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PREFACE ....... PAGE V.
On the sea--A cadet--Off to the diggings--Wetherstone's--Unlimited loo......1
On the Lammerlaw--Working the Creek--Amateur digging-Music from a Reid..........14
Rowley--Ladies at work--Prospecting--Howitt--A satisfactory ans(w)er--Snowed up--Howitt's party--The Teremakau-- Bush Crusoe--Snaring--Starvation.........21
Flooded out--Roast rat! --A relief--How-it(t) arrives--Fresh start--Crossing rapids--Mickey, overcome, refuses to come over the "Typhoo"--Moguey travelling..........41
The "Tangi"--"By the sad sea waves"--Rocks and raw flour--Living on one's muscles--Robin entrees--Sighting the Land of Beulah--At work--Canoeing--Fatal accident.....57
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Diggers--Night in the bush--Among the ranges--Driving--Blasting--Prospecting--A long tramp--Lost and found-- Taking a balance from the bank--A short relapse into coats and collars.........73
Soldiering--Von Tempsky--A Postal Orderly--Living on a blanket--A fiery trial--The tide turned--Off again--On the Six-mile--Maori Gully--Baker--Chimney builder--Store-leveller--Packer................87
Exploring party--Man shot--Facilis descensus of Browning--Over the pass--Glacier travelling--West side--Finding supplies--Lost man--Hokitika--On the roads--Whitebait--On Lake Brunner--A jolly boatman--Potter's store rushed..........106
Bush-clearing--Colonel McDonnell--On the Survey--Patea-- Reconnoitring--Pokaikai--Loss of horses--Escort attacked--Trooper tomahawked..........124
Fight at Pungarahu--Volunteer killed--Ensign Northcroft--Surrounded--Pat Hanley--Mutiny--Government stroke--Splitting--Homeward bound..........137
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AT a certain dinner, given by an Amphitryon who owned a faculty for collecting around him the most incongruous elements of social chemistry, an incident happened which I will take leave to note.
The wine had circulated; cigars were alight; and the usual (buttered) toast had been handed round. The hero of the evening had footstooled himself into the attitude of a troubadour, and had roared as gently as a sucking-dove to the twanging of a Spanish guitar. Somebody, "more Irish and less nice," had sustained the fainting revel by warbling Eily Aroon, and there was a rumour that a travelling journalist, who had condescended to visit Melbourne on his way to the Grand Pacific Slope, was about to temporarily abandon the abodes of sweetness and light, and sing "Whisky in the jar"--at which he was an adept. The comic gentleman had concluded his imitation of Mr. Charles Kean or Mr. Joseph Jefferson (I forget which one it was, but I thought at the time it was remarkably like one or other of them), and was dangerously near the abyss of his only song, when a tall brown person arose and gravely proposed the health of
"THE PIONEERS OF CIVILIZATION."
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The idea was received with enthusiasm, and the brown gentleman went on to state how the Pioneers had driven their own bullocks, and washed their own shirts, and blacked their own boots, and kissed their own wives, and done everything, in fact, that the ordinary usage of our modern civilization demands to be done by somebody else. The brown gentleman was cheered to the echo; indeed, when he described how, in a moment of agonised Pioneering, he had actually used his own tooth-brush, I thought the window-glass would have shattered. If he had told us how he had dug his own grave, we would not have been more delighted.
In considering upon the compliment paid me by Mr. Money, when he asked me to write a preface to this record of rough and ready bush-wandering, I think of the "Pioneer" of that dinner party, and, comparing him with other "Pioneers," find myself slightly ashamed of the noise I made at the hearing of his speech, and regret the four cut tumblers I broke by thumping on the table. Being informed afterwards that the Pioneer was, in the language of bush, "the best single-handed pitcher between Williamstown and Wagga," I have come to the conclusion that the outlay in glass-ware was an extravagance. But, to turn from the Pioneer of Fiction--who has done everything for himself but meet his bills--to the Pioneer of Fact, is a little difficult. By dint of "blowing," the pioneering bladder has swollen to the size of the paragraphic pumpkin. From a modest "plant," it has become an enormous tree whose roots stretch far underground, and beneath whose branches all sorts of jovial birds roost, feathering their nests the while. It is lamentable to witness the discomfiture of your after-dinner Colonist, when he meets with some unpretending fellow (who does not even swear), but who has "humped his swag" into strange lands, and traversed the "wallaby-track" under the direst conditions. The wind-bag, metaphorically "sat
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upon," collapses with a long, low whistle, and another of the illusions of our trusting new-chum-hood vanishes for ever.
Of young gentlemen who come to these colonies unprovided with previously expatriated parents, the anxious eye of the philosopher and the night cabman discerns two classes--the young gentleman who "loafs," and the young gentleman who works.
The career of the former hero can be predicted with accuracy. Born of poor and absurdly honest parents, his boyhood is passed in dreading the shop-counter to which Fortune has doomed him. Family reasons (into which an impatience of restraint and a fatal leaning to vulgar debaucheries largely enter) secure for the ingenious lad a passage in the Marco Polo and a letter of credit for £100. His mother weeps, his uncle smiles, and his little brother rises at school to the dignity of a "fellow with a brother in Australia." Arrived at Melbourne, our hero astonishes Collins street with the amplitude of his collars, and lounges the Adonis of a Bourke street bar for at least a fortnight. He drives a buggy, is going "up-country," becomes intoxicated at noonday, hectors it at deal's, and discourses profoundly on life in London from the gallery of the Oriental Cafe. If his money only lasted, he would brilliantly anticipate his natural end by a premature idiocy; but Fate and the Bank-manager conjoining to prevent such a contingency, the creature sustains life on "forty pounds a-year and his tucker" at the remote station of a transported friend of the family. Any person with a taste for "curios" can purchase specimens of this species for sixpence a dozen in Paddy's Market the day after the Great Britain has anchored in Hobson's Bay.
The young gentleman who "works," however, is of a different nature. It is not improbable that he is poor, but it is quite certain that he is proud. He may have had a fortune once--and spent it, as young gentlemen will do--but
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he does not whine about the inconveniences of a young colony, and, while anathematizing Scott's, prattle vaguely of Very and Vefour's. Being a gentleman, he does not look with contempt upon such of his fellow-creatures as are poorer in goods or education than himself. Being a gentleman also, though ashamed to beg, he does not disdain to follow the example of his ancestor Adam (of Eden), and dig as long as muscle and sinew cling together. This is the sort of young gentleman who "pioneers," who--with the most sublime unconsciousness that he is doing anything worth mentioning--travels across untrodden ways of bush and sand, swims rivers, scales mountains, lives upon the prey of his bow and his spear, camps affably with savages, "chums in" with diggers, and, in honest faith that to earn a "damper and a billy of tea" by hard work is better than to eat the bread of idleness at the expense of his friends, "knocks about" in the wilderness for three years, and appears one day amongst us flaccid-muscled pale-faces with a story "which he doesn't see much in," but which such folk as yet value unpretending records of kindliness and courage will read with interest.
Those who--freedmen of the rolling Australian plains --have slept uncanopied beneath the Southern Cross, have breathed the intoxicating perfume of the burning Australian noon, and know the subtle odours of the summer midnight-- those who have learnt the strange charm of loneliness that dwells in the barren bush--will understand the fascination which a nomad life has had for the author of this narrative.
Those who--dwellers in cities--clothed in purple and fine linen, feed sumptuously every day, will have an opportunity to read a truthful account--picturesque in its very plainness --of the sort of difficulty which pioneering Englishmen make light of, by dint of luck, pluck, and good spirits.