchor in Keppel Bay, but had to wait for the tide to rise. We landed in the course of the morning in the 'Gleam,' the 'Flash,' and the 'Mote,' and made quite a large party, with dogs, monkey, and photographic apparatus. We found a convenient little landing-place, and looked over the telegraph station and post-office, which are mainly managed by the wife of the signalman, Aird, an honest Scotchman, who knew me from my books, and was very anxious to give us a real hearty welcome to his comfortable little house. The first thing he offered us each was a tumbler of delicious new frothy milk, the greatest possible treat. After sending off a telegram or two, and posting some letters, I was carried up to the lighthouse where the custom-house officer lives, and from which there is a fine view over land and sea. When the tide rose we returned on board, and about half-past two all the inhabitants of the station came on board to see the yacht of which they had read and heard so much, and which they were glad to see, as they said, 'with their own eyes.' At half-past three our visitors returned ashore, and we had to start up the river. A little higher up, the harbour-master of Rockhampton met us, bringing many telegrams from various people in that town as well as in Brisbane, all sent with the object of making our visit pleasant.
We arrived at Rockhampton at 9.30 P.M. The cold I caught at the last Ambulance meeting has been gradually increasing, and became so bad to-day that I was obliged to go to bed early and take strong measures to try and stop it; so that when the Mayor of Rockhampton came on board to welcome us I was not visible, nor did I see the Naval Volunteers who were waiting on the bank to receive Tom. It is very pleasant to find how warmly he is welcomed everywhere as the originator and founder of the Naval Volunteer movement.
Sunday, July 31st.—I stayed on board all day, so cannot describe Rockhampton from my own knowledge of it. The others all went to church; Mr. Ballard, Dr. and Mrs. Macdonald, and Mr. Thompson, the owner of the opal-mines at Springsure, came to lunch, the latter bringing some curious specimens from his quarries. We had service at six o'clock, after which I was glad to go to rest.
Monday, August 1st.—A busy morning, as usual, before starting. We left at 10 A.M. in three waggonettes (or four-wheel buggies, as they are called here) for Mount Morgan, each vehicle being drawn by four horses. Our party occupied two of the waggonettes, and the sailors and luggage filled the third. After passing through the clean and tidy town of Rockhampton, the streets of which, though wide, cannot be called picturesque, we entered on a long stretch of road. I never saw anything so gorgeous as the Thunbergia venusta and Bougainvillea, now in full bloom, which hid most of the verandahs with a perfect curtain of rich orange and glorious purple. The hospital is a fine building on the top of the hill; the grammar-school and several other good-sized public buildings give the whole place a well-to-do air. We crossed a bridge spanning an arm of a lagoon covered with a curious little red weed, out of which rose a splendid lotus lily, known as the Rockhampton Lily. The blossoms are blue, red, and white, and rear their graceful heads above the water in a conspicuous manner, growing sometimes as large as a breakfast-saucer. It was a beautiful morning, and had I not felt unwell with bronchitis, from which I have so long been suffering, I should have enjoyed the drive immensely. About seven miles out we came to a large poultry farm, but I am afraid the venture had not proved successful, for the farm looked neglected. Quite a little crowd had assembled in the verandahs of the inn and adjoining store, and the people had hoisted a Union Jack in our honour.
About halfway up the hill we were glad to pull up at a creek to water the horses and sit in the shade. This was just before reaching the 'Crocodile' inn, where several coaches were waiting to change horses. Soon afterwards we passed several mines, or rather reefs, with queer names, such as the 'Hit or Miss,' the 'Chandler,' and the 'Hopeless,' arriving in due time at the Razor-Back Hill. It is indeed well named; for, steep as we had found the little pitches hitherto, this ascent was much more abrupt, and might well be likened to the side of a house. Everybody was turned out of the carriages except me, and even with the lightest buggies and four good strong horses, it seemed as if the leaders must tumble back into the carriage, so perpendicular was the ascent in some places. On one side of the road a deep precipice fell away, and when we passed a cart or met a heavily laden dray coming down from the mines we seemed to go dangerously near the side. Altogether, the drive would not have been a pleasant one for nervous people. Bad and steep as the present road is, however, it cuts off a great piece of the hill, and is quite a Queen's Highway compared to the old road. Having at last reached the summit of the hill and breathed our panting horses, we went on through a park-like country, more or less enclosed, which led to the Mount Morgan territory.
Here the most conspicuous building is the hotel, erected by the company for the convenience of the many visitors to the works. Although not yet finished, it is quite a pretty house, and will accommodate a large number of guests. It stands close to a dam across the mountain stream which flows through the valley, and has for a foreground a refreshing lake and bathing-place, formed by the arrested waters. We did not stop here, but crossed the creek and went up to the company's office, where we were warmly welcomed by the practical manager of the mines, Mr. Wesley Hall. The sun was now intensely hot, and it was quite a relief to retire into the shade. I felt very tired; but as they had kindly harnessed two fresh draught horses into the buggy on purpose to take me to the top of the hill, I considered myself bound to go; and off we started, passing enormous stacks of stone taken from the top of the mountain. These blocks are said to be full of ore, but have been allowed to lie so long exposed to air and weather that many plants and creepers, and even some large shrubs, are growing over them. As we climbed up the hills, which became steeper and steeper at each turn, we passed works and furnaces of every description, reaching at last a plateau, from which a fine view opened out beneath us.
The township of Mount Morgan nestles in a pretty valley, and is enclosed by round-topped hills, which are covered with trees. A mile or two further we reached the foot of the steepest hill of all, where the rest of the party found trucks waiting for them, worked by an endless rope, going up and down. Into one of these they soon packed themselves, and were speedily drawn to the top of the hill, while we climbed slowly, and indeed painfully, up by a pretty country road, eventually arriving at the shoot, at the bottom of which three drays were standing. Into these, lumps of stone were being run as fast as possible, and when filled they were taken down to the works, to be quickly replaced by empty return drays. The stone looked exactly like old ironstone, but we were told that it was the richest native gold yet found, having been assayed as high as 99.8 per cent., and selling readily for 4l. 4s. an ounce. To this was added the assurance that half an ounce of gold per ton would pay all working expenses. The blacksmith's forge stood a little further on, and then we came to a very narrow woodland path, up which Tom and the sailors carried me in turns, as far as another platform on the hill. Here were several troughs leading to the larger shoot we had seen below, which kept it constantly fed, and also the openings of long tunnels which had been pierced into the very heart of the mountains. These shafts were merely experimental, to make sure that the richness of the ore was not superficial, but extended to a depth of some two hundred feet beneath the ground on which we were standing. It was curious to hear these statements, and look at the surrounding country, which was perfectly free from the defacement of mining operations. The top of the mountain, on a part of which we were standing, had originally been of sugar-loaf form, but its extreme apex has been cut off, and quarrying operations are now going on vigorously. Tons of valuable stone are daily raised to the surface, from which large quantities of gold can be extracted. One blast which took place while we stood there proved nearly fatal to both me and 'Sir Roger.' The stone turned out to be harder than the miners had anticipated, and the fragments blew further than they should have done. One piece missed poor 'Sir Roger's' paw by an inch; and another whizzed past my head within two inches; while a smaller piece hit me on the shoulder with what the manager described as a 'whacking sound,' making me feel quite faint for a few moments.
After strolling about picking up specimens, trying to learn from Mr. Wesley Hall to distinguish between good and bad stone, their differing qualities being to us novices extremely difficult to detect, we sat down quietly to enjoy the view and try to realise the truth of the wonderful stories we had been hearing, which seemed more fit to furnish material for a fresh chapter of the 'Arabian Nights,' or to be embodied in an appendix to 'King Solomon's Mines,' than to figure in a business report in this prosaic nineteenth century. Mabelle and I returned slowly to the hotel, which we found clean and comfortable. While I was lying on the sofa, waiting for the others to arrive, a regular 'smash-up' took place outside. Five horses yoked in a timber-waggon (two and two abreast and one leading) were going down a steep bank into the creek below, when the timber suddenly lifted and came on the backs of the wheelers. The animals began kicking violently, getting their legs among the timber; it was extremely difficult to extricate them even with the help of a dozen powerful and willing hands, though everyone near ran to the assistance of the bewildered teamster, who seemed quite unable to cope with the emergency.
Presently an old man—a most picturesque individual—passed slowly by, surrounded by quite a pack of hounds, including lurchers, retrievers, and even curs, as well as some very good-looking, well-bred greyhounds and kangaroo-hounds. On inquiry I found that his business was to patrol the place all night, and prevent intruders coming to take away samples of Mount Morgan ore. The dogs are said to know their business thoroughly, and contrive to be a terror to the neighbourhood without seriously hurting anybody.
Australian up-country hotels are certainly not meant for rest. They are always either built of corrugated iron, which conveys every sound, or of wood, which is equally resonant. As a rule the partitions of the rooms do not reach to the top of the roof, so that the least noise can be heard from end to end of the building. There is always a door at one extremity, sometimes at both, besides a wide verandah, up and down which people stroll or lounge at pleasure. Every landlady appears to have half-a-dozen small children, who add their contribution to the day's noises in the shape of cries and shouts for 'mammy,' who, poor soul, is far too busy to attend to them herself or to spare anyone else to do so.
Tuesday, August 2nd.—The crushing-mills and the machinery have to be kept working all night, for of course the furnaces are never let out; and before daybreak all the noises of the works began, so that we were up early, and after breakfast went to the chlorination works with Mr. Trinear, the assayer.
The first thing shown us was the stone just as it came from the drays we had watched at work yesterday. This was speedily crushed into powder, baked, and mixed with charcoal. It then passed through another process within the powerful furnaces, which separated the ore from the rock and poured it forth, literally in a stream, golden as the river Pactolus. I never saw anything more wonderful than this river of liquid gold. A little phial held to the mouth of one of the taps became just a bottle of gold in solution. By adding hydrochlorate of iron the gold is precipitated in about seventy hours, and the water can be drained off pure as crystal, without a vestige of gold remaining in it. The gold itself is then mixed with borax, put through a further smelting-process, and ultimately comes out in solid nuggets, worth, according to the purity of the gold, from 300l. to 400l. each. The children were very pleased at being able to hold 1,200l. in their hands. Mr. Trinear told me that as the metal comes from the furnaces mixed with charcoal they often obtain as much as 75, and he had got as much as 86, per cent. of gold.
The Mount Morgan Gold Mining Company possess probably the most productive gold-mine in the world. The discovery of the gold-bearing rock, of which the whole mass of Mount Morgan is composed, was made while searching for copper ore. The gold at Mount Morgan is obtained from a lode of decomposed iron pyrites, partly underlying a bed of quartz, and at various points cropping up to the surface. The original discoverers of the ore, and the individuals who supplied the slender amount of capital with which the company commenced operations, have realised great fortunes.
At Mount Morgan the process known as chlorination has been developed on a larger scale than has elsewhere been attempted. It is described as follows:—
'The process of chlorination at Mount Morgan is a very interesting one, and would well repay a visit of inspection by any who are interested in the profitable and economic treatment of auriferous ores. The tailings, as they come from the battery or from the dry crusher, as the case may be, are first of all roasted in eight large furnaces, each with a capacity of putting through eight tons in twenty-four hours. The roasting of the ore in the first place is to free it from the waters of crystallisation and to burn all organic matter out of it. When it leaves the furnaces, it is turned out to cool in a large space, between the furnaces and the chlorinising barrels. When it has sufficiently cooled, it is taken on an inclined tramway to the hoppers connected with the chlorination barrels, in which the gas is generated by mingling chloride of lime with sulphuric acid. Water only is added, and the barrels, which are perfectly air-tight, are kept revolving until the gold is thoroughly chlorinated, or, to speak plainly, put into a fluid state. Each barrel contains a charge of about a ton of ore, and it is possible to get through twelve charges in the twenty-four hours.
'The period for which the barrels are made to revolve averages one and a half hour. When this operation is over the contents of the barrels are discharged into draining-vats, from whence the water and the gold, put into a state of solution, are drained into charcoal filters below. Charcoal possesses such an affinity for the chlorine that the gold is rapidly deposited, and the charcoal is so laid in these V-shaped filters that the golden fluid passes through layers, gradually becoming finer towards the bottom, and thus practically all the gold that is dissolved by the chlorine gas in the barrels is caught in the charcoal. So effectual is the process that the refuse from the draining-tubs will not assay more than a pennyweight or a pennyweight and a half to the ton, while the water which drains off from the charcoal filters is pumped back and goes through the process a second time. The contents of the charcoal filters are conveyed straight to the smelting-works. There the charcoal on which the gold has been precipitated is first roasted in furnaces, and the residuum smelted in the usual smelting-pots. After this it is run into ingots of the purest gold.
'Chlorination was originally attempted in the United States. It has been perfected at Mount Morgan. By the ordinary crushing and washing process one ounce to the ton would be extracted from the rock quarried at Mount Morgan. By chlorination every particle of gold is extracted. The product sometimes reaches 17 oz. per ton. The average may be taken at 5 oz. Half an ounce would cover expenses.'
The day turned out lovely, and if my cough had not been so bad, I should have enjoyed the drive down from Mount Morgan. The pitches were just as steep, but they were nearly all downhill, which made our progress seem quicker and pleasanter. The country looked very pretty; the ferns were quite lovely, and the lilies in full bloom. The pleasure of the drive was further marred by the dreadful odours arising from the decaying carcasses of unfortunate bullocks which had been left by the roadside to die from exhaustion. Happily, there were no such horrors at the pretty place where we paused to bait our horses—the same at which we had stopped going up yesterday—and we arrived at the railway hotel at Rockhampton at 2.5, and immediately went on board the 'Sunbeam.'
In spite of heavy rain in the afternoon a great many ladies came to see the yacht, and were followed later by the Naval Artillery Volunteers, the Naval Brigade, and other visitors. At 6 P.M. Tom went ashore, accompanied by the children, to review the Naval Brigade, with which he was well pleased. After a hasty dinner at seven, we all went to an Ambulance Meeting in the council-chamber of the town-hall. The heat of the room seemed great on first entering it from the fresh air outside, and I thought I should have fainted before I reached my chair at the farthest end of the room. Presently, however, some doors were opened, and matters improved. The meeting was very satisfactory, a committee being appointed, and several doctors promising to help and give lectures, while many of the people present gave in their names as subscribers. From the Ambulance Meeting we went straight on to the station, where the servants had rigged up very comfortable beds for Baby and me in one and for Mabelle and Muenie in another railway-carriage, the gentlemen being provided for in two others. We were soon in bed, and at ten o'clock started for Emerald and Springsure. We should have been most comfortable but for the piercingly cold draughts. The moon shone brilliantly, and I could see from my cot the lightly wooded but flat pastures alternating with miles and miles of bush, with here and there a log hut or a tin house standing in its own little clearing, making an interesting picture as we flew through the district.
Wednesday, August 3rd.—There was still a bright moon, and as we approached Emerald the country, seen by its light, looked most picturesque. At Emerald, the rail to Springsure branches off from the main line to Barceldine. In the early morning, as we were passing Fernlee, where the Government line ends, our servants produced some welcome tea. From there we ran on to Springsure, where our arrival caused great excitement, for it was really the opening of the line, ours being the first passenger train to arrive at the township. By about half-past eight we were all dressed, and went to a comfortable inn, some on foot and some in waggonettes, where we breakfasted.
After watching experiments with various horses, to see which were best and quietest, we started in a couple of buggies for the opal-mines, or rather opal-fields, of Springsure. We had not driven far when we came to a fence right across the high road, and had to go some way round over rough ground and across a creek to avoid it. This did not excite any astonishment in the mind of the gentleman who drove us, and he seemed to think it was a casual alteration owing to the new line; but on a dark night the unexpected obstruction might prove inconvenient. When the top of the hill where the opals are to be found was reached, we all got out and set to work to pick up large and heavy stones with traces of opals in them, as well as some fragments of pumice-stone with the same glittering indications. We were shown the remnants of a rock which had been blown up with dynamite to get at a magnificent opal firmly imbedded in it. The experiment resulted in rock, opal, and all being blown into fragments, and nothing more has ever been seen of the precious stone. Our search not proving very successful, we proceeded to the large sheep-station of Rainworth. This fine property originally belonged to Mr. Bolitho, and I was told that it then consisted of 300 square miles of country thoroughly well stocked, with excellent buildings, and—what is to be most valued in this dry and thirsty land—a running stream, which had never been known to be empty, even in a ten years' drought. The question of water becomes a serious consideration out here, where every full-grown beast is supposed to drink and waste ten gallons of water a day. The drive to the station was very pleasant. We passed a racecourse, where a little race-meeting was going on. It looked a very simple affair, and we were told that once a year all the sporting population in what Australians call 'the neighbourhood,' extending for some hundred miles around, assemble here to try their nags against one another.
We seem rather unlucky about accidents, for on our way down a steep hill the horses suddenly became restive; and if it had not been that our driver sent them spinning down one hill at full gallop, and up the next, thus leaving them no time for kicking, and preventing the carriage from ever touching them, we should probably have had a repetition of our smash the other day. We did not see a single kangaroo all the way, but passed a number of good-looking cattle and horses. Years ago this country swarmed with game, and was so eaten up that the ground looked as bare as your hand, the pasture being undistinguishable from the roads. By a strenuous effort the settlers killed 30,000 kangaroos on a comparatively small area on the Ekowe Downs, the adjoining station to this, and thousands more died at the fence, which was gradually pushed forward, in order to enclose the sheep and keep out the marsupials.
By-and-by we arrived at a smart white gate in the fence, which a nice little boy dressed in sailor costume, who had accompanied us from Springsure, opened for us. These paddocks held some merino sheep. Some fine timber had been left, so that the station looked more like an English gentleman's estate than any place we have yet visited. We jolted wearily over huge boulders and great slabs of rock, and went up and down tremendously steep pitches in the roads, until at last we arrived at Rainsworth, where we received the warmest welcome from Mr. and Mrs. Todhunter. After luncheon I stayed in the verandah and rested, whilst the rest of the party went out to look round the station and the opal-fields.
The view from the verandah of the house up to the Rainsworth mountain was remarkable, its most conspicuous feature being the peculiar-shaped hill, 1,500 feet high, with its top cut off, leaving a table-land, where what is called opal-glass is found. This substance resembles opal in its consistency, except that it is white and transparent and does not possess prismatic colours like imprisoned rainbows. Before we left, Mrs. Todhunter kindly gave me some curious specimens of limestone, stalactites, and stalagmites, picked up on the surface of the black soil in the neighbourhood, besides two very curious little iron balls, joined together like a natural dumb-bell. We left in good time, and had an uneventful drive home. I felt curious to know the value of this fine station, and was told it was 40,000l. This, certainly, if correct, does not seem high for an extra-good station with a comfortable house on it, besides stables, farm-buildings of every possible kind, a well-stocked though rather neglected garden and orchard, a large wool-shed some ten miles off, and a practically inexhaustible supply of water. Besides all this, there are plenty of well-fenced paddocks, containing 30,000 sheep, 200 bullocks, and some horses; also drays and carts, and other farming implements.
On reaching Springsure we found some excitement prevailing on account of a mob of a thousand cattle having passed near the town. These mobs of cattle are obliged by law to travel six miles a day at least, unless they have cows and young calves with them, when the compulsory distance is less. They feed all the way on their neighbours' ground, so to speak, and travel many thousands of miles, occupying months on the journey. A clever stockman loses very few beasts on the way, and such men command high wages. They often undertake the journey at their own risk, and are paid only for the number of cattle actually delivered. I was, as usual, too tired to go out again, but the rest of the party set off to see the cattle-camp, and had a long walk over a rough road; but they declared the sight well rewarded them for their trouble. The cattle were preparing to settle down for the night; whilst the camp-fires were just being lit, and beginning to twinkle in the early twilight. On one side a brilliant red sunset glowed, and on the other the moon was rising and shedding her silver light upon the scene. It was so tempting to remain out that the sightseers were rather late for dinner; after which we took up our old quarters in the railway carriages, and started on our homeward journey. This proved much more comfortable than the outward trip, for the railway officials had kindly stopped nearly all the draughts.
Thursday, August 4th.—I awoke about five, and was at once struck by the strange appearance of the moon, which did not look so big as usual, and had assumed a curious shape. I gazed at her in a lazy, sleepy way for some time, until it suddenly occurred to me that an eclipse was taking place, whereupon I roused myself and got my glasses. I was very glad not to have missed this, to me, always most interesting sight, especially as I had not the slightest idea that an eclipse would occur this morning. The atmosphere was marvellously clear, and I saw it to absolute perfection.
We reached Rockhampton about 6 A.M., and were put into a quiet siding till eight, by which time we had dressed and were ready to go and breakfast at the comfortable railway hotel. There was just time for a satisfactory talk about arrangements for future movements before eleven o'clock, when the Mayor arrived to take us, in quite a procession of buggies, to the hospital. Here Doctor Macdonald met us, and I was put into a chair and carried through the various wards of an excellently planned and perfectly ventilated building. Everything looked scrupulously clean, and the patients appeared happy and well cared for. Several instances were pointed out to me by Doctor Macdonald in which the St. John Ambulance would have been of great use. I heard of one case of a man who had come down 200 miles with a broken leg, no attempt having been made to bandage it up. The poor fellow arrived, as may easily be imagined, with the edges of the bone all ground to powder and the tissues surrounding it much destroyed. Then there was another case of an arm broken in the bush, and the poor man lying all night in great agony; and again of another stockman who crushed his knee against a tree while riding an unbroken horse. The instances are too numerous to mention where the knowledge of how to make the best of the available means of relief and transport would have saved much needless suffering. There were some good rooms for convalescent patients, besides paying wards.
Everything looked bright, cheerful, and sunny except the ophthalmic wards, which, if I may use such an expression, displayed an agreeable gloom. Here, all was painted dark green, and the system of ventilation seemed quite perfect, for air without light was admitted and the temperature equalised, this being an important factor in bad cases. Ophthalmia appears to be quite a curse in Australia, as we have already found to our cost, through Tom's suffering from it. There were nice shady verandahs to this part of the hospital, and comfortable chairs for the patients to sit and lounge in, besides a pretty garden. Not far off, in the compound, stood the various quarters for the nurses and servants, and the dead-house, and dissecting-room, with other necessary though painful adjuncts to a hospital. The doctor's cheerful bungalow, also near, was surrounded by a pretty garden.
A rough drive over a bad road took us to the Botanical Gardens, which are enclosed by the most charming fence I have ever seen; or rather by a fence made beautiful by the luxuriant creepers growing over it. A mass of the brilliant blossoms of the orange Thunbergia venusta, purple Bougainvilleas, and ivory-white Baumantia extended from end to end and side to side. This fence encircled a lavish growth of palms of all kinds and shapes and sorts and sizes, and many other tropical plants, which quite overshadowed the common European shrubs. These seem to flourish to perfection in winter here, and include verbenas of all colours, and unusual size and brilliancy; a great profusion of phloxes, the Phlox Drummondi being a perfect weed, and scenting the whole air. These taller flowers were intermixed with mignonette, musk, and many dear old home favourites; while all one side of the garden was taken up by a bush-house full of splendid palms. Ferns, various Alsophilas, Lycopodium scandens, Vanillas, Hoyas, flourished in great variety. Pink and red Bougainvilleas were growing on standards outside, among the orange-trees, and beyond lay lagoons covered with the far-famed blue, red, and pink lotus-lilies of Rockhampton.
The sun became very hot, and I was glad to be carried back to the carriage and to drive straight to the boat, and so on board the yacht to rest, while the remainder of the party went shopping in the town. In the afternoon we all went in the steam-launch to see the Creek Meat Canning Factory—a concern which has lately changed hands, and holds some of the largest contracts in the world for supplying armies and navies with tinned meat. The quality is excellent. Mr. Bertram, the manager, met us at the pier, at which we had considerable difficulty in landing, for the tide was low. After a little time and trouble we managed to reach the shore, and went through the works, which are most interesting. The manufactory stands on the bank of the river close to a pretty lake embosomed amongst hills, and surrounded with paddocks, where the cattle rest after being driven in from distant stations.
We were all safe on board the yacht by 9 P.M., and at ten o'clock the anchor was weighed. The night was fine, and we only stopped at intervals to allow the pilot to reconnoitre, or to wait for a rise of tide. This is a most curious river, and might well be made the scene of a romance by some poetical person. It is only every ten or twelve days that craft drawing over ten feet can get up or down the river, and then only by the light of the moon. By day no large vessel can reach Rockhampton.
THE EAST COAST.
Friday, August 5th.—At 1.30 A.M. we anchored off Johnstone Point, and at 8 o'clock we hove anchor and proceeded to the mouth of the Fitzroy River. The pilot left us at 10.30, and we proceeded out to sea under sail. There was a strong wind from the south-east, and I was glad to stay in bed all day. We passed through the Cumberland Isles, and Tom had a rather anxious night, as the navigation was very intricate.
Saturday, August 6th.—The morning broke clear and fine, the fresh breeze still continuing. The scenery during the day was lovely, and I was carried into the deck-house in order that I might enjoy it. The views were more like the Inland Sea of Japan than the tropical scenery, made up of cocoa-nut palms, tree-ferns, and coral islands, which I had been looking for. The mountain shapes were very beautiful, as were also the bays and inlets, and the varied colours of the land, sea, and sky gave brilliancy and effect to the landscape. The east coast of Australia at this season of the year is a perfect cruising-ground for yachtsmen. The Great Barrier reef, extending for a distance of 1,000 miles from Swain Reefs to Cape Yorke, protects the coast from the heavy swell of the Pacific. The steady breezes from the south-east are favourable for sailing, especially in the direction in which we are steering.