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Title: Five Years Under the Southern Cross - Experiences and Impressions
Author: Spurr, Frederick Chambers
Language: English
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  FIVE YEARS UNDER THE
  SOUTHERN CROSS

[Illustration: _Rev. F. C. Spurr._]



  FIVE YEARS UNDER
  THE SOUTHERN CROSS

  Experiences and Impressions


  By
  FREDERIC C. SPURR

  Late Minister of First Baptist Church, Melbourne


  CASSELL AND COMPANY, LTD
  London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne
  1915



_TO_

_My Children, NORMAN FÉLIX and MADELEINE DOROTHY, who spent their five
“years of awakening” under the Southern Cross, and chiefly to their
Mother, MY WIFE AND COMRADE, who made Australia not only her home but
her workshop, in which she tried, with much success, to do something to
help and bless her sisters._



PREFACE


For five years, during my residence in Australia, I had the privilege
of contributing to the English _Christian World_ a large number
of articles on life in the Commonwealth. These articles excited a
great amount of interest amongst all classes, and brought me a vast
correspondence, which made it abundantly clear that even well-educated
people at home know little about the inner life of Australia. This
book is an attempt to throw some light upon that far-off country,
and to make Australia “live.” Many books have been written about the
Commonwealth, but none quite on the lines of the following pages. In a
series of impressionist sketches various phases of Australian life are
set forth--the life in the midst of which I worked. The editor of the
_Christian World_ has generously permitted me to make free use of the
articles I contributed to that journal. I gratefully acknowledge this
kindness.

                    FREDERIC C. SPURR.

  _Regent’s Park Chapel,
              London, N.W._



CONTENTS


                                                   PAGE
  FOREWORD: AUSTRALIA’S PLACE IN THE EMPIRE           1

  CHAPTER
   1. GOING TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH                 12

   2. THE GOLDEN WEST                                18

   3. AN ACCOMPLISHED MIRACLE AND A PREDICTION       26

   4. ADELAIDE, THE QUEEN CITY OF AUSTRALIA          37

   5. THE ROMANCE OF MELBOURNE                       46

   6. THE BEAUTY OF SYDNEY                           54

   7. AT BOTANY BAY                                  64

   8. BRISBANE, THE QUEEN CITY OF THE NORTH          72

   9. QUEENSLAND, THE RICH UNPEOPLED STATE           79

  10. THE ROMANCE OF QUEENSLAND SUGAR                87

  11. THE AUSTRALIAN WINTER AND SPRING               95

  12. BUSH HOLIDAYS                                 108

  13. SOME BUSH YARNS                               114

  14. A HONEYMOON IN THE BUSH                       122

  15. THE HIGHWAYMEN OF THE BUSH                    130

  16. A SQUATTER’S HOME AND DAUGHTER                138

  17. THE HARDSHIPS OF THE BUSH                     146

  18. AMONGST THE ABORIGINES                        153

  19. THE GOLDEN CITIES                             160

  20. THE MIRACLE OF THE MALLEE                     174

  21. THE ANNUAL SHOWS                              182

  22. AN INTERLUDE: A DUST STORM IN SUMMER          188

  23. CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA                        192

  24. SOCIAL LIFE IN AUSTRALIA                      201

  25. LABOUR CONDITIONS IN AUSTRALIA                209

  26. DEAD FLIES IN THE LABOUR MOVEMENT             218

  27. AUSTRALIAN POLITICS                           231

  28. RELIGION IN AUSTRALIA                         238

  29. IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND--AN IMPRESSION           257

  30. THE ROMANCE OF TASMANIA                       265

  31. A PARADISE OF FRUIT                           274

  32. THE OUTLOOK IN TASMANIA                       282

  33. REVIEW                                        289



FIVE YEARS UNDER THE SOUTHERN CROSS



FOREWORD

AUSTRALIA’S PLACE IN THE EMPIRE


The average Englishman and the average Australian have at least one
thing in common: each of them is profoundly ignorant of the inner life
of that country in which his fellow-subjects, separated from him by a
distance of twelve thousand miles, dwell.

The average Australian knows by name the chief cities of Britain;
he knows a little about British exports and imports; he knows as
much of English politics as scanty cables and the letters of special
correspondents inform him. If he is a religious man he knows also the
names of the outstanding preachers of various churches. Beyond this
he has only the haziest ideas of the conditions of life in the Mother
Country. When a cable message informs him that London is enveloped in
a thick fog, or that Britain is frost-bound, he fervently thanks God
that his lot has been cast in a country where “the amount of bright
sunshine” has not to be registered each day in the winter-time. Of
the inner life of the Old Land he knows nothing at all, nor can he
grasp, unless he is particularly well informed, the true meaning of
current political and social movements. For this he is in no way to
be censured; it is the fatality of distance that weighs upon him.
I am speaking of the _average_, untravelled Australian. It is very
different, of course, with those persons who have visited the Homeland,
and who, open-eyed and impressionable, have come to understand what
English life stands for. When such travellers return to Australia
they rarely speak of the Old Country as “having seen its best days.”
While they very properly deplore the overcrowding of English towns
and cities, and in particular are aghast at the alarming development
of slumdom, they also recognise that the energy of Britain is more
than equal to that social regeneration for which the new time calls.
In my judgment, Australians need a much fuller and a much fairer
statement, continually renewed, of the actual condition of things in
the Motherland. It should be possible, for example, to describe the
course of British politics in an impartial manner, leaving Australians
to form their own judgment upon the undoubted facts supplied to them.
At present this is rarely done.

On the other hand, what does the average Englishman know about
Australia? In his mind it is connected with a big export trade in
apples, wool, wheat, meat, rabbits, and butter. He reads of the “Bush”
and of the aborigines, of the kangaroo, and of the laughing jackass.
He knows the names of its chief cities--Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney,
and Brisbane. He has heard also that Australia is the working man’s
paradise; that legislation tends in the direction of Socialism; that in
Parliament there are often some lively scenes, and that in summer the
heat is intense. For the rest, Australia is to him a vast, lone country
situated at the Antipodes, a long, long way off across the seas, and
a place to which, if a man goes, he must suffer the inconvenience of
being cut off from the rest of the world. “Australia? Yes! One of our
colonies under the Southern Cross!” Now it is time that the abysmal
ignorance which prevails concerning this great country should, once
for all, be dissipated. Englishmen ought to realise that Australia, so
far from being a vast, lone land situated in a corner of the world,
difficult of access, is in reality situated _in the very centre of the
British Empire_, and that, because of this situation, it is destined to
play a great part in the coming life of that Empire.

Let me try to make this point abundantly clear.

The British Empire consists of the United Kingdom, India, parts of
Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of small islands,
fortified rocks, coaling stations, and the like. The population of
the whole Empire is well over four hundred millions--representing
one-quarter of the entire population of the world. Great Britain
itself--the Motherland, the centre of government--has less than
one-eighth of the population of the Empire. _The other seven-eighths
are far nearer to Australia than to Great Britain_. That is the great
point to be observed. In other words, Australia is in closer physical
touch with India than is England, while it is quite as near to Africa
(nearer, indeed, to Eastern Africa) and Western Canada as is England.

Let the reader procure a map of the globe and carefully examine the
situation of Australia from this point of view; and if he has never
observed it before, it will probably come home to him with something of
a shock. From Adelaide to Capetown or Durban is a matter of fourteen or
fifteen days’ good steaming. From London to Capetown is no quicker, if
as quick. And that the present average rate of steaming between Durban
and Australia can easily be accelerated is clearly proved by the fact
that the new White Star steamer _Ceramic_ recently accomplished the
journey from Liverpool to Melbourne via the Cape in two days less than
an Orient steamer which left London on the same day and proceeded by
the Suez route. It is all a question of coal, and in time of need the
consumption of coal would not be a primary consideration.

Still follow the map, and observe that the distance between Sydney and
Vancouver is little greater than that between England and Vancouver.
The whole of Western Canada is open to traffic with Australia, and
there is no great stretch of country to cross by rail. Here, again, an
accelerated steamer service would bring Sydney and Vancouver within
fifteen or sixteen days of each other.

Continuing with the map, it will be seen that between Fremantle, in
Western Australia, and Colombo or Bombay there lies the open stretch
of water known as the Indian Ocean. The usual time allowed by the
mail steamers for crossing between these two points is nine to ten
days. The S.S. _Maloja_, in which I travelled to England last year,
accomplished the voyage between Fremantle and Colombo in seven and a
half days, Bombay being two days farther north. That is to say, by an
ordinary mail steamer, Fremantle and Bombay lie within ten days of each
other. This time could easily be reduced by a day or a day and a half.
There are three hundred millions of the subjects of the King in India.
These are ruled from England. Bombay, “the gate of India,” cannot be
reached from England in less than fourteen days, travelling overland
from London to Brindisi, and thence by sea. And there is the narrow
Suez Canal to traverse, a piece of water that an enemy could in an hour
render impossible for traffic. From Australia to India there is one
great piece of open sea; there is no canal liable to be blocked; _and
Bombay is nearer to Australia than to England by four or five days_.

These are simple facts, verifiable by any person who will give himself
a little trouble. And do they not show that Australia, so far from
being in a corner, out of the way--an appendage, as it were, to the
Empire--is in reality situated in the centre of the Empire, within
almost equal distance of India, Africa, and Canada?

But there is something far more important than this. Unfold the map
once more, and it will be clearly seen that Australia is not only in
the centre of our own Empire, it is also in close touch with those
countries whose awakening and rise to importance constitute a new and
grave problem for the lands of the West and for America. Three decades
ago Japan was known as “the hermit nation.” Its people lived in a long,
narrow island, far enough removed from the important countries of the
West to cause _them_ any anxiety. They were a remote people, these
Japanese; close in their habits, clever with their fingers, tinted
with yellow on their skins, and for the rest--“heathen.” But they did
not “reckon” in the councils of the West. And then suddenly there came
a bolt from the blue--this small, remote people went to war with the
biggest nation in Europe, and beat them. That was the surprise. In a
day the prestige of the hermit nation was established. The triumph of
Japan, it is not too much to say, served to disquiet the whole world
of the West and America. A new problem arose. All eyes were fixed upon
the Pacific. What ferment was at work in the distant East? And to what
extent would it spread? From the East all the wisdom of the West had
originally come. But for many centuries the East had been asleep, while
the West marched on. Was a new epoch dawning? Was this victory of Japan
an affair of chance, or did it indicate the appearance of a new era
and a new order? Was time, with its whirligig, bringing things back
to their beginning, and once more thrusting the East into the first
place? Was Bismarck, after all, a true seer when he spoke of the coming
“Yellow peril”?

After Japan came the awakening of China. Wise men from that country,
impressed with the victory of Japan, and well knowing that Japan owed
her position to the knowledge she had gained from Western civilisation,
came over to Britain to study the state of affairs in the West. The
mission bore immediate fruit. China began to turn over in her sleep,
and eventually she awoke. In a day an ancient dynasty was overturned
and a republic set up. The ways of the “foreign devils” were no
longer resisted, they were accepted. Railways were laid down in all
directions; a new army was created; the ancient skirts of the soldiers
were exchanged for British khaki; the pigtail disappeared; Western
education became common. The Pekin of to-day, with its railway stations
and bustling Western life, would astound any person who saw it, say,
ten short years ago. China is awake; she is strong; she is numerous;
within her territory there live one-quarter of the world’s population.
The West has for long enough insulted China. It has contemptuously
spoken of the “heathen Chinee.” The odious opium traffic was forced
upon her--shame to record--by British India. When insulted people turn,
they are apt to become dangerous. If the four hundred millions of
Chinese turn, and bear down upon the West, they can, as Bismarck said,
crush, with the sheer force of millions of massed men, their opponents.
There is a possible “Yellow peril.” It may not take much to make it
actual.

There is a third factor, upon which it may not be advisable to dwell
at length--the disquiet of India. It is a species of madness to
pooh-pooh the outbursts of rebellion, the attempted assassinations, the
inflammatory articles in native papers, and other symptoms of unrest as
being mere local and unmeaning disturbances. The truth is, there is, or
has been until the war, widespread discontent in India. Into the causes
of this it is not proposed to enter here and now. Sufficient for the
present purpose to take note of the fact and to treat it seriously.

Now, these three nations, between them, _contain more than one-half
of the world’s entire population_. They are the nations of the Indian
Ocean and the Pacific. Australia lies within easy touch of them all.
She is much nearer to them than is England, and if trouble broke out
she might be the very first of the British possessions to feel it.
Australia means that Britain is already in the Pacific--upon the spot,
so to speak, where the trouble is gathering.

The creation of a new and a final factor in the situation is due to
the opening of the Panama Canal. This mighty engineering work has now
been completed, and the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at
last mingle. The canal has primarily, so the majority seem to think,
a mercantile importance. It has brought the eastern coastline of
the United States into direct and rapid communication by water with
Australia, China, the islands of the Pacific, and a rich tropical
zone, the exploiting of which, commercially, will mean much for
American, British, and other markets. For purposes of trade, the canal
is one of the most important water highways ever constructed. A new
centre of shipping activity has been opened up, with consequences the
extent of which at present can hardly be computed.

The canal, however, has a political importance which surpasses all
else. To use the words of an American statesman, “this canal means
infinitely more than the opening of a passage between one sea and
another; _it may yet mean the transference of international interests
from the Mediterranean to the Pacific_.”[A] What part the canal will
play in such an event need not be discussed here. The point is that
a displacement of political power--an entire change of interests--is
by no means improbable; and, indeed, if the East, awakening, comes
into the possession of its proper inheritance, it is more than likely
to happen. What, then, of our relative interests in the North Sea
and in the Indian Ocean? We British are so accustomed to the idea of
government from a centre in a little island called “Britain” that we
should probably scoff at the suggestion that one day, owing to a change
of interests and the presenting of new aspects of powerful Eastern
life, we might find it convenient and necessary to make Australia and
not Britain the governmental centre of the Empire. But the idea may be
worth thinking over for all that. Similar things have happened to other
peoples before, and they may happen again. Putting aside all opinions
and predictions, the simple facts remain that Australia at present
is situated in the very centre of the British Empire, and that it is
within easy touch of those nations which, by every sign, have to be
seriously reckoned with in the near future.

    [A] This was written before the Great European War broke out.
        Whatever be the issue of this war, the main contention of
        the above paragraphs remains true.

Australia is in the possession of the British people. This is a trite
enough remark to make, but the remarkable thing, when we really think
about it, is that the remark can be so easily made. The wonder is
that it is not Dutch or Spanish or French. Explorers from each of
these lands discovered it, and left it unoccupied. When the Dutch were
foraging in Southern waters, they were the finest seamen of their time.
Small as a nation, they were great business people and fine colonists.
Yet they left Australia behind, after a passing acquaintance with
its coast. It was reserved for Captain Cook to claim the hitherto
_terra incognita_ in the name of the people of Britain. To people who
recognise in historical events nothing but the collisions of chance,
the exploit of Captain Cook was a lucky adventure. To those of us who
try to look below the surface of things, the event was a providence.
Let the enemies of Britain say their worst of us--and they can point to
many a discreditable thing in our history--it remains true that British
sentiment, enlightened by Christianity, has more and more tended
towards liberty and justice for all the people who come under her sway.
Under any other flag would Australia, with all its faults, have become
the country that it is?

If Divine destiny, and not blind chance, has reserved for the British
race this immense country of Australia, and the British people
faithfully fulfil their Divine and human mission in the world, then
it is easy to perceive that this new land in the Southern Ocean will
become a centre of healthful influence for the entire Pacific. And
if to British influence in the South there is joined--through the
medium of the Panama Canal--a powerful American influence of the
highest quality, the Pacific may yet lead the world’s future, as the
Mediterranean has for hundreds of years led the past.



CHAPTER I

GOING TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH


To the Australian shores there pass, in ever-increasing numbers,
steamers of every size and of every nationality. They go from America,
from India, from Japan, from China, from France, and from Britain. The
world has discovered Australia to be a fine continent for business.
Year by year the tonnage of steamers grows. It is a far cry from the
little cockle-boat of 300 tons which touched at Sydney Harbour a
century ago to the new majestic liners of 13,000 tons which now ply
between Tilbury and Sydney. The limitations of the Suez Canal seem
to have determined the size of the largest steamers outward bound by
that route. Via the Cape, there are no such restrictions; hence the
White Star Company has been able to place its steamer, the _Ceramic_,
a vessel of 18,000 tons, on the Australian trade, and the limit is not
yet reached. There is no reason why steamers equal to the Atlantic
greyhounds should not yet ply between Britain and Melbourne. The
twin difficulties would be, obviously, fuel and food. The shorter
journeys between England and Canada, England and the States, or England
and the Mediterranean, offer no difficulty in the way of coal or
provisions. But what of a voyage of six or seven weeks? The present
arrangements are marvellous enough. Passengers pass from port to port
without anxiety. Their table is always well spread. There is enough
and to spare. Even at the end of a long voyage English sole and salmon
appear on the menu for dinner. How is it all accomplished? The ease of
working means that behind all there is a perfect organisation, which
for the average passenger, however, remains enveloped in mystery. The
varied menus at table indicate the existence of an immense reserve
somewhere in the ship. I determine, if possible, to fathom the secret
of a ship’s working. The man who knows everything is the purser,
but previous experience makes me shy of pursers--at least, some of
them. I remember the uniform, the haughty manners, the snobbishness,
the air of condescension, the impression that a god had descended
to earth and taken to the career of a purser. Is _our_ purser of
this type? I wonder! I approach him, and find him to be a splendid
fellow--dignified, kind, courteous, and ready to do all in his power to
satisfy my request. He places in my hands a book of romance. In point
of fact, it is a book of quantities and prices, of descriptions and
instructions; page after page deals with edibles of all kinds. To the
purser all this is business; to me it is romance and miracle, for it
represents the arrangements made to feed a little world, cut off from
the rest of men, and launched upon the immense waters of the ocean.

These pages of dry figures, matter-of-fact as they are, simple as
they are, represent years of experience and experiment. There is no
likelihood of passengers ever starving; a generous margin is allowed,
over and above actual needs, for eventualities. Nor is there likelihood
of monotony in menus. The variety of provisions is astounding. These
pages, dealing with the commissariat of the ship, contain a list of
thirty-eight different kinds of soup, nearly 100 varieties of fish,
entrées and sauces galore. The fundamentals of eating and drinking bulk
more largely, of course, than anything else. Thus this ship started
on its voyage with 1,400 lbs. of biscuits, 76 barrels and 216 bags of
flour, 5,000 lbs. of butter, 10,000 eggs, 1,500 lbs. of coffee, and
10,000 lbs. of beef. Sugar is the heaviest item of all, being 12,000
lbs. Then follow hundreds of bottles of preserved fruit, poultry and
game of all kinds, dried fruits of every description, jams, jellies,
and marmalade to repletion, tinned meats and fish, raisins, currants,
salt, milk, bacon, and vegetables of all kinds. Nothing seems missing.
The list is prodigious. Not a taste is left unprovided for. At every
port fresh provisions are taken in. The purser has a list of tradesmen
at every place of call. He knows exactly what can be obtained, where it
can be obtained, when, and at what price. His book informs him that it
is not advisable to procure certain things at certain places. There are
regular providers who undertake to furnish the ship with provisions.
Woe to any of these men if they play tricks with the company; if for
once only they supply inferior food their names are forthwith struck
off the list, and no amount of pleading will succeed in having them
replaced there. It is the unpardonable sin to supply stuff of inferior
quality. I noted a line in the instructions which means much: “The
company pay full price (for articles), and they expect none but the
best quality.”

So this is how the purchasing and storing are done. Everything is
reduced to an exact science. There is no experimenting, no guessing.
The steamers leave the home ports ready for all demands likely to be
made upon them.

The next question is that of storage. How is all the fresh food--meat,
vegetables, poultry, fish, etc.--kept? Even a child to-day would
reply in a word--“cold storage.” But this means much more than it
seems to mean. Cold storage is a fine art, and a still finer art is
that of thawing. It would appear to be a perfectly simple thing to
remove a piece of meat or some poultry from the cold chamber and roast
it for the table. But it is far from simple. Unless the thawing is
properly done, the joint is ruined. Hence, elaborate instructions are
issued both for freezing and for thawing fresh foods. It is really
wonderful, when one comes to think of it, that food can be preserved
from corruption by the application of cold; but the cold must be
scientifically applied. In the refrigerating chamber the temperature
is kept from 20 degrees to 25 degrees--“It snows there.” Stewards who
enter the chamber for business purposes are compelled to dress in
special garments, so as to avoid a sudden chill, with its possible
fatal consequences. The air in the cold chamber is changed three times
a week. And so it is all a miracle of atmosphere, regulated at will.

The practical work of preparing meals for passengers is very
fascinating. The kitchens are models of cleanliness. No slovenliness is
permitted. Most of the food is untouched by hand. Dough is mixed by a
machine. Bread and cakes are cut by a patent knife. Potatoes are peeled
by a huge “peeler,” which removes only the minimum of skin. There are
enormous roasters and steam cookers, which perform their work with
absolute precision. The kitchen of a great liner is a place of wonder,
and the scullery is only second to it. Here labour is saved at every
turn. Knives are cleaned in a new and expeditious manner; plates are
washed by steam and dried in a whirling machine turned by electricity
at a terrific rate of speed. Science operates everywhere. There is no
chance for germs to develop. Every man has his place and his duty.
Galley fires must be lighted at 4 A.M.; cooks must be on duty at a
certain fixed hour. Stewards have their duties clearly defined. Nothing
is left to chance. The discipline of the ship is perfect.

But while we examine this fascinating department of ship life, we
become aware of an increasing throb in the engines. The boat is rolling
heavily. The sea is behaving badly; and we are seized with a desire
to go below and see life in the nethermost regions of the boat. It
has been represented to us as a kind of inferno, in which men work
naked. In company with the “chief” we descend to the engine-room.
Here four powerful engines turn the steel shafts, which in turn move
the propellers. At last we arrive at the ultimate expression of force
in this wonderful ship. All is now left behind, save the thick steel
shafts which run horizontally through the stern of the vessel. Silently
and swiftly they move round, forcing the propellers outside to displace
the waters of the ocean, and so urge forward the steamer. It is a weird
experience to descend to the very bottom of the steamer, into its
uttermost corner, where the boat is narrowest, and to watch the steel
shafts ever turn round. The mighty vessel above us depends in reality
upon these shafts. If they broke, and could not be replaced, the
steamer would lie upon the bosom of the water a helpless mass of iron
and steel. One frail plate of steel between us and destruction! The
idea is chilling.

I dreaded the furnaces--the satanic stokehole, where men suffer in the
presence of broiling heat. But when we pass into this region of the
ship, where is the inferno? To my utter astonishment, the stokehole
is cooler than the engine-room. A pleasant draught of cool air plays
around the stokers, who are _not_ naked nor perspiring. Despite roaring
fires and enormous boilers, the room is pleasantly cool. Thus another
illusion has disappeared. The old order of things has changed. Science
has rendered service more humane. The terrors of life are one by one
departing.



CHAPTER II

THE GOLDEN WEST


Passengers from England to Australia via the Cape generally touch
Australian soil first at Albany. They thus miss the true “gateway”
into the country, Fremantle. This latter city is the port for Perth;
it is the traveller’s first introduction to Australia if he travels
via the Suez and Ceylon. And glad is he to behold land once more
after the monotonous voyage of ten days across the Indian Ocean. A
languid air steals over the ship during the time it is in the region
of the Equator. At night the decks are strewn with mattresses for the
accommodation of passengers who prefer to “sleep out” rather than be
stifled in intolerable cabins. Then, if the season be that of the
Australian winter (June to August), the heat gradually moderates, and
by the time the boat reaches Fremantle all white clothing has been
discarded, and men are thankful once more to take to blankets and
heavier dress.

The development of Western Australia has been remarkable. For many
years it lay practically stagnant; then in a moment its progress
commenced. The discovery of gold made all the difference. Twenty years
ago Perth was a mere village, with all the disadvantages of a village.
Many of its houses were primitive and ugly. A few relics of that period
still survive. Certain houses were built of kerosene tins; many more
of wood. A neglected look characterised the place. “Squalid,” one old
inhabitant calls it; but that is probably an exaggeration. It had a
beautiful natural situation, being built upon a slope of the lovely
Swan River. Yet the city at that time was badly lighted and badly
drained. It brought little credit to its fair surroundings. In the long
ago the French, the Portuguese, and the Dutch had in turn visited the
West, named it, and then passed on. And now it seemed but a few years
ago as if the British, in the persons of their Australian children, had
determined to leave no mark upon the same West.

It was the discovery of gold, I say, that made the difference. Just
twenty years ago Coolgardie was a desert. But into its wilds two men
had penetrated, prospecting for gold. There came a day when, quite
suddenly, the desert was transformed into a treasure house. In one
evening these men possessed themselves of 500 ounces of pure gold.
Aladdin’s chamber had been found at last. The news of the discovery
spread with amazing rapidity. A frenzy seized the people. Men threw
down their tools, broke up their homes, abandoned their situations, and
proceeded in a mad rush to the goldfields. There was no road for them
to travel over, nothing but a wild track. Each man made his own path.
Whatever conveyance happened to be within reach was requisitioned for
the conveyance of such conveniences as the goldfields might require.
One man, unable to procure anything better, seized a wheel-barrow, in
which he pushed his few goods along the terrible 350 miles of desert.
From every State steamers brought hundreds and thousands of men who
were seized with the lust of gold. Australia turned out its gamblers
into the desert. A city soon sprang up; a strange medley of human
elements. Land which yesterday was worse than worthless now fetched
pounds per foot. Saloon keepers made easy fortunes by selling drink at
fancy prices. Houses of every kind sprang up like mushrooms. The most
curious house of all was built of bottles, cemented together with some
kind of mortar. A year later Kalgoorlie was discovered--an earlier
Klondyke. The new field speedily eclipsed the old. Coolgardie lost its
prestige, and, while it continues to thrive in certain directions, it
has given place to its brilliant rival. A splendid story this, of the
discovery of gold, and as sordid as it is splendid. In the easy gaining
of gold men have lost themselves. The stories I have heard from men who
were on the fields cannot be set down in print; no newspaper or book
dare give publicity to them. This camp of men, with no idea but that of
gaining as much gold as possible, men without ideals and often without
pity, with the beauty of humanity crushed out of them, as the machinery
of the goldfields crushes to dust the quartz that passes beneath its
wheels, living only for gold, spending much of it in drink and lust,
consumed with the fever of getting--ah! the story of the world’s
goldfields is largely a story of hell upon earth, of the abasement of
the soul to the lust of the eye and the pride of life. There is another
side to it, and that is the prodigious folly of allowing this precious
metal--the standard for the world’s commerce--to be scrambled for by
the first-comers, upon conditions that are as economically ridiculous
as they are morally pernicious....

After the frenzy, the reaction. After the rush to the goldfields, the
cultivation of the land. The real prosperity of the Golden West lies
not in the quantity of gold secured by adventurers, but in the honest
work put into the soil. Prospecting continues all the time. Old reefs
are still being worked and new ones sought for. In these vast spaces
there is hidden an enormous quantity of gold. At any moment some new
reef may come to light, and then will follow a new rush to the fields;
yet another outbreak of the fever which renders men delirious, and for
the time destroys all their higher ideals of life. Meanwhile, Australia
is becoming golden in another and a better sense. By means of honest
labour its millions of acres are yielding the most remarkable crops of
cereals, roots, and fruits. Gradually the enormous spaces are being
subdued and inhabited by a race of men and women who rejoice in the
golden sunshine, and who abandon themselves with the zest of children
to the magic of life.

And it is in this direction that the West is now prospering. The
people generally are really well off. The State revenue for last year
was about four millions sterling. These 300,000 people have invested
in the State Savings Bank no less a sum than £4,387,639. This means
an average per head of the population of £14 10s. 4d., and an average
per depositor of £45 8s. 9d. Such figures are eloquent of what may be
called the general prosperity of the community. The real source of
wealth, however, is the land. This year there are more than one million
acres of ground under crop. More than a quarter of a million acres
have been “cleared” and prepared for ploughing and sowing during the
present year. There are 788,349 acres of wheat and 77,488 acres of oats
growing at the present time. Last year nearly four and a half million
bushels of wheat and a million bushels of oats were produced from the
land. This means immense prosperity. The State is rich enough to spend
much money in reclaiming waste land and in rebuilding the old houses.
During the last twenty years Perth has been practically rebuilt. I was
astonished to behold its beautiful buildings. It possesses splendid
Government offices, a fine museum and art gallery, a noble Mint, and
almost palatial public buildings. Warehouses and stores, suites of
offices, banks, insurance buildings, business premises, and the like,
are imposing. Perth promises to be one day a great and noble city.
Already the capital is extending. Within a radius of twelve miles
one-third of the entire population of the West resides. Sir John
Forrest declared that the time would come when Perth and Fremantle and
all between would become one vast city. I can quite believe it. Perth
is the San Francisco of Australia.

As another evidence of prosperity, the following wages table may be
adduced: Bakers get 63s. per week; barbers 55s.; barmen and barmaids
65s.; bootmakers 13½d. an hour; carpenters 1s. 6d. an hour; butchers’
shopmen 60s. to 80s. per week; drapers’ assistants (at Coolgardie)
70s. per week; engine-drivers 1s. 6d. an hour; night watchmen 54s.
per week; tailors 70s. per week; and waiters 25s. a week and board.
It is all very attractive, but on the other side let these facts be
considered: Potatoes are 4d. per lb.; peas 9d. per lb.; cauliflowers
from 1s. to 2s. 6d. each; apples (grown on the spot) 6d. and 7d. per
lb.--at the present time. One needs a large income to keep pace with
these ridiculous prices, which are due largely, I understand, to the
manipulations of a “ring.”

And yet, with it all, life here for working men is infinitely more
tolerable than in England. It is in truth an El Dorado.

The story of this Golden West is thus a veritable romance. Yet this
State has the smallest population of all the States, fewer than 300,000
people covering its million square miles. Its territory is eighteen
times as large as that of England and Wales. Imagine this enormous
space occupied by a handful of people, about as many as are found in
the single city of Bradford, Yorkshire. And these 300,000 people are
confined to one or two places in the State. For the rest, there are
vast and terrible deserts awaiting the exploring skill of man. Already,
in the remarkable water scheme undertaken on behalf of the goldfields,
it is demonstrated that science can overcome the almost insuperable
difficulties presented by Nature in these deserted regions.

In Western Australia nearly every variety of climate is experienced,
from the insufferable tropical heat of the North to the delightful cool
of the South. At the seaboard the sky and the climate are delightful.
Winters are practically unknown. Children born in the land have no
idea what snow is like. Even in the depth of winter the days are warm,
and often hot. Overcoats are used only as a protection against rain,
and when rain falls protection is needed. The water descends, not in
drops, but in bucketfuls. Here Nature seems partial and extreme. The
rainy season is well defined, and when it ends it ends. Not a drop of
rain falls between October and May. There is need, therefore, for the
exercise of human science in order to conserve the precious liquid
which descends so plentifully in the season for use in the arid season
of the year.

And yet Western Australia is at present cut off from the rest of
Australia. To reach Adelaide, the capital of the neighbouring State, it
is necessary to voyage by steamer across the dreaded “Bight”--a journey
of five or more days. In two or three years, however, this isolation
will be ended.

A wonderful forward step was taken in 1912 by the cutting of the first
sod of the Trans-Continental Railway. The line begins at Port Augusta,
in South Australia, and ends at Kalgoorlie, on the goldfield in Western
Australia. In length it is over 1,000 miles, and when it is completed
there will be direct railway communication between Queensland and
Fremantle--a line of 3,000 miles. But if Australia as a whole is to
benefit by it there must be a uniform gauge of rail. Insensate jealousy
between the States, and a short-sighted policy on the part of the
leaders, resulted, in earlier days, in the establishment of various
gauges on the different railways, with the result that there can be
no through service of trains from the North-East to the West without
change of carriage. This, however, will certainly be remedied. When all
is completed, and a fast service of trains established, England and
Australia will be brought much nearer to each other than they are at
present. With an accelerated speed of steamers across the Indian Ocean,
it ought to be possible to bring Fremantle and Marseilles within three
weeks of each other.



CHAPTER III

AN ACCOMPLISHED MIRACLE AND A PREDICTION


The problem of obtaining water, of conserving it, and of distributing
it, is _the_ problem of Western Australia. In the Eastern States
there are many natural waterways, which in part solve the question of
irrigation. In the West there are few or none. Until a year or two
ago Nature wore a stern aspect outside the few inhabited spots in the
West. The desert stretched for hundreds of miles. The country was
trackless. Transit was accomplished by the aid of camels. There were no
wells or oases to relieve the monotony of the everlasting sand dunes.
For the greater part of the year rain does not fall, and when it does
it penetrates the sand and rapidly disappears beneath the surface.
Water is the need of these great areas. Wherever men have obtained
and conserved water, there, as by magic, the face of Nature has been
changed. And one day, by the help of science, the transformation will
be complete: the desert will blossom as the rose; in the wilderness
will springs of water be found.

When the goldfields were opened up the first demand was for water. It
was more precious than wine. The gold reefs were situated in the midst
of a sterile region entirely inhospitable for man. Water in small
quantities was gained and jealously kept. Superfluous baths were not
permitted. Photographs of the early scenes in the goldfields suggest
the lack of cleanliness. To-day all this is changed. In that former
desert settlement there are green lawns and flower gardens. The hard
lines on the face of Nature have been softened. The beauty of virginal
youth is lacking, but it is much to have gained what has already been
won. Five million gallons of pure water are pumped daily a distance
of 350 miles, from the coast to the goldfields. It is a triumph of
engineering, one of the marvels of the modern world. It was to the
scene of the Mani reservoir at Mundaring that we were conveyed by the
courtesy of the Government officials, who placed at our disposal an
automobile. The “Bush” in every part of Australia possesses certain
common features. There are the interminable stretches of wild country,
heavily timbered with every variety of eucalyptus tree; the glorious
splashes of brilliant yellow wattle; the “clearings” here and there,
where settlers transform the unruly riot of Nature’s wild life into
the beautiful order of cultivated gardens; the isolated church and
school-house; and charred stumps of trees reduced to desolation by the
all-devouring forest fires. In the world of animal and bird life there
are the wallaby, the kangaroo, the dingo, the treacherous snake, the
impudent magpie, the destructive parrot, and the clown of the bush--the
laughing jackass. All these we encounter on our journey.

The bush is at once fascinating and oppressive. These awful solitudes;
this terrifying stillness! Oh, for the roar of London traffic for one
brief hour to break the spell cast over us by the eternal silence of
the unending forest. It is all so primitive, so simple, is life in the
bush. We pass the pillar post-box--a kerosene tin affixed to a tree.
Now and again we cross a solitary railway line, over which trains
run twice a week. The notice, “Look out for the trains,” seems to be
the quintessence of humour; one might wait during half a week before
a train appeared on this bush railway. One strange notice smites us
with a smart stroke. It runs thus: “_Twenty Miles to_ YORK.” So there
is a York here; the newest York of all! These notices, natural enough
to the inhabitants, seem _bizarre_ to us. “Twenty miles to York.” Ah,
then! in an hour’s time this flight through the bush will turn out to
have been a curious dream, and we shall be gazing upon the towers of
the Minster!... Some of the houses we pass are incarnate poems. Built
of wood and surrounded with ample balconies, they are festooned with
masses of roses, buried, in fact, beneath the bloom of a thousand
flowers. In the gardens surrounding these houses grow oranges, lemons,
and palms in profusion, together with fruit and vegetables of every
description. Already in this early springtime--corresponding in time to
an English April--peas and beans are nearly ready for gathering.

But the wild flowers! We stop the car and penetrate into the bush to
gather handfuls of the most wonderful wild flowers I have ever seen.
The flora is unique both in colouring and in fantastic shapes. Some of
these wild flowers are not found in any other part of the world. We are
here at the precise season for beholding this display at its very best.
The air is heavy with a strange and subtle perfume. The exquisite and
unique scent of the boronia dominates all, while the fainter perfume
of the golden wattle insinuates itself, despite its proximity to the
heavily scented boronia. In an hour we have gathered an armful of
flowers representing every tint known to nature. Above them all stands
out, first, “the kangaroo’s paw,” surely one of the oddest productions
of the magician Nature. A long, slender stalk, measuring one or two
feet in length, and terminating in a flower resembling the outspread
paw of the kangaroo--that is the “kangaroo’s paw.” Sometimes the colour
is green and scarlet, sometimes black, sometimes purple, orange or red.
It is the assertive flower of the forest: the flower one cannot fail
to notice. And then, think of it, O Englishmen who gaze in rapture at
delicate and expensive orchids; amongst the wild flowers of Western
Australia grows the orchid--the orchid grows _wild_ here! A member
of our party once gathered in one afternoon no less than fourteen
varieties of the wild orchid. One sees here, growing in a perfectly
wild state, flowers and plants which are highly treasured in hot-houses
“at home,” and for which high prices are gladly paid. But it must be
remembered that Western Australia is one gigantic, natural hot-house.

And now we have reached the weir at Mundaring. Here, situated in the
midst of magnificent scenery, is the immense artificial reservoir,
with its capacity for 4,600 million gallons of water. This enormous
tank collects all the water of the district. From here it is pumped
through a steel conduit by a series of eight pumping installations to
the main distributing reservoir, 308 miles away; then by gravitation
it descends to the two great goldfields at Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.
The engine plant is said to be the finest in the world. Of course, it
was constructed in Great Britain. The entire cost of the scheme was
£3,300,000, an enormous sum of money for fewer than 300,000 people
to find for supplying water to two cities and the towns _en route_.
The whole work was planned and consummated in five years. It ended in
conferring a boon upon the people--or some of them--and in bringing
tragedy to the chief engineer, who, worried beyond endurance with the
criticisms passed upon his work, committed suicide.

We were happy in being able to see the reservoir when it overflowed
with water, the surplus passing over the weir in a long, graceful
sheet, thus joining the water of the river below. This living blind,
incessantly being drawn down, dancing as it fell, offered a spectacle
of rare beauty. Western Australia has good reason to be proud of
its achievement in constructing this admirable piece of hydraulic
engineering. It stands quite unique in the history of the world.
Nothing else of a similar nature is on such a great scale.

The experiment has been successful, and it has pointed out the way
in which one of the greatest difficulties in a desert country may
be overcome. Sufficient water falls in the course of the year for
all purposes. Hitherto it has run to waste, lacking a proper system
of conservation and distribution. A great and generous increase of
population would result in the extension of this system, so that what
was formerly regarded as unredeemable land might become rich and
productive country. For the natural wealth of the country is almost
illimitable.

Thus the miracle. Now for the prediction.

What will be the future of the great Golden West--that immense area of
nearly one million square miles which comprises Western Australia? The
question is inevitable, and it is of surpassing interest, not only to
Australia, but to the entire Empire. A study of the map should convince
any reasonable person that this “front door to Australia” is of no
ordinary importance in the plan of Empire development. Vast coloured
populations lie almost at this door. Facing the north and north-west
are the millions of Java and Borneo and the islands, while India is
but ten days’ steaming from the port of Fremantle. Beyond, in the
north, lie four hundred millions of Chinese. With a discontented India,
an awakening China, an overcrowded and ambitious Japan--all near at
hand--the question, What will be the future of the Golden West? assumes
a new and serious importance.

Let us consider the land to begin with. It is the “giant of the
Australian States,” containing the vastest area and the smallest
population (I am not including Tasmania). Until recently it has been
largely neglected by the other States and by the rest of the world.
For many years it lay stagnant, until the gold boom brought it into
prominence. That immense “desert” which lies between Perth and Port
Augusta has acted as a barrier between the inhabitants of Western
Australia and those of other States. The coming of the railway,
however, will change all that.

The future of the country, commercially, may be deduced from the story
of the past. During the last few years what was practically a desert
has become a garden. A mere handful of people have wrought the change.
Silently, and without advertisement, plough and drill have been at
work with amazing results. During the last twenty-two years--from 1890
to 1912--the population has grown from 46,290 to 304,627. When every
allowance has been made for immigration and emigration--for the ebb
and flow have been continuous--the natural growth in the way of births
has been excellent and above the average. Yet the total population at
present is ridiculous for so vast a territory. In the United Kingdom
there are 370 persons to the square mile; in Western Australia there is
one person to three square miles. It is evident that a great increase
of population must take place before it is necessary to speak of
overcrowding! This small population has really accomplished wonderful
things. It has created a number of industries, all of which are
capable of almost indefinite extension. It has cleared thousands of
acres of “scrub,” and converted them into orchards and wheatfields.
It has carried through, at a cost of over three millions sterling,
one of the most successful schemes for pumping water. It has built a
harbour at Fremantle at a cost of a million pounds. It has erected some
noble buildings. It has established a splendid system of education.
It is obvious that for such enterprises to have been conceived and
consummated the natural wealth of the country is enormous. The people
bear a heavy taxation with great cheerfulness. They can well afford it,
and withal, as is shown by the figures I have previously cited, they
are very thrifty, in the aggregate having saved some millions of money.

The total revenue of the State for the year 1890--the year before the
gold boom--was £414,314. In 1912 it was £3,966,674.

The past achievements are a prophecy of future success. Professor
Lowrie prepared two years ago certain estimates of the agricultural
possibilities of the south-western part of the State. He predicted that
in two decades the yield of wheat could be easily three times what it
is at present; the yield of barley four times as much; the yield of
oats seventy times as much; the yield of fruit fifteen times as much;
the yield of potatoes twenty times as much; and the yield of dairy
produce fourteen times as much; while sheep could be increased by 100
per cent. And this, remember, is an estimate for one part only of the
State.

In the north-eastern part of the State the climate is tropical. It is
capable of bearing an enormous amount of stock and timber, while almost
any kind of luxurious vegetation can flourish under the generous heat
of the sun. Tropical fruits also can be grown in profusion. A large
trade is now done in pearl fishing, and this, too, can be increased;
while in certain places the turtle abounds. The turtle industry
is capable of great extension. One can imagine even a M. Louis de
Rougemont quite contented with the size of these strange creatures.
Fishing, pearling, and turtling offer great openings. All kinds of
citrus fruits flourish in the State, together with the Smyrna fig,
which reaches a state of perfection.

The commercial value of timber in this Golden West is enormous. The
sandal wood grows in the north, and the jarrah hard wood in abundance
everywhere. In other States there has been a cruel and wicked waste of
valuable timber. The beautiful blackwood has been thrown in hundreds
of tons to the flames; it “did not pay” to remove it to the coast.
Surely Western Australia will never repeat this supreme folly! I have
heard a whisper that some valuable ebony has been recently found in an
out-of-the-way corner, but inquiries concerning it have elicited only
the vaguest information.

What, then, with agriculture, gold mining, general minerals--including
coal--pearling, fishing, timber, turtles, and fruit, the State has a
reserve of wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

Water is always a difficulty in a country like this. Heaven is generous
in its bountiful supplies of rain and springs, but man has not yet been
wise enough to treasure the gifts so lavishly sent. There are rivers
hundreds of miles long which have yet to be utilised for the necessary
work of irrigation. Already the West, by its provision of water for
the arid goldfields, has shown what can be done in the way of using to
the best advantage the natural supplies which are confined to certain
areas. And this country of young people, with the success of Coolgardie
under its eyes, will know how to confer a like benefit upon other
districts. With the practice of complete irrigation, the success of the
country, agriculturally, is assured.

Passing from commerce to education, there is great promise for the
West. Primary education is compulsory and free. The curriculum includes
Nature study and practical instruction in such arts and crafts as will
need to be practised by youths and maidens whose lot is cast, not
in dense manufacturing centres, but in the midst of a laughing and
fertile Nature. The education department provides systematic medical
examination for all State school children. It is gratifying to observe
how the best models are being followed in Australian education. There
may be less of the academic polish associated with our English schools,
but the pupils, when they leave the hands of their masters, will, at
least, know sufficient to enable them to gain an honest living in
a practical manner. For teachers, free education is given at the
training colleges, together with board, when necessary, and pocket
money. Nearly every child living near the coast, or in the vicinity of
a river, can swim. In the summer-time children practically live in the
water.

That there should be a wonderful future for the great West no
reasonable man can doubt. But before that future can be assured the
people must be possessed of higher ideals than those associated with
money-making and pleasure-seeking. The foundations of a nation must
be moral and religious, or it can be certain of nothing worthy of its
true life. The obstacles to the laying of such foundations will be
considered in due course.



CHAPTER IV

ADELAIDE, THE QUEEN CITY OF AUSTRALIA


No person could desire a better introduction to Australia than that
which the city of Adelaide affords. It is the port where passengers,
weary of the long sea voyage from England, disembark, to entrain for
Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Adelaide is a true garden city on an
extensive scale. Less compact, and containing fewer noble buildings
than Melbourne, it excels that city in the beauty of its situation and
in the ample verdure which everywhere abounds. Around it, guarding
it, lies a ring of mountains. From one point of view the situation
resembles certain parts of the Jura. There is the same immense stretch
of plain, crowned with tree-clad slopes. From the highest point of the
city a ravishing view of the country is obtained. The city at one’s
feet is less a city than an immense countryside, where men have built
houses and mansions, and where they transact business. No need for
artist or architect to write “Amplius” over the natural picture. The
streets are remarkably wide--wider than any we have in London--and
they are planned with a view to development. However much Adelaide may
grow, there cannot be, so far as municipal foresight may guarantee
it, the creation of slums. Whatever slums appear in the future will be
due to men with base souls and not to municipal bungling, as in the
case of many of our English towns and cities. If London had only been
planned upon some such model as Adelaide, it might be a paradise of
God for residence. Gardens! Gardens everywhere. Bungalows! Bungalows
everywhere. The bungalow, or the villa, as they call it in Adelaide,
is the prevailing type of residence. Everything on one floor. Think of
it, housewives who live in “basement” houses, dull and dimly lighted.
The veranda encloses the house; to nearly every residence there is a
garden. Wandering along the residential part of the city is not unlike
an excursion into the country. But how shall I describe the gardens?
They are sub-tropical. There grow in them, in the heart of Adelaide,
the eucalyptus tree, the banana tree, the orange and the lemon trees,
the palm-tree, and the passion fruit vine. And in the midst of these
surroundings, made still more gladsome by a perfect atmosphere, I think
of grimy London and its fogs, and wish that the central city of the
world might share the delights of a city which knows not the meaning of
a fog and which unites city and country in a perfect blend.

One of the glories of suburban Adelaide consists in its wealth of fruit
orchards. Oranges and lemons grow in profusion. In the suburbs every
little cottage garden has its orange and lemon trees. A friend of mine,
who has just bought a modest villa outside the city, finds himself
in possession of a garden which is stocked with vines, lemons, and
oranges. He has so much fruit that he does not know what to do with
it. I undertook a part solution of this delicate problem, and showed
him a way out of his distress--to my advantage. The house, which is
surrounded by this beautiful fruit garden, would be rented in England,
in a town equal in size to Adelaide, at a sum not exceeding £35 per
annum. Think of a house, with such delicacies as Muscat grapes and
citrons _ad lib._ thrown in, and all for £35 a year!

The South Australian oranges are admittedly amongst the very finest
produced in the Commonwealth. The famous “navels” have no superior in
the world, if they have an equal. In London they fetch, retail, 4d. and
5d. each. Even in Adelaide they sell at 1½d. and 2d. each, retail. But
there is all the difference imaginable between these “navels,” freshly
plucked from the tree when ripe, and the “navels” which, gathered when
green, ripen on the way home. To understand the attractiveness of an
orange, the fruit must be eaten when it is just ripe and newly plucked
from the branch.

The orange groves in “Paradise” (a suburb of Adelaide--well-named) are
spectacles to remember. We were conducted over one of the largest of
these by the proprietor himself. The story of this gentleman’s career
and success sounds like a romance. Twenty years ago he left Manchester
for Australia to try to better his position. He had little or no
capital. In company with his brother, he went up country, acquired
a little land, and the pair set to work to make it productive. In
their case there was conscience in the work. No days allowed off for
drinking; no limitation of the hours of labour; the brothers worked as
hard as they could, in the belief that work “pays” in the best sense.
When the profits came in they invested them in more land. Nothing
was spent upon luxuries; nothing upon pleasures. For seven years the
brothers lived in tents, thus saving the cost of building a house.
There was little hardship, however, in that mode of life. In a warm
country it is better to live outside than inside the house. Houses are
merely places of refuge when the weather is bad; the “open” is the true
place of abode. After a period of work up country one of the brothers
came down to Adelaide and bought a piece of land measuring seventy or
eighty acres. To-day that estate is one magnificent fruit orchard. Five
thousand orange trees grow thereon, and each tree averages from 800
to 1,000 oranges per season. Besides this there are many lemon trees,
extensive vines, peach, apricot, and apple trees, to say nothing of ten
thousand orange “slips” which are already sold, and which will in due
time be planted out all over the district.

The appearance of an immense orange grove of this extent is very
impressive. Avenues of trees, all laden with golden fruit, run in every
direction. Under the light of an afternoon sun the general effect is
wonderful. The orchard becomes an enchanted garden, over which some
generous genius presides. Trees only a few years old literally groan
under the weight of fruit. Often the branches are entirely hidden,
so thickly packed are the oranges. A visitor who views the spectacle
for the first time is apt to imagine that in such a Garden of Eden the
fruit would be ever welcome. He is surprised to learn that the men
who live in the midst of it loathe it. They never taste an orange.
Familiarity with the golden globe has bred contempt for it. It is
regarded merely as a marketable commodity. The orange is no longer
succulent fruit for personal consumption; it is an edible sphere which
can be exchanged for money. So the enchanted garden becomes a place of
commerce.

The orange and the lemon, we were told, are shy and delicate trees in
their early years. They need much humouring and much attention. But
when once established they fulfil their own destiny. The _doyen_ of
the orchard is a tree sixty years old. It still bears fruit, but of an
ever inferior quality. Few leaves are seen upon this tall stalwart. The
tree resembles an erect colonel whose fighting days are over and upon
whose head bald patches have come. It lives upon its pension. The owner
has not the heart to cut it down. It remains, amid the forest, the one
favoured tree, spared because it is the parent of these prosperous
golden children.

The orange tree is singular in one particular: it lives through all
the seasons of the year at one time. Upon the same tree, blossom, bud,
green fruit and yellow fruit flourish together. The round of growth is
perpetual.

There comes a time when the orange blossom puts forth the full strength
of its magic perfume. When a man owns but one orange tree the scent is
penetrating, fragrant, grateful, satisfying. But when 5,000 trees pour
forth their fragrance at one time the effect is terrible. The perfume
is as intangible and oppressive as a nightmare. The air is heavy with
an all-pervasive odour which weighs upon the brain and makes it ache.
The vast garden celebrates its nuptials, and every orange tree is
smothered with blossom. Burdened with this atmosphere of perfume, man
learns that Nature can crush with her excess of sweetness as well as
smite with her fist of mail.

       *       *       *       *       *

South Australia seems as if it might become the home of the orange. The
soil is ferruginous, and admirably adapted to the culture of the golden
fruit. An amazing example of what is possible is supplied by the case
of Renmark. Twenty years ago the site of this town, situated at one
elbow of the River Murray, was an apparently hopeless desert. It seemed
to be abandoned to sterility. To-day it is a flourishing irrigation
colony, where all manner of fruit is grown. Renmark oranges, currants,
and raisins are becoming famous. They have already found their way to
many London tables. In twelve years the value of the produce has risen
from £6,878 to £78,000. And the miracle of conquering the desert has
been wrought solely by scientific culture. Irrigation has been the
magician. When all the “deserts” of the Commonwealth are treated after
the manner of Renmark, Australia will become the fruit garden of the
world.

South Australia is a veritable paradise of fruit; besides the orange
there are miles of peaches, pears, grapes, figs, and apples. We saw the
largest mulberry-tree in Australia, if not in the world. This giant
tree sheds thousands of rich, ripe berries, which lie where they fall,
dyeing the soil with their red juices, and rotting on the ground for
want of gatherers. I heard with astonishment that it “does not pay” to
gather this fruit. The wages demanded by boys are too high to make it
worth while to employ them, while the employment of men is, of course,
simply out of the question. The peaches beggar description. I plucked
one at hazard, and found that it weighed ten and a half ounces and
measured ten and a quarter inches in circumference. It will be readily
believed that in those parts people do not buy peaches by the pound!
The big peach may be matched with a big fish story. A round dozen of
us went out for a day’s fishing from the pier at Semaphore. In advance
we promised to divide our spoils upon our return. Alas! we caught
no fish; but we caught what we had not bargained for, but what was
worth catching--_seven sharks_. It was a novel experience. How those
creatures fought! The larger ones had to be shot when they were drawn
to the surface, or they could not have been landed. Two of them had the
heads of huge bulldogs; one was a “hammer-head” shark. When they lay
dead upon the deck we examined their jaws. The teeth were like steel
rivets for strength and orderly array. Rows of cruel teeth lined the
jaws. Beyond, the throat was smooth as velvet. Little wonder that, with
these ocean pirates roaming about, we failed to catch our schnapper.

       *       *       *       *       *

The story of the beautiful city of Adelaide and its fruitful environs
is a veritable romance. A few decades ago the entire country was
“bush,” abandoned to the natives, of men, bird, and beast. Then one
day, in 1836, at Glenelg, under the branches of a gum tree, the State
of South Australia was proclaimed. From that moment on, the story
has been one of ever-increasing prosperity. The founders of the city
deserve every commendation for their admirable foresight. Unlike
Sydney, which has “grown,” Adelaide was deliberately planned as a
“garden city,” long before the days when it became fashionable to speak
of garden cities. The park lands which encircle the capital will remain
for ever the pleasure grounds of the people. Never can speculative
builders cut up this beautiful property and convert it into rows of
cheap and ugly houses. Adelaide will have to the end of time “lungs”
unexcelled by any city in the world. It is a model of town planning.
The streets are all wide, and are flanked by avenues of trees. The
public buildings are imposing and substantial. The climate is nearly
perfect. The only unpleasant elements are certain days of intense
heat and dust storms. The heat, however, is “dry,” and therefore more
supportable than that of more humid climates. The air is light, while
the ring of mountains around the city completes the charm of an ideal
situation. And the simple fact that South Australia has the second
lowest death-rate in the world speaks volumes. When transit between
South Australia and England has become more rapid, and better methods
of conveying delicate fruit have been invented, the unique fruit
of South Australia should be put upon the English market at prices
accessible to all.



CHAPTER V

THE ROMANCE OF MELBOURNE


What the over-learned but fascinating Burton, in his “Anatomy of
Melancholy,” wrote of Australia, nearly three centuries ago, remains
true for vast numbers of people in the Old Country to-day--it is a
_terra Australis incognita_. It is not to the credit of Britons that
they know so little of the outlying parts of their great Empire.
Doubtless things have advanced since the day when a London lady said to
a prominent cleric who was leaving England for Melbourne, “So you are
going to preach to the aborigines!” (Poor aborigines--there are very
few of them left. Civilisation is killing them with its manners, as
formerly it murdered them with its guns.) In the remarkable official
“Commonwealth Year-Book” there is contained a series of maps showing
the progress of Australian exploration during the last century. It is
a suggestive study. In 1808 the map was one black mass, indicating
ignorance of the continent, with a white corner in Victoria, showing
the one place known to explorers. At the end of each decade the maps
grow lighter, until the final one published contains only a few black
patches indicating the unexplored country of the great central desert
and of the north-west territory. It is only by comparing the first and
the last maps that the marvellous advance in Australian exploration
becomes manifest. What will the next hundred years bring? The first
hundred years have seen the country opened up to knowledge. Will
the second hundred years see it filled with a happy and prosperous
population?

It seems hardly credible to one who gazes in admiration at the
beautiful modern buildings of Melbourne that less than eighty years ago
there was no vestige of a city there. And it is even more incredible,
in view of the ever-extending suburbs of the city, that sixty years ago
a plot of ground at the top of Collins Street was rejected by a church
on the ground that it was “too far in the bush.” What miracles in
stones and streets have been wrought since then!

At an anniversary dinner in Melbourne recently there was distributed,
as a precious souvenir of the growth of the city, a lithographed copy
of the first agreement made between John Batman and the native chiefs
as to the transfer of an enormous tract of land upon which the Port
Philip settlement was subsequently built. It was a bargain of the
rarest and keenest kind. Little did the chiefs dream, on that memorable
day, what their simple act would involve. For a quantity of knives,
scissors, mirrors, blankets, and other ordinary articles beloved of the
natives, the chiefs agreed to part with no less than 600,000 acres of
rich, grassy land. It was probably the cheapest bargain ever made in
the way of land purchase, if we except the sharp-witted gentlemen at
home who boldly seized common land as their own without so much as the
payment of a pocket-knife or a pair of scissors.

It was not Batman, however, despite his bargain, who was the real
founder of Melbourne. His cheap purchase was speedily disputed by other
Englishmen, who also had great dreams of property. When Pascoe Fawkner
sailed from Tasmania, and after various trials landed on the site where
Melbourne now stands, his fellow-colonists established themselves on
the vacant ground, and thus Melbourne was founded. Various relics of
wooden houses still exist to show what primitive colonial life was in
those days. There are many old folks residing in Melbourne who have
weird stories to tell of the life in that distant time. How they came
out sixty years ago in sailing vessels, the voyage occupying several
months; how they sat with their fathers and mothers on the ground, for
want of better accommodation; how they slept in the bush covered with
cloaks and skins, and surrounded by laughing jackasses, which seemed to
make merry over their misfortunes; how men rapidly rose to fortune, and
sank as rapidly as they had risen; how they have watched the growth of
the great city from a collection of huts and wooden shanties, until it
has become one of the fine cities of the world. Romance! It is not too
highly coloured a word by which to describe their experiences.

History does not record many more rapid developments than that of
Melbourne. In sixty years its population has grown from 11,000 to over
600,000, and the end is not yet. Like all growing children, it has had
its illnesses and set-backs. The “land boom” of 1892–3 ruined many men
who accounted their fortune as firmly settled. Some unfortunates, in
that dreadful crisis brought on by dishonest speculation, lost their
reason and went down to a suicide’s grave. On one black day men who
until that hour were sane and sober went mad and raved and cursed. Some
church folk said what they meant to be their farewell to God on that
mad day. But time is a wonderful healer, and the sun aids time. This
bright and cheerful atmosphere is inimical to pessimism. The laughing
sun and trees and flowers, and the song-filled air, made men forget
their failure. Melbourne has recovered from its stroke. Some of the
most optimistic and exhilarating men I have encountered in this city
are men who lost their all in the “crash.”

As a city Melbourne is a wonderfully attractive place. Its great and
unmistakable feature is airiness. Many of the streets are of a width
that would prepare for some English landowners a fit of apoplexy were
they compelled to build streets on their property upon such an ample
scale. Everything is light, bright, airy, ample. Few people live in
the city itself. Collins Street is the home of doctors, who congregate
together as do members of the same fraternity in Harley Street, London.
In the suburbs, near and distant--and residentially Melbourne is “going
out” farther and farther--all the houses are ample. The “villa” is
evidently the favourite type of house, and is affected by rich and
poor. A villa is the Melbourne name for a bungalow. All the rooms are
on one floor. Housework is reduced to the minimum. A villa of the
largest size is little less than a mansion, while the smallest villas
present an air of smartness and comfort which a basement house entirely
lacks. In fact, the “basement” house is unknown in Australia. It would
not be tolerated. The villa is ideal for a hot country, where people
are not inclined to waste energy on summer days in climbing flights
of unnecessary stairs. Nearly every house has its bit of sub-tropical
shrubbery, if nothing else. The nearer suburbs have none too much
garden attaching to the houses. This, for a new country, is a great
mistake. With ample land to spare, the State might have planned nearer
Melbourne on the garden city principle. Adelaide is a better city from
this point of view. In fact, Adelaide is the finest city, from the
garden point of view, I have ever seen. But in the farther suburbs
Melbourne is more rural. Kew, Armadale, Canterbury, and Surrey Hills
are delightful residential places. The spaces allotted to gardens are
there more ample, and the general effect is more pleasing.

The new-comer from the Old Land is struck by the way in which familiar
names reappear in the various localities. English names are duplicated
in a delightfully confusing manner. Thus, on one short railway run to
the suburbs we pass through Richmond, Windsor, Camberwell, Brighton,
Canterbury, Surrey Hills, Sandringham, Hampton, Kensington, and
Newmarket. It sounds so familiar, yet it is so odd that the names
appear in anything but their original order. It is not too much to say
that the suburbs of Melbourne are more attractive than the suburbs
of any English city of corresponding size. The absence of smoke, the
absolute clearness of the atmosphere, the ranges of mountains, the sea
in the distance, and the vast distances carpeted with green combine to
form a landscape second to none in the world. Melbourne seems to be
central for every kind of life. A threepenny ticket from the centre
brings one to the shore of St. Kilda. A shilling is the price of a
return ticket to Black Rock, a romantic seaside resort on the verge
of the bush, where laughing jackasses gather in threes and fours and
guffaw their loudest. All around is a vast dairying district, while at
Healesville and in the Buffalo Mountains there are pleasure centres
unapproachable for beauty and romance.

The city proper is a “chessboard city,” built on strict mathematical
lines. The streets intersect each other at right angles. There is
no place easier to traverse. Built as it is, however, many of the
streets have no shade whatever in the summer-time. That is their one
disadvantage. There are numerous magnificent buildings. The Houses of
Parliament, the General Post Office, the Exhibition Building and the
Town Hall are worthy of the best city in any country. Situated in such
a latitude, Melbourne lends itself admirably to boulevard life. A
touch of Paris would make of Melbourne the most attractive city in this
hemisphere. The streets and pavements are wide enough to allow of the
open-air café. But in its life Melbourne follows America rather than
Paris. The American hustling spirit is manifest in everything, religion
included. Already, in this new country, the trend of the people is
towards the city. Victoria has an area of 87,884 square miles; that is,
its territory is half as big again as England and Wales. Its population
is only 1,399,325--about one thirty-fifth that of Britain. Yet of that
population 600,000 people live in Melbourne and its suburbs.

One thing strangely fascinates a new-comer, and that is the question
of lung disease. It was to Australia that consumptive patients were
formerly sent; it is to Davos they now repair. Once it was thought
that a warm climate was better for the patients; now it is thought
that cold, dry air is the best for them. The last official figures are
significant. In the year 1906 the home death-rate from tuberculosis
of the respiratory system was 135.68 per 100,000 of the population.
In 1907 the death-rate for the whole Commonwealth of Australia was
86.29 per 100,000--little more than half. “The Commonwealth occupies,
therefore, a very enviable position in regard to tubercular diseases,
when compared with European countries.” Yet even this proportion is
too high. Consumptive parents who went out years ago are now living at
a good old age, but some of their children have been carried off by
the dread disease. One man, in a good position, buried his seventh
and last child a short time ago. He himself came out weak-lunged forty
years ago. Good luck to the physicians who are fighting the white
scourge! One day it ought to disappear entirely from a country so broad
and healthy as this.



CHAPTER VI

THE BEAUTY OF SYDNEY


Robert Louis Stevenson, who knew and loved the Southern Pacific,
declared that he loved Sydney “for its bits of old London and Paris.”
That sentence raises the veil, and reveals to the stranger one of the
chief characteristics of Sydney. “It is so English!” is the exclamation
of all Britons who see it for the first time. Its English-like
character is at once its charm and its drawback. Its charm, for it
transports the visitor immediately to the Old Country; its drawback,
for it is not at all Australian, as are the other capitals of the
Commonwealth. After Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne, with their
abnormally spacious thoroughfares, Sydney streets appear too narrow for
the climate. Day after day I have stood in George Street and imagined
myself to be in Manchester or Liverpool or some other English city.
In the heart of Sydney it is difficult to realise that one is really
in Australia. To me they appear to be disadvantageous--these narrow
streets; to others they appear to be a great boon, especially in the
summer-time, when they afford some little shadow from the great heat of
the sun.

The architectural mistakes of the early builders of Sydney are now
being repaired--in truth, the city is in process of rebuilding. Entire
districts of inferior buildings have been sponged out. In their place
new and noble erections are rising. More than five millions of pounds
sterling have been spent in city buildings since the year 1907. One day
Sydney will wear a new aspect, and become as Australian in appearance
as it is now in spirit. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Sydney
to-day is the boom in building that has been in progress during the
last few years. According to official statements, the amount spent
in building in Sydney and suburbs during the last four years exceeds
sixteen millions of pounds sterling. This includes city buildings,
suburban buildings, State Government buildings, schools, etc. It is a
prodigious sum of money. Practically a new suburb is being added to the
city every year. The State is greatly prospering commercially; indeed,
it has never been more prosperous. Everybody seems to have plenty of
money to spend. The rapid building of houses is not due to speculation,
but to genuine investment on the part of people who desire to purchase
their own houses. The splendid municipal electric car system has linked
up all the suburbs, and has thus contributed largely towards the
general prosperity of the city. With the memory of the great land boom
in Melbourne, one is at first disposed to ask whether this prosperity
is as genuine as it appears to be upon the surface. It is assuring
to learn from the Government Commissioner that “this prosperity is
not ephemeral, and that even should the State be visited by serious
drought conditions there would be no marked effect in the building
trade for some years to come.”

There exists, without doubt, a certain degree of jealousy between the
cities of Melbourne and Sydney. Sydney is the older city, and it is
perhaps natural that her children should claim for her the superiority
due to age. For my part, I do not interfere in these quarrels and
jealousies. I smile at both parties, and point out the excellent
qualities possessed by each city--Melbourne, every time, for ample
thoroughfares, push, and American hustling; Sydney, for narrower
streets and a more English type of life, and, above all, for unexcelled
natural beauty. Melbourne has been deliberately made upon a definite
plan. Sydney has grown as a tree grows; hence some of its branches are
long and some are short. There is an immense difference between the
two cities, but both are places of great importance. A century hence
(unless, through sheer wicked indolence, a white population of British
settlers not having been encouraged, the country is in the hands of one
of the yellow races) Sydney and Melbourne may be a twin London.

If there exists in any part of the world a finer train than the
express between Melbourne and Sydney, I have yet to hear of it. With
observation car, dining and sleeping saloons, it represents the last
word in luxury. There is only one drawback attached to it--the journey
is not continuous in the one train. On the border of New South Wales
passengers change trains, owing to the difference in the gauges of
the two railway lines. This inconvenience is the heritage which early
stupidity has bequeathed to the present generation. Years ago, before
the Federation, the States were opposed to each other, even to the
extent of constructing railway lines of a different gauge. To remedy
this folly will be a costly piece of work. Just one little town on the
route awakens my interest and recalls a famous episode. It is the town
of Wagga Wagga. When the name is called out, instantly the Tichborne
trial comes to mind. For it is in this remote, scarcely known town that
Arthur Orton, the claimant, traded as a butcher. Here came to him the
newspaper containing the advertisement for the heir to the Tichborne
estates. And here was hatched in the butcher’s brain the little plot
which ultimately sent him to penal servitude. Who could have imagined
that from this hidden spot in the Australian bush there would issue an
influence sufficiently strong to agitate the entire British nation?

       *       *       *       *       *

The approach to Sydney by rail is unpromising. It is only when the
city is traversed, and the visitor is out upon the water, that the
unparalleled beauty of the situation of Sydney is realised. It is easy,
then, to understand why Sydney folk are proud of their harbour. There
is nothing exactly like it in the whole world. I had always conceived
the harbour as an immense circle, or semi-circle, of water, flanked
by hills and houses. Instead of that, I found it to be a series of
a hundred little harbours, formed in the most surprising manner, and
consisting altogether of a frontage of two hundred miles. A natural
harbour, it has the commercial advantages of an artificial one, for the
water is deep, often fathoms deep, to the very edge. Thus the great
liners of the Orient, P. and O., North German Lloyd, and other lines
are berthed at the quays. One first rapid glance at the harbour near
the quays gives the impression of a great maritime centre where boats
flying all flags find refuge. There is a forest of funnels, a vast
array of floating iron and steel.

The shipping out of sight, the remainder of the harbour is a panorama
of natural beauty, of which thousands have taken advantage. All the
slopes and all the heights are crowded with residences, large or
small. In the more modest quarters the houses are small, but always
picturesque. In the wealthier parts we are confronted with a series of
small palaces. Picture Clovelly, Ilfracombe, Lynton, and Lynmouth all
placed together, and united by a number of harbour inlets, and there
you have an image of Sydney Harbour. To this add a sentimental touch
of Italian life--the balcony--and the picture is complete, when the
area of the whole is extended to embrace the frontage of 200 miles. The
balconies! If I were to select the chief charm of these houses built
upon the edge of the water, it would be, without the least hesitation,
the balconies. Their variety is astonishing. No two are alike. Every
house is a fresh surprise. It would seem as if architects and builders
had exhausted all possible combinations of wood and stone for the
production of the last word in picturesque effects. The gardens of
these houses slope right down to the water’s edge. And what gardens! Is
there any spot upon earth where so many roses are gathered together as
at Sydney? Roses everywhere, whole bowers of them. Gardens ablaze with
roses of every colour! We step into one garden belonging to a pastor
of the city and find ourselves in a perfect paradise of flowers. Walls
covered with trailing roses. Garden path lined with roses. Flower beds
one mass of roses. Thousands of them! It is a unique spectacle. Sydney
might add to its industries, if it has not already done so, that of
preparing the attar of roses.

Nobody ever wearies of the harbour. In the early morning, or at noon,
or late at night the charm, ever varying, never fails to hold the
visitor. The craft upon the water in the daytime, the million twinkling
lights at night, conquer the beholder. Every excursion discloses some
new beauty. On the north side of the harbour a great and important town
has sprung up. At every other bend in the road a vision of the water
appears. Built upon a hill, or a series of hills, the whole northern
suburb gathers to the harbour. Magnificent residences are rising every
week. All is quiet, retired, attractive, and yet a brief ferry ride
brings one to the Circular Quay, the heart of a throbbing business
life. Retirement and bustle are but a stone’s throw from each other.
On one side of the harbour are yachts, terraced houses, splashes of
red-roofed houses nestling amongst masses of green shrub and tree and
garden; on the other side, within coo-ee of the yachts, mammoth ocean
liners lie, awaiting the moment of departure for East and West. This
combination of suburbia and shipping very rarely exists in the world.
Shipping generally means long lines of quays and docks removed from the
residential quarters of the city. Here in Sydney, suburbia, on both
sides of the harbour, looks down at the ever-expanding mass of shipping
on the quays and in the coves. Even the largest steamers are moored
near the Circular Quay, within a few minutes’ walk of the heart of the
city.

Many of the larger houses have their own enclosed sea baths, built of
stone, and admitting the water through a netted grill. It is impossible
to bathe in the open harbour on account of the sharks which abound.
The grill admits the water into the private bath, but excludes the
sharks. The wretched creatures, however, often haunt the vicinity of
these baths, in the hope of surprising a dainty human morsel. A novice
experiences strange and uncanny sensations when, taking his modest
dip, he sees the snout of a hungry shark thrust against the grill. If
that grill gave way!!! The harbour is dotted with numerous suburbs,
most of which are pleasure resorts. Of these Manly beach is said to
be the best; it is the home of surf bathers. There is a magnificent
service of ferry boats and electric trams running to every nook and
corner in the harbour. And the fares are surprisingly low. It is not
difficult to understand how, on a sultry summer evening, when the city
is stifling, Sydney abandons itself to an aquatic life. And the harbour
explains the pleasure spirit which dominates Sydney. A journalist who
visited Australia a few years ago, declared that Adelaide was the city
of culture, Melbourne the city of business, and Sydney the city of
pleasure. It is altogether too sweeping a summary. There is culture and
business in Sydney, as elsewhere. But to a visitor the pleasure element
seems to be dominant. It certainly is so at night time, on holidays,
and especially on Sundays. The harbour is alive with craft on Sundays.
Far, far more people are out bent on pleasure than are ever found in
the churches. Religious work is not easy in Sydney. The churches have
to compete with the harbour. There are no old Church traditions to
bind the young people as “at home.” Young people, for the most part,
do as they like. From the spectacular point of view it is striking and
attractive, this wooing of the harbour. From the moral point of view it
is disquieting, for it means that a generation is arising which knows
neither the form nor the force of religion. And this for a young nation
is a serious menace.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under the gleam of the midday sun in spring, when the blinding light
of the sun is softened by the kiss of the green leaves of thousands of
trees, Sydney Harbour is a paradise of beauty. When night falls and the
city is illuminated with artificial light, the harbour is a dream of
romance. We had the happiness of seeing the harbour under the light of
the full moon. This, together with the half-million lights from city
and steamer and home which danced upon the waters, transported us into
fairyland. Darting from one side to the other were the ferry-boats,
ablaze with electric light. Lying at the quays were the great liners,
studded with stars. And all the lights of harbour, of city and suburbs
were multiplied a hundredfold in these waters already made silvern by
the beams of the moon. It was a sight never to be forgotten.

For those who love the country, with its broad spaces and its
incomparable perfume, the environs of Sydney offer endless attractions.
First of all there are the Blue Mountains, with their awesome
precipices, cascades, and gum-tree-covered slopes, and the famous
Jenolan Caves, an enchanted world of stalactite, fashioned into every
kind of fantastic shape. Within an hour of the capital is the vast area
of the National Park, covering over 30,000 acres; and, beautiful as
any of them, the Hawkesbury river. The railway route to the Hawkesbury
passes through lovely scenery. Within an hour of Sydney this “Rhine
of Australia” is reached. There is also a touch of Norway--just a
touch--in the waterways which run inland like miniature fiords. On the
banks of the Hawkesbury, cottages and bungalows are being multiplied,
to be occupied by the business men of the capital, who find here a
retreat from the bustle of the city.

Sydney is nearer, by 500 miles, to the tropics than Melbourne. Life
lived on the verge of the tropical region is not marked by the same
strenuousness as that of a more rigorous climate. And Melbourne is a
little more rigorous than Sydney, especially in the winter-time. In
Sydney there is only a difference of 17 degrees between the average
temperatures of winter and summer. The climate is wonderful, Sicilian
in its softness. In Melbourne they pass in an hour from midsummer to
midwinter. Perhaps this is why Melbourne is more strenuous than Sydney.
But, _chacun à son goût_. Sydney people believe their city to be the
best in the world, and nothing will ever convince them to the contrary.
There is no need to quarrel about it.



CHAPTER VII

AT BOTANY BAY


Years ago the Christy Minstrels sang a droll song about the adventures
of a Chinaman in Botany Bay. London audiences rocked with laughter
at the mention of the famous convict settlement. Had they better
understood all that was meant by Botany Bay they might well have wept.

Fresh from reading the story of Captain Cook’s travels, and the
subsequent story of the penal life in New South Wales, I find myself
in an excellent mood to appreciate a visit to the famous spot which is
known as the birthplace of Australian history. We go to Sydney upon a
fine Inter-state steamer, the _Karoola_, a boat that for sheer comfort,
deck space, saloon and table compares well with the mail liners.

The entry into Sydney Harbour in the early morning is an event to be
remembered. There is no other place on earth exactly like this famous
harbour. Its innumerable windings offer a fascinating panorama to the
visitor who has the advantage of a position on the upper deck of a
mail steamer. Sydney does homage to its harbour. The city crowds to
the water’s edge. The new suburbs on the northern side are growing at
a rapid rate, and soon there will be no plot of land unoccupied. It
is difficult to believe that less than a century ago the “bush” came
to the edge of the harbour. Where now maritime life reigns, there
was formerly a desolation or a wildness which well harmonised with a
country still in the possession of the aborigines. The few pictures
extant of Sydney Harbour as it was form the best measure of the
progress that has since been made.

Botany Bay is eclipsed by Port Jackson. It is the Plymouth Rock of
Australia, yet it is not to Australians what Plymouth Rock is to
Americans. The present generation “knows not Joseph”--or, rather,
James. Captain Cook is, for the many, a mere name; he does not
represent, nor evoke, an enthusiasm. One day, when Australia has grown
to the dimensions of America, there will be a Cook cult, and Botany Bay
will become a shrine. To-day it is merely a place for picnics; an easy
lounge from Sydney for persons who have neither historic nor national
imagination.

A fourpenny tram ticket from Circular Quay takes one to the village of
Botany. Thence a steamer crosses the bay, calls in at La Perouse, and
deposits its passengers at the famous spot where, on April 28, 1770,
Captain Cook landed from his toy boat, the _Endeavour_. There is little
to see: a large rock, a small jetty, and a monument. The latter--an
obelisk--is enclosed within chains. It was erected by the Hon. Thomas
Holt. Of Cook monuments and inscriptions there are many. Yet there is
only one statue of Cook himself, and that is in Hyde Park, Sydney.
The intrepid explorer is depicted with right hand extended, while in
his left hand he carries the chart of his voyage. Wherever Captain
Cook’s feet trod there the memorialist has certified the fact in a
permanent manner. Upon the face of the cliffs at Kurnell, Botany Bay,
an inscription is found setting forth the fact that:

    “Under the auspices of British Science ... these Shores were
    discovered by James Cook and Joseph Banks, the Columbus and
    Mæcenas of their time.”

The final inscription appears on a tree in Hawaii, and sets forth the
tragic fact that “near this spot fell Captain James Cook, the renowned
circumnavigator.” But, of course, I have not seen that.

A final monument alone is needed, and that is the _Endeavour_ itself,
or part of it. Alas! this monument must remain unerected. Englishmen
appreciated the _Victory_, and took care to preserve it for the nation,
but the discovery of so insignificant a place as Australia passed
without attracting the attention that it deserved. The men of that
time had no prophetic gift of insight enabling them to see what the
new country might yet mean to the Motherland, hence they allowed the
_Endeavour_ to become a whaler, to fly the French flag, and eventually
to sink in the waters around Rhode Island. Thus America holds the
famous four-hundred tonner to which the highest honour is attached. One
day Australia may ask whether the _Endeavour_ is so far sunk that it
cannot be raised, if only in parts, and established in an Australian
museum....

Botany Bay compels thought and awakens imagination. Upon the pivot of
that rock what events will yet turn? What was it that Captain Cook
really discovered when he landed on Australian soil? Something more
than a gold mine or a vast and fertile orchard. Suppose it should turn
out to be the fact that he discovered a land which of all lands is best
able, geographically and politically (when it is properly populated),
to affect for good the fortunes of the awakening East and to relieve
the distress of the congested West? The world has not yet appreciated
what Australia is capable of both socially and politically.

As we look out over the waters from Botany Bay, the greatness of
Captain Cook becomes a reality. Yonder is the illimitable stretch of
the great Pacific Ocean. Nothing between us and America save this
magnificent waste of waters. There our mother tongue is spoken. Beyond,
are our own kin, the Canadians. And on the farther side of that great
continent another stretch of waters, and then the Home Land itself.
To the north of us India, to the west of us Africa. It is an immense
circle of British interests, and we are in its centre. And to Captain
Cook we owe it. When we think of that little barque of 368 tons
venturing across the great oceans, we seem to be in the neighbourhood
of miracle. The very least of beginnings; what will be the ending?

Turning our back on the ocean, and looking inward to the harbour and
the city, the miracle seems to grow. There a million people live and
work and grow wealthy. Everywhere the scrub disappears, the trees fall,
and the soil yields its riches. And millions more of acres await men
and machinery. Yet on that wonderful day in 1770 all that Captain Cook
saw is expressed in his line from the log:--

    “At day break we discovered a bay and anchored under the South
    Shore, about 2 miles from the Entrance, in six fathom water.”

“A bay.” Just a bay! How little did he dream of the wealth behind it
all. Australia ought not to forget its first hero and explorer. Captain
Cook should be more to it than a name; yet to the many it is only that.

But Botany Bay also makes us think gravely of the “bad old days.”
England had a new possession in 1770, a vast continent of whose immense
treasures she knew nothing. “Happy thought! let us turn it into a
rubbish heap,” her leaders said. Mad and blind policy! But had we been
there should we have done better? Should we--any better than they--have
foreseen the development of our industrial system and the congested
state of our great cities and towns? Had the gift of foresight been
granted to the leaders of that great epoch, it is more than likely that
the present industrial unrest “at home” would never have been created,
for Australia would have been, long ago, a second home for the British
nation, and not merely a big hole from which the swift and the strong
dug out gold.

A dumping ground for criminals! That was the first use to which Britain
put Australia. America was closed against her owing to the war of 1776.
The English gaols were congested. Political offenders multiplied.
“Justice” was little better than legal murder. For the most trivial
offences men lost their lives, or were transported. The English Court
was rotten. “Liberty” was a mere fiction. Those were the “good old
times,” of which our modern croakers--blind and deaf--never cease
to babble. Botany Bay--the entrance to a new and golden world--was
converted into a penal settlement. There came into it in the month of
January, 1788, eleven vessels bearing a thousand convicts, and their
wives and children. Seven weary months had those wretched people been
upon the high seas. Those merciful days made no provision for the
humanities. The convicts came out like cattle, and their drivers were
worse than themselves. “Convicts”--but not necessarily criminals!
Convicted by bad “laws,” but often enough, in the sight of high heaven,
guiltless of crime. They came out, high and low, bad and good, and were
all dumped down at Botany Bay. Some undoubtedly were bad enough, and
others were victims of political malice. When I read the story of that
time my heart warms towards many of the convicts and hardens towards
most of their masters. It was a cruel and brutal epoch. The story of
early Sydney gives one gooseflesh at the reading. Some of the English
“judges” sent out were drunken and cruel scoundrels, not fit to have
the management of cattle, to say nothing of men. Hangings were general;
human life was accounted of little value. Governor Philip was one of
the worst of his class. A man without pity--a brute. And he went to
church at times!

Here is the story of one of his merciful acts. A convict woman one day
picked up in the street a small parcel. Taking it to a retired place
she opened it and found it to contain a watch, a ring, and some money.
At once she sought to restore it. But she was a mere convict, and she
had committed the unpardonable offence of opening a parcel found in
the street. The articles, it appeared, had been stolen, and the thief
in fright had dropped the parcel in the street. The woman was tried
by a jury of military men, who promptly sentenced her to death. She
appealed to Governor Philip, who replied, “If you tell me the truth
I will pardon you.” In anguish the condemned woman cried, “As God is
my witness I have told you the truth.” To which the representative of
Britain answered, “You shall stand before your God before the clock
strikes nine to-morrow.” And as Governor Philip drank his coffee at
breakfast time on the next day, he had the joy of seeing the woman
drop, strangled, from the cross-beam of the gallows.

Botany Bay!--gate of a new continent and ante-room of hell--your
memories are at once bright and bloody. The nightmare and the stains
have disappeared; the brightness remains. No more shall you witness
the inhumanities of the past; the day of liberty and of justice has
come. And when Australia has become one of the great nations of the
world you will not be forgotten, for you first, on this soil, gave
hospitality to Captain Cook.



CHAPTER VIII

BRISBANE, THE QUEEN CITY OF THE NORTH


From Victoria to Queensland is an ascent in many ways. To begin with,
it means a railway journey of nearly thirteen hundred miles from south
to north. Each mile brings one nearer the tropics. Each hour the heat
grows more intense; each day the sky bluer and brighter. I travelled
from Sydney by steamer and made the ascent by sea. Even then there was
the experience of expansion; of greater warmth, and the first faint
perfume of the Lotus land. I returned by railway, and thus completed
the circuit.

The approach to Brisbane by sea creates a curious impression upon the
Englishman who sees Queensland for the first time. The city unveils
itself as an entirely foreign city. In the disposition of its houses,
as well as in their style, there is something quite new. The roofs
present a curious appearance. Their colour is drab, or grey, or white,
the very colours which intensify the blinding light of a tropical
climate. Tall palms raise their graceful heads to the sky. Strange
plants and flowers and shrubs begin to appear. Conspicuous above
everything else is the brilliant and majestic jackaranda tree. Imagine
a young English elm tree, of ten years’ growth, without a leaf upon
its branches, but entirely covered, in place of leaf, with large thick
blue flowers--that is the jackaranda. It is a tree of amazing beauty--a
quaint flower, elevated to the dimensions of a tree. And with the
spectacle of palm, jackaranda, camphor-tree, and banana, there also
greets one a blend of subtle perfumes and spices. When the breeze
springs up, one dominating, overpowering scent is borne upon its wings,
and brain and mind are oppressed with its heaviness.

This approach to Brisbane by water is very beautiful and impressive.
The steamer proceeds up a long and winding river decked on both sides
with picturesque gardens and houses, and having for an ultimate
background a line of dark, solemn-looking hills. The “city of villas”
Brisbane undoubtedly is. One would hardly be surprised to behold at
the wharf a population of coloured people. The foreign-looking houses,
the tropical surroundings, the warm, voluptuous atmosphere, and this
breath of spicy perfumes, together suggest the dreamy East. And one day
there _will_ be a population of coloured people in Brisbane, despite
the fact that they will be British. For the sun, which respects the
skin of none, is slowly bronzing the faces of the inhabitants. “A white
Australia!” There can never be a pure white Northern Australia while
residence continues and the sun retains its heat. The whitest man must,
in course of time, become dark. Why complain of degrees of darkness;
for what is black but bronze and duskiness brought to perfection?

The houses of Brisbane have one striking peculiarity--they are built
upon wooden piles, the highest of which stand perhaps five or six feet
from the ground. The general effect is, to say the least, odd. It is
Venice, without the lagoons. And the reason for this peculiarity is the
presence of that terrible enemy, the white ant. The base of the piles
is immersed in tar, while the crown is capped with a kind of inverted
tin plate--a child’s dinner-plate. And the piles themselves are often
poisoned. Every precaution has to be taken against the ravages of
the white ant. The tar discourages it at the base, the poisoned wood
discourages it on the ascent, and the inverted plates foil it at the
top. Within the houses similar precautions are taken. The legs of the
tables are planted in double earthenware pots, so that the invader may
be repulsed. For woe betide the householder who suffers a successful
invasion of the white ant! The dreadful enemy is never seen; he works
entirely in the dark. His presence is never suspected until the unhappy
moment when the once solid piece of furniture suddenly collapses, a
total wreck--silently but surely gnawed by the teeth of the concealed
foe. Amazing stories are told of the devastation wrought by the white
ant. Men out in the country have placed strong boxes in a secure
place--secure, as they thought, and then, one day, presuming upon their
supposed strength, they have essayed to use the boxes as seats, only
to discover themselves suddenly precipitated to the ground, and mixed
with the debris of the collapsed trunk. In a church in Brisbane one
of the elders, when treading the aisles one day, thought he detected a
slight softness in the floor under his feet. Pursuing his inquiries,
he discovered, to his dismay, that the white ants had managed to gnaw
their way into the floor, despite the fact that a mass of concrete lay
between it and the ground below. But there was one fatal flaw, and
through a tiny hole the invaders had poured in and commenced their work
of undermining. Listening, the elder could hear the chisels of this
terrible army of workmen, surely chipping away the wood of the floor.
At one house I visited a wooden pile was shown me, nearly eaten through
by these creatures. By mere accident the trouble was discovered, and
the pile removed. The ordinary householder is not always competent to
track the white ant. There may be nothing wrong to his vision, yet all
the while the secret work of destruction may be proceeding apace. Hence
experts make periodical visits to houses, and discover in time any
mischief that may be brewing.

Brisbane is, to all intents and purposes, a smokeless city. The new
factory chimneys, of course, contribute smoke to the fair atmosphere,
but so far as the private houses are concerned, few wreaths of smoke
ascend, for the reason that few fires are burned. In many houses there
are no fireplaces at all, save in the kitchen, and there the gas-stove
is generally in operation. This absence of smoke is a veritable
pleasure. In this particular Brisbane resembles Florence. It is a
suggestion also. Not every climate is so warm as this, but in colder
climes, where artificial heating is necessary, the smoke nuisance
might well be reduced by the use, as here, of gas and electricity.

Brisbane claims to be the most picturesque city in the Commonwealth,
and with reason. Its natural situation is not so fine as that of
Sydney. It has no harbour comparable with Sydney Harbour. But the
city itself is more eastern, more tropical than the southern cities.
Its death-rate is the lowest in all the Commonwealth, and that speaks
volumes for the climate. The weather is nearly always bright. The
winter is one prolonged delight. It equals Hastings, say, in May or
June. The spoiled children of Southern Australia who find their winter
“cold” come up north and spend the “chilly” months in sunny Queensland.
The climate is much warmer than that of Victoria, and it is much more
equable. In Brisbane they know nothing of those startling changes in
temperature to which men are accustomed in Melbourne. A Brisbane man
shudders when we tell him that in Melbourne the thermometer sometimes
drops forty degrees in half an hour. But if Brisbane heat is greater
than the heat in Victoria, it is tempered by a delicious breeze which
springs up every morning with the utmost regularity about eleven
o’clock.

Insect life, white ants excepted, is most fascinating in Brisbane. The
moths and butterflies are gorgeous to the last degree. They flash in
the sunlight, living rainbows, displaying the most ravishing colours.
In these semi-tropical regions the colours of nature seem to reach
absolute perfection. Sky, flowers, and insects all match. There is
no blue so wonderful as that of these skies, and no colours more soft
and subduing than those which overspread the heavens at the moment of
sunset.

While here I have had the experience, twice repeated, of a tropical
thunderstorm. Nothing can approach this in majesty and terrifying
power, unless it be a storm in the Alps. There, the feature of the
storm lies in the long-continued reverberations of the thunder crashing
amongst the mountains. Here the thunderstorm is marked by a terrible
display of lightning, and by the appalling colour of the sky. The storm
gathers in an incredibly short period of time. After a day or two of
abnormal heat, radiated from a pellucid atmosphere, the clouds suddenly
appear. In an hour the heavens assume a slaty appearance, a ghastly
colour that speaks of anguish and coming dissolution. Everything grows
dark. It seems as if the hour of the traditional judgment had arrived.
An ominous wind sweeps over the country, bending stately palms beneath
its fury and threatening to uproot smaller trees. And then from afar
comes the muffled roar of the storm. It is like the march of a hostile
army. Great guns seem to boom, gatling and quick-firers rattle their
shot across the plain. And then, for an hour or more, the heavens
become alive with light. The lightning appears in a dozen places at
once, stabbing, tearing, exploding. The thunder is awful. And then
the rain descends, as no Englishman who knows but his own land has
ever seen it fall. Not in drops, but in sheets, it pours down until
every street becomes a river. It is useless to attempt to speak while
the flood is upon us. It is the din of a battle at its height, for
the roofs of the houses in Brisbane are made of corrugated iron, and
the rain falling upon this resounding substance produces a terrifying
effect. And amid the tempest, while human voices are hushed, there is
one glad note heard. One creature is excited to delirious pleasure
through the storm. Silent as the grave while the tempest gathers, this
creature chants in triumph while the storm rages. It is the frog. No
man knows the vocal capacities of the frog until he hears it croak in
one vast chorus during a tropical storm.



CHAPTER IX

QUEENSLAND, THE RICH UNPEOPLED STATE


The northern territory of Australia constitutes the “grand problem” of
the Commonwealth. How vast a problem that is no man can realise until
he in person visits the north. There, in very truth, is the colour
line, drawn, not by the caprice of man, but by the hand of Nature. And
the grand question to settle is, Can the white man live and toil in the
north as he does in the south? One party says “No,” the other party
says “Yes.” When the question is finally settled, then a great era of
prosperity may commence. The natural wealth and resources of the north
are almost incredible. Yet they are largely untapped, and the bottom
reason for this is the nebulous state of the colour question. Once
demonstrate that the white man can live in these tropical regions, and
then will come a great immigration and an abounding prosperity. But
while the doctrine of a “white Australia” is proclaimed coincidently
with the dogma that the white man cannot toil in the north, so long
will the north remain a problem.

Queensland is at once the largest, the richest, and the most scantily
populated of the States of the Australian Commonwealth. Its area is
eight times that of Victoria. It possesses no fewer than 429,120,000
acres, of which only 650,472 acres are under cultivation. And in all
that vast territory there are but 760,000 people. It is amazing, almost
appalling. Little wonder that the Government of Queensland is laying
itself out to attract to this rich country a population from beyond
the seas; for the authorities have the wit to perceive that a land
so fruitful and promising cannot, in the nature of the case, remain
uninhabited for long. Neighbouring peoples with overflowing populations
are not unmindful of the fact that almost at their door there lies a
promised land crying out for men to enter and possess it. The danger
involved in this fact is one that thousands of Australians do not wish
to recognise.

The vast majority of people in the Old Land are utterly ignorant of
Australia, and particularly of Queensland and the north. Let me try to
make the situation clear.

First of all, Queensland has a climate. In the extreme north it is
tropical, in the south it is semi-tropical. The Government claims
that it is the healthiest climate in the world. I hold no brief for
Queensland, and therefore I merely pass on the official statement. But
there is no question about the beautiful climate. In the winter-time
thousands of persons from the south, from Tasmania and New Zealand,
take the trip to Cairns and the north--the land of eternal summer.
“Winter” is practically unknown in Queensland. What a Queenslander
calls “winter” a Londoner would call early summer. In this particular
Queensland stands in direct contrast to Canada, that land which
hitherto has monopolised the British emigrants. Ice and snow are
unknown. The soil is ever fertile, the sky is ever blue. The man who
has no house in which to live need shed no tears; he will probably
find it quite as comfortable to live in the open air. “Sleeping out”
is as common as sleeping in. Even in the south we practised that. In
Melbourne we abandoned our bedroom for the balcony. In Queensland we
should not have a bedroom at all. A superb climate, then, is the first
great asset of this northern State.

When we descend from sky and air to the earth, the prodigious natural
wealth of the land staggers one. It is hardly believable that one
single State can yield what Queensland does. Take, for example, the
matter of fruits. In the Government Bureau at Brisbane there are cases
containing models of the fruits of Queensland. And the list comprises
such luxuries as the pineapple, giant banana, custard apple, cocoa
pods, grenadilla, mangoes, persimmons, tamarinds, pomeloes, paw-paw,
giant plums, grapes, oranges, lemons, apples, pears, peaches, cherries,
figs, apricots, nectarines, quinces, strawberries, passion fruit,
rosellas, blackberries, Cape gooseberries, melons, loquats, and guavas.
Was there ever such a list for one State? These tropical fruits are
simply wonderful--wonderful for variety and for magnificence. Think of
peaches measuring eleven inches in circumference! The great problem
is to find a worthy market for these fruits. Many of them cannot now
be transported to England on account of the distance. But when an
adequate population brings the demanded railway and the mono-rail,
fast steamers and the Trans-Siberian Railway between them, together
with a fast service of steamers in the Panama Canal, diminishing the
distance between Queensland and London, reducing the time of transit to
seventeen or eighteen days, then the Queensland fruits, so strange to
Englishmen, may be found at Covent Garden.

From fruits let us turn to crops. Wheat, maize, oats, barley, rye, and
the usual cereals are, of course, easily grown. Two crops of maize
each year are possible in parts of the country. Besides these, cotton,
tobacco, coffee, rubber, sugar, rice, and arrowroot are easily grown.
Think of the possibilities of commerce when crops such as these can be
produced. When American cotton-planters make their “corner,” and plunge
Lancashire into distress, it might be worth the while of open-eyed
spinners to turn their attention to a British colony where cotton can
be easily cultivated. If persons at home only realised what Australia
is capable of producing!

The minerals and gems of Queensland are remarkable. Practically all
the minerals are found in this Northern State: gold, silver, copper,
iron, coal, tin, lead, bismuth, graphite, etc.; while the gems include
diamonds, sapphires, rubies, topaz, opals, emeralds, agates, cornelian,
amethyst, and rock crystal. The total value of the output of gold from
the mines of Queensland to the end of 1909 was over seventy million
pounds sterling, while the total value of minerals, other than gold,
was more than twenty-two million pounds sterling. There are about 250
varieties of minerals pertaining to the jewellers’ and lapidaries’
craft, and more than half of this number are found in Queensland.
The great sapphire field of the State embraces an area of 400 square
miles. One locality bears the suggestive name of “sapphire town.” Yet,
with all this profusion of gems, the sapphire and the opal cannot be
obtained in Queensland more cheaply than in London or in Paris. A
“ring,” I suppose, keeps up the prices.

Industrially, this land is the working man’s paradise. Farm labourers
obtain from fifteen to twenty-four shillings a week, _plus_ board and
lodging. Ploughmen receive from fifteen to twenty-seven shillings
a week, _plus_ board and lodging. Ordinary labourers--lowest paid
of all workers--six to seven shillings per day. Navvies, seven to
twelve shillings per day. Carpenters, ten to fourteen shillings per
day. Blacksmiths, ten to fifteen shillings per day. “Useful lads,”
from five to fifteen shillings per week, _plus_ board and lodging.
Domestic servants (girls and women), from eight shillings to a pound
per week. Cooks (women), anything from one to two pounds per week.
What will ploughmen and farm labourers in England think of this scale
of payment? Agricultural labourers and domestic servants are in great
demand. Compared with the industrial conditions in the Old Land and
in Europe, Queensland offers a veritable paradise to the worker. The
marvel is that more people from the Old Land do not come to Queensland,
especially when it is remembered that approved emigrants can obtain
a passage for £5. Fourteen thousand miles for £5--think of it! As
I watched the procession of merry youths and maidens passing along
Brisbane streets and heard from one or two of them the story of their
coming out from slumdom in England, I could only wish that capable
and willing people “at home” who find it difficult to live, and who
know nothing of ample spaces and a sunny climate, might find their
way to Queensland--that fair spot in God’s creation where poverty is
unknown and where work ceases to be drudgery. But only the capable and
willing should make the voyage. Queensland is no place for fools or
idlers. What Queensland sorely needs is a population of able-bodied
people--English people, who will bring with them the best traditions of
the Old Land. Queensland alone can easily carry a population of fifty
millions of people. At present she has only about one-hundredth part of
that number. Young men and women of England, to whom life is a bitter
struggle, why do you not think of Queensland? Men and women of sterling
character coming out here would help to lay the foundations of a great
and a glorious State....

One day we had a delirious motor ride through the bush, our objective
being a seaside resort thirty or forty miles distant. When we left the
city it was farewell to men. Mile after mile we travelled without
encountering a single human being, or passing a single habitation. It
was one solemn, vast solitude. A road, well made, traversed the forest.
Around us and ahead of us lay the “bush,” an immense entanglement of
“scrub,” dominated by the everlasting gum-tree. Strange birds flew
here and there. Their plumage was often gorgeous to the last degree.
Strange and uncouth animals crawled across the road from bush to bush.
Once we surprised an iguana, a terrible-looking creature of most mild
habits. The iguana, appearing upon the scene for the first time, sends
a chill to the heart of the spectator. This glorified lizard has
the visage of a demon and the courage of a rabbit. It scuttled away
before our approach. In the heart of the bush we came upon a tragedy
that must often be enacted amongst the animal dwellers of the great
solitude--a kangaroo, a mother, unable to resist the pangs and pains
thrust upon her by her destiny, lay dead upon the roadside. And above,
on a branch of the tree, stood a pair of laughing jackasses, guffawing
their loudest, as if life knew no tragedy and no pain. Another time
we encountered a large snake, which stupidly raised its head against
the motor. Kangaroos, snakes, macaws, parrots, “jackers”--these and
their kind are in possession of the forest. Here and there man has
settled down and commenced to cultivate the land. At once the soil has
responded. We passed great patches of bananas and acres of pineapples.
The ground awaits only the stimulus of the spade and the living seed,
and it responds immediately with a prodigal crop of fruit. Here is this
fertile country, taken all in all richer than any other, calling out to
man to come and endow himself with its treasures.



CHAPTER X

THE ROMANCE OF QUEENSLAND SUGAR


The marvel of Queensland grows upon one the more the country
is studied. I have spoken about its vast territory, its small
population, and its almost infinite possibilities in many directions
of development. There remains one thing further to note--viz., the
possibilities of Queensland as a sugar-producing country. Already
this mere handful of population has developed the sugar industry in
a remarkable way. Last year, for example, there were nearly 131,000
acres of land under cultivation for sugar cane alone, and from this
nearly 171,000 tons of sugar (not cane) were produced. The industry
has already called into existence a monthly journal entirely devoted
to sugar interests. Turning over its pages we see what strides have
been made. Therein are named all kinds of machinery for dealing with
the product, from the moment when the farmer drives his plough into the
ground, until the moment when the cubes of white sugar issue from the
final cylinder of the refinery. Machines are now made for crushing the
cane at the rate of 830 tons per day.

It is not, however, to technical details of this kind that I invite
attention, but rather to one or two matters in connection with the
industry which will be interesting--i.e. the romance of growing and the
romance of refining the sugar.

Queensland, of all the Australian States, is capable of producing the
most sugar. The climate is tropical, the area is enormous. Hundreds of
square miles of land are awaiting cultivation. The door for genuine
workers is more widely open than ever before, _and open to the white
man_. But let it be understood that the pure white man who enters this
tropical territory will not long remain white. He may retain all the
instincts belonging to the white races, but his skin will be tanned,
darkened, and in course of time perhaps blackened, under the powerful
rays of the Northern sun. The white man, however, is entreated to
come. The policy of the Commonwealth, to preserve a “white Australia,”
whether mistaken or not, is the policy that is in force. Black labour
in the sugar plantations is a thing of the past. The Kanakas, formerly
imported from the South Sea Islands, have all been returned to their
native homes. Not a coloured man is permitted to work in Queensland.
The Government supports the white man in a practical manner by giving a
bounty on all sugar produced by pure white labour. This bounty, since
1905, amounts to £3 per ton of sugar--i.e. the finished product. The
grower is further supported by a protective duty of £6 per ton on all
foreign-grown sugar. But what about the consumer--the poor consumer?
Ah! there’s the rub. Protection secures excellent results to certain
people, but I have yet to learn that the consumer is “protected” by so
much as a farthing. The truth is that protection is most partial in its
working. The few benefit by it; the many suffer. The price of living is
rapidly increasing in the Commonwealth despite “Protection.” Australia
pays an excessive price for sugar. Why? Because the consumer is not
protected against the “ring,” which can fix any price it chooses for
the sale of a commodity, knowing full well that the protective tariff
effectually kills all competition. This, however, is a digression. I
was saying that the door is open in Queensland for the _white man_,
who, as a worker, has an unparalleled opportunity of piling up a modest
little fortune. And for this reason the day of the great plantation
has passed, and the day of the small holding has arrived. Formerly the
situation was--the large capitalist, the large plantation, a handful of
white men and a colony of “niggers.” That meant a colossal fortune for
the few and practical slavery for the many. But to-day the Government
has inaugurated a “Government Central Mill” system, and this has
meant the rapid breaking up of large estates and the establishment
of a number of small holdings. Nearly 6,000 persons are now engaged
in growing sugar-cane, and a race of independent white planters has
been settled on their own holdings. To quote the official notice,
“There never was a time in the history of Queensland when any person
desirous of becoming a sugar-cane farmer could find easier conditions
or greater facilities for success. The Government, the large planter,
and the big sugar mill owner are all ready to assist him to a start.”
A labourer--i.e. a cane cutter--can earn as much as 15s. a day, and if
he be a thrifty man he can save sufficient in a few years to commence
cane-growing on his own account. There is a great industry, then,
awaiting development in Queensland, and the natural people to undertake
it are our own kinsmen in the Old Land. It has been established that
white men can work in the North. Not _all_ white men, however. I
think I know a type of Englishman who would die of exhaustion were he
transported to the hot climate of Queensland. With the development of
the industry would come the question of markets. If Australia grows as
it should, a market would be found at home--a market at hand. But there
would also be a surplus for exportation. At present export markets
are found in New Zealand, the Cape, and Canada. The United Kingdom is
entirely barred. Englishmen, now accustomed to cheap sugar, would never
pay the price which Australians would be compelled to ask for it.

I had no idea how the sugar-cane grew until I saw it in Queensland.
Nor, for that matter, did I know how pineapples grew. Like many others,
I conceived the pineapple as growing upon trees. It was quite a shock
to find it growing after the manner of cabbages. Who would ever dream
that these tall, knotted bamboo sticks contained the sweet substance
which, when ground down and refined, appeared as sugar? Men, lightly
clad, enter the plantations armed with a kind of bowie-knife--their
weapon for severing the thick, heavy stalks of sugar-cane. The canes,
deftly cut, fall upon the ground, whence they are transported to
specially built trucks, and thus conveyed to one of the central mills
to be crushed into pulp and converted into raw sugar. From the mill
the raw material is sent in bags to the refinery, from which it issues
as an edible article. By the courtesy of the manager of the Brisbane
Sugar Refinery Company, we were allowed to follow the entire process
of preparing the sugar for the market. In a huge storeroom there were
piled some thousands of sacks of raw sugar, recently arrived from the
mill. These white sacks arose, tier upon tier, like huge cliffs. But
before the material is handled by the workers it is analysed and tested
by the chemist. In a well-furnished laboratory there reposed all manner
of chemicals, and weights and measures, and test-tubes. All the raw
material entering the refinery is carefully examined and classified.
For there are no fewer than twenty different kinds of sugar which pass
under the chemist’s observation. Chemistry has revolutionised the sugar
industry. Waste is reduced to the minimum. The loss in working amounts
to only two per cent. What was formerly thrown away has now become
an important article of commerce. By-products have been created. The
unwritten motto in the laboratory is, “Gather up the fragments which
remain, that nothing may be lost.” It was the chemist himself--this
magician who can work miracles--who was kind enough to explain the
whole system of working to us. The sugar is first of all weighed,
and, said the foreman, with a pardonable touch of pride, “_the mill
accepts our weights_.” The community is too simple, too small, too
dependent to have yet developed the fine art of robbery and lying.
Weighed, it is then emptied down a grating, as if it were sand rather
than sugar. By ever-ascending machinery the raw sugar is then carried
up a flue to an overhead copper, into which it is poured. The sacks,
instead of being shaken, are put through a machine which extracts from
them the last farthing’s-worth of sweetness. The pouring of the raw
sugar into the coppers is attended by a fine dust-storm, the particles
of dust being sugar. It is a world of sweetness into which we have
entered; the very atmosphere is impregnated with sugar. The odour is
that of Demerara, the perfume of the forbidden cupboard of our youthful
days. And to the perfumed atmosphere is added the hum of whirling
machinery. It is sugar set to music. From the copper the mass passes
into a hopper, where it is mixed with syrup. Thence it is poured into
centrifugal machines whose violent revolutions separate liquid from
solid, and leave behind in the pans a purer grain. Partially refined,
the changing mass is discharged by means of shoots into melting-vats
below. Water is now added, and a strange liquor, anything but like
sugar, is formed. The metamorphosis proceeds, mocking and bewildering
as metamorphoses generally are. Half-drowned in liquor, the inebriated
sugar is pumped up into adjusting pans, from which it goes on to the
filters, where the separation of mechanical impurities from the
sugar in solution takes place. At the very summit of the refinery the
filters repose. These great vessels are filled with bone charcoal
which has been subjected to the terrific temperature of 4,000 degrees
Fahrenheit. Under this frightful heat all organic matter has been
entirely destroyed. Through this mass of charcoal the liquid sugar
passes--a depth of twenty feet--and when it emerges at the bottom the
liquor is purified. But it is not yet sugar. The pure liquor which
runs into the tanks consists of 60 per cent. sugar and 40 per cent.
water. Now the task is to evaporate the water and leave behind the pure
sugar. To accomplish this, the whole mixture is poured into a vacuum
pan, in which the water is condensed. The evaporation over, a granular
mass is left behind. This mass then falls into other tanks, where it
is continually stirred by mechanical levers to prevent it becoming
spoiled. Then, again, the centrifugal machine is requisitioned, and
the sugar is finally dried. There remains but one stage more--the
roasting--and then through an opening in the last cylinder the white
sugar falls upon the board.

It is all so simple, yet so complicated. And it is immensely
fascinating. The human hand does not touch the product from beginning
to end of the refining process. Machinery--as nearly intelligent as
machinery can ever be--accomplishes the whole. And then my comrade
points a moral. He contrasts this scientific and humane work with those
old clumsy and brutal methods which prevailed on plantations of other
times. Then the laws of sanitation were unknown, or disregarded. Human
feet did what steel does to-day. Dirty hands touched what even clean
hands to-day never touch. And then there was the whip, the oath, the
kick, and often the thin stream of red blood running down the face or
the neck of the negro. The world has changed, thank God! Things are
not wholly going to the devil. There is a history of ever-broadening
humanity concealed in the story of the romance of sugar.



CHAPTER XI

THE AUSTRALIAN WINTER AND SPRING


The seasons in Australia are, of course, the exact reverse of those in
England. The longest day in England is the shortest day in Australia,
and vice versa. June 21st is Australia’s midwinter day; December 21st
is midsummer day. The seasons are not so strongly divided from each
other in Australia as in England.

In early September, when the days in the dear Old Country contract and
the nights lengthen, spring bursts suddenly upon Victoria; the days are
sensibly longer and the nights are shorter. “Burst” is the proper word
to employ. No soft and sweet herald announces in advance the coming
of spring. One day it is winter, the next day it is spring. It is an
act of seeming magic. Without warning, the new life, which has lightly
slumbered during the brief winter, awakens to new beauty. Here in my
garden the tiger lily is in full flower, while narcissi, geraniums,
wallflowers, orchids, daffodils, and whole riot of fragrant flowers
are as advanced as if we were already in the fullness of summer. My
five fig-trees are in the high tide of pushing life; the vines are
putting forth bud and leaf, peaches are in full blossom, and orchard
and gardens are a panorama of loveliness. This is a new kind of spring
to an Englishman; it takes one’s breath away by its swiftness. After
the slow approach of the English spring, this rapid appearance of new
life appears to be a little unreal. For all that it is most acceptable.
The Australians are glad to welcome it. They have had what they call
a terrible winter. Apologetically, they remark that this has been the
worst winter they have experienced for very many years. Dear spoiled
children! They do not know what a bad winter means. One little frost we
have had, with its legacy of thinnest ice, which the children treasured
as if it had been a marvel unheard of before. During this “terrible
winter” we have had fewer than a dozen fires in the drawing-room, and
on ten days only has it been chilly enough to necessitate an overcoat.
Every day have I sat at work in my study with the window wide open
and never the suspicion of a fire in the grate. True, rain has fallen
heavily, and on the heights far away from the city there has been a
coating of snow. At Ballarat and other places, situated at an elevation
of 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the sea, snow has fallen heavily, and the
good old game of snowballing (so rare in Australia) has been indulged
in. But that is an exception. The winter, from my point of view, has
been marvellously mild. The heavy rains have been a godsend, and have
insured a great harvest of wheat and fruit.

In the country around Melbourne, to a distance, say, of forty miles,
spring has rendered the entire landscape indescribably beautiful.
By the banks of the river the wattle is growing in all the glory of
its yellow life. There is nothing in the Old Country exactly like
the wattle. The blossom resembles mimosa glorified, but it grows on
trees which resemble the laburnum tree. Its round, fluffy flower is a
miracle of delicacy. The orchards offer a scene of beauty difficult to
describe but impossible to forget. Imagine, if you can, what it must
be like--a hill-side covered with over seven thousand apple trees in
full blossom. This is the great country of apples. One grower, who
indulges in the business as a pastime--his fortune being gained in
other directions--sent home to England last year over two hundred and
fifty thousand pounds’ weight of apples. What a larder is that in the
Old Country to fill! And apples are so plentiful that in Melbourne, in
the season, they sell for half a crown per case of forty pounds.

One of the “show” places nearest to Melbourne is Healesville, situated
in the heart of the hills, and in the early spring a place of beauty.
It is a miniature Switzerland. Mount Juliet is capped with cloud, and
an ordinary imagination suffices to pretend that beyond the mystery of
the hidden summit there lie great ranges of snow-crowned peaks. On the
other side of the valley the slopes of the mountains are covered with
tall trees, which it is easy to pretend are pines.

In the centre of that vast solitude we stand listening to the rush
of waters in the depths of the valley, and ever turning our eyes to
the heights which allured and awed us. Beyond Healesville the “bush”
commences, and into it we penetrate for several miles. The trees,
for the most part, are evergreen, so that the coming of spring makes
little difference to the general appearance of the scene. But in the
undergrowth the charm of new life unfolds itself on every hand. Giant
tree-ferns fling out new-green fronds at the top of their imposing
pedestals, many of which are twenty feet high. The spectacle of immense
ferns spread out after the fashion of an umbrella is quite unique. The
giants of the bush--the great gum trees--are wonderfully impressive.
Many of these eucalyptus trees are two hundred feet in height. In fact,
Victoria boasts of possessing the largest trees in the world. Their
height and girth are enormous.

Yet there is a tragedy of the bush! We drove through a charming valley
in which the hand of death was manifest. Last summer these enormous
trees and this dense bush were subjected to their baptism of fire. On
a summer afternoon, when all Nature lay panting in the heat, suddenly
a tongue of red flame shot up from the midst of the bush. It was the
work of some careless smoker who had thrown down his lighted vesta
into a heap of dry fern, or perhaps it was a spontaneous outbreak due
to the terrible heat. But when that red signal was announced the doom
of the forest was sealed. Useless for mortal man to attempt to fight
a bush fire. There was nothing possible but to ascend an eminence and
watch the frightful billows of fire pass over the forest until nothing
remained to consume. The flames ran along the ground, greedily licking
up every frond of fern, and bush of gum. The red tongues mounted the
giant eucalyptus, consuming their slender branches and picking off
their healing leaves. Masses of birds flew about in distress, as they
beheld their home destroyed. The roads were lined with rabbits, foxes,
and serpents, escaping from the fire. For days the furnace raged; and
then came the end, when a perfumed smoke, thick as black night, hung
over the country. This gradually became thinner, until finally its
last blue wreaths passed away, and Nature set herself to the work of
restoration. It is a terrible sight to behold these giant trees scarred
and half calcined, fit only, it would seem, for the axe and the saw.
Yet the work of recuperation is both rapid and astonishing. Spring
has not disdained these wounded stalwarts. Green shoots have been
flung out everywhere, and embrace, as with affection, the blackened
and carbonised trunks whose doom was all but fixed. Nature, in this
spring mood and beauty, is like some fair maiden who clasps with her
soft arms the wrinkled neck of a father who has suffered grievous
misfortune on her behalf. Only the great trees show traces of the last
great fire. The undergrowth, reduced to ashes, has sprung up again as
by enchantment. But it will take years for the giant trees to recover
themselves. A bush fire inflicts an injury which is difficult to
repair. Yet it brings with it an immense boon. Often it accomplishes
in a week, in the way of clearing dense places, what the skill of man
could hardly accomplish in years. And it has this further advantage:
it makes the wattle grow. “After a fire comes the wattle.” The hard
seeds of the beautiful flowers are cracked by the heat, and their vital
principle is thus liberated for the purpose of growth.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the country the spring brings out the “pests”--the British
importations which misguided enthusiasts introduced into the
country--i.e. the sparrows, the rabbits, and the foxes. The countryside
is alive with them, and they do immense damage. The birds menace the
fruit trees, the rabbits the green stuff, and the foxes anything that
comes in their way. The fox was introduced for purposes of sport. In
turn he has turned sportsman, and holds in terror his master. The
indictment against the fox in Australia is a heavy one. In the Old
Country he is a slow breeder, and he is carefully guarded. Woe to
the luckless farmer who shoots him. My lord the squire will pay, to
a limited extent, the chicken bill rather than lose the fox. Here
there is not a farmer or a squatter who would not account it a special
providence to have the chance of shooting a fox. They give him no run.
Nothing less than sudden death satisfies them. Throughout the whole
year he fares well, but the spring-time is his great opportunity. He
pounces upon the newly born lambs, and kills three or four of them
for the pleasure of devouring the delicacy of their small tongues.
Generally the remainder of the little creature is left untouched.
Lamb’s tongue is what the fox seeks. Here, as at home, he will kill or
maim most of the occupants of the hen roosts. But, bolder than at home,
he devours ducks, swans, turkeys, and, cruellest of all, the beautiful
lyre bird. This fine creature, whose beauty demands that it should be
preserved, is being slowly exterminated by the fox, the crafty thief
that, with generations of murderous blood in its veins, has been
let loose amongst a bird population unable to defend itself. On the
side of the fox is hereditary experience; on the side of the birds
hereditary helplessness and want of suspicion. The contest is not fair.
The introducer of the fox into Australia is now regarded as a public
nuisance and an enemy of the soil.

And so, murder and beauty flourish side by side in this new country in
the spring-time. Here, as everywhere, it is a mystery of Nature, of
which the full solution is not yet given.

       *       *       *       *       *

The spring entices all the world out of doors. “Houses,” says the local
sage, “are not in this country built for residence; they are merely a
refuge when our true residence--the open air--is not available, owing
to climatic derangement.” Already people are dragging their beds on to
their balconies, where they sleep. The open air becomes a hostel in
which all the wise lodge.

The long beach, stretching for many miles between Melbourne and Black
Rock, becomes, for the greater part of the spring and summer and
autumn a huge encampment, where city workers, after the toil of the
day, spend their leisure. Besides the beach there are the parks and
public gardens, second to none in the world. Hundreds of people sleep
out at nights on verandas, in gardens, and upon the seashore. The cool
nights entice into the streets a multitude of people, who throng the
highways until midnight. English is, of course, the language that is
spoken, but the life that is lived is Continental. It is impossible for
anyone to be dull here in this summer climate. The sunshine has entered
into the people’s blood and inoculated it with merriment. Men live in a
garden of God, where every prospect pleases and only a few men are vile.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the spring advances and the summer approaches Australians are on
the move, bent on holiday making. It is here that the contrast between
England and Australia is seen to the advantage of the latter. There are
very, very few “workers” in Australia who are unable to afford a summer
holiday.

Surely never was there a people so enamoured of holidays as the
Australians. Upon the least excuse there is a public holiday. New
Year’s Day commences the recital. That is followed by “Foundation
Day” on January 31st, St. David’s Day in March, St. George’s Day in
April, Prince of Wales’s birthday in June, Separation Day in July, Bank
Holiday in August, Eight Hours’ Day in September, Cup Day in November,
and the King’s birthday in the same month. It is a formidable list,
extending over the various States. “The working man’s paradise” they
call Australia, and not without good reason. There is another side to
this, upon which I have yet to dwell, but just now the sunny side is
being emphasised.

From one point of view there is not the same variety of holiday resorts
in Australia as in England. How easy it is to cross from England to
France and Switzerland and Italy! And within twenty-four hours of
smoky, foggy London to be at peace under the shadow of Mont Blanc or
the Matterhorn. Or within sixty hours to enter the gateway of the
mysterious East at Tunis or Algiers! There is nothing resembling that
on the Australian side of the equator. The nearest great snow mountains
lie in New Zealand, five days’ steaming from Melbourne. But within
easy distance there are innumerable beauty spots which appeal to every
taste and every purse. The garden island of Tasmania is becoming every
year a greater favourite for many Victorians. Embarking on the steamer
late in the afternoon, the traveller finds himself at Launceston
early the next morning, and at Hobart a day later. And in that island
he finds a climate much more temperate than that of Victoria, and a
life more English than Australian. The salamander may easily run up
to Queensland, and within forty-eight hours of Melbourne find himself
in the lower tropics, amid sugar plantations, pineapple fields and
banana plots. The mountaineer may go to New South Wales to the Blue
Mountains, or to his own Buffalo range. While the ordinary person may
find what he will on seashore or in fern gully.

The great Port Phillip Bay is dotted with water-places, of which one
of the prettiest and most restful is Sorrento. Italian in name, it is
almost Italian in aspect. A tree which lines the beach resembles, at
a short distance, the olive trees for which Italy is so famous, and
the houses, often hidden in plantations, might well be taken for those
Italian retreats which lie around the Italian Sorrento. Sorrento has
the advantage of the bay and of the “back beach.” The bay is quiet,
retired, and excellent for family bathing. The “back beach”--i.e. the
ocean proper--is rugged, wild, restless. It has a majesty all its own,
and a danger to match its majesty. Its waters are treacherous. The
under-currents are strong and easily suck in the most powerful swimmer.
Worse than the currents are the sharks which abound in these waters.
They have the playful habit of dismembering venturesome people. Yet,
despite the danger, there are headstrong fools who swim out, exposing
themselves to attack. Recently a youth emerged from the water minus
a leg and two fingers; yet, incredible as it seems, on the very next
day other youths swam out into the very same sea and at the very same
place. Sometimes a shark is detained prisoner in some deep pool, and
then his fate is sealed. No pity is shown him; he is immediately shot.
It is a study in human nature to watch an old salt engaged in the task
of settling accounts with a shark. The process of dispatch is often
delayed, cruel revenge being taken upon the brute for the misdeeds of
his clan.

For my own part, I give the casting vote in favour of the fern gullies
rather than the sea. Can there be found anywhere fern _trees_ superior
to those which Victoria offers? Fern _trees_, observe. Giant ferns
grow to an immense height, after the manner of a palm. Their fronds
spread out at the top like a giant umbrella. These ferns are found in
gullies or little forests, and the spectacle they present is strikingly
beautiful. At Gembrook one enters a natural cathedral where the columns
are stately trees, whose interlacing branches form at the top a perfect
roof, and whose decorations are wonderful giant ferns, fuller of fronds
than any I have ever yet beheld. In the depths of this hidden place
there reigns a profound and almost painful silence, broken occasionally
by the sighing of the wind in the tops of the trees or by the screaming
of a pair of quarrelsome parrots. Here, within these walls of living
green, Nature seems to have her inner shrine. Men speak in whispers
to each other as they do in a cathedral. The awe of God possesses the
spirit. In that awful silence the soul of man speaks with the soul of
the world.

The railway line to Gembrook is a primitive construction, which well
matches the world through which it passes. The line is of a narrow
gauge, and it mounts ever higher until it reaches an altitude of many
hundreds of feet above the level of the sea. Throughout its length it
winds round and round, skirting modest precipices and passing through
avenues of trees. The scenery is indescribably beautiful. At many
points a vista opens up along which vast stretches of country appear,
hemmed in upon the horizon by the gleaming waters of the ocean. Nothing
that I have seen in Australia so much resembles a ride in Switzerland
as this journey from Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook. At the summit, on
a hot summer day, the air is keen and bracing, and in the hotel at
midsummer we found a fire blazing. This ride, apart from the charm
of the scenery, offers a study in colonisation. Part of the country
is the “bush” proper, left in all its native wildness. Everywhere we
found marks of the visit of that dreaded enemy, fire. Huge gum trees,
calcined and dreadful looking, stood out against the blue sky. Fierce
flames had ravaged the district, sparing nothing. Elsewhere we found
the work of clearing going on. Wooden chalets rose in the centre of the
bush, and around these men had commenced to group small fields already
yielding produce. Little by little the bush is disappearing under the
hands of small farmers. At one place we found a miracle in the way of
productiveness. Eighteen years ago a farmer purchased some hundreds of
acres of bush. It was one mass of “scrub,” as desolate a place as one
would find anywhere. To-day it is the first “nursery” in Victoria. Upon
its cleared ground thousands of fruit trees grow, and these are sent
all over the States. The soil is wonderfully rich. As we wound round
about the estate in the train, and observed these hundreds of acres
in cultivation, and reflected that all this work had been accomplished
within twenty years, the whole scene resolved itself into a mirror
of this great country. From scrub to fertility--it is the history of
Australia. And the best is yet to come, when an enlightened forward
policy will encourage immigration, and so arrange affairs that the vast
spaces of the biggest country in the world shall be filled with a happy
working population.



CHAPTER XII

BUSH HOLIDAYS


The ideal holiday in Australia is a holiday in the “bush.” There are
two Australias--one of the cities and towns; another of the country
and the bush. The “country” is the cultivated portion of the land,
reclaimed from desolation. In whichever direction the traveller passes,
he soon encounters the “country,” and begins to understand something of
the enormous wealth of the soil.

Great farms come into view, covered with a multitude of sheep and
oxen and horses. The soil in the north-east of Victoria is one of the
richest on this great continent. In many places all that is needed
is to fling the seed upon the soil, and harrow it in lightly, with
the certainty of a speedy and rich crop. Land that was bought but a
few years ago for £4 an acre now sells for anything from £50 to £150
an acre. And therein, perhaps, lies one of the great problems of
this country. It is the land problem. These immense spaces are not
divided amongst a multitude of small holders. They are the property
of a comparatively few men. A huge blunder was made when the country
was in the infancy of its development. Young Australia should have
profited by the example of the Old Country, and never have allowed a
land proprietorship like that which is the handicap of the Motherland.
The Governments are already perceiving their error, and land is
being repurchased for the State. They understand that no country can
prosper as it should while the land is at the disposal of a few men
who can command their own price, dictate their own terms, and gamble
in a commodity which cannot be increased in bulk. Now, happily, in
Victoria the large territories are being split up, and townships are
consequently springing up, consisting of men who woo the land to
fruitfulness. Towards Warrnambool the remnants of the clearing of
the bush are in evidence, thousands of gaunt trees, without leaf or
bark, white as phantom trees, stand in great spaces waiting to be cut
down. At their base runs the plough and the seed-planter. One day the
clearance will be completed, and this whole country, brought under
complete cultivation, will be among the most fertile in the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

One of the fairest holiday spots in Victoria is Lorne, where bush,
gully, and sea meet.

Primitive, retired, quiet, fifteen miles from a railway station,
reached by a difficult road which passes through the bush, Lorne is
the last word of holiday solitude combined with happy companionships.
No policeman is there; none is ever required; the doors and windows of
hotels and pensions are left open all night; there are no marauders to
fear. The wide balconies surrounding the pensions are transformed into
bedrooms at night, and men and women sleep out, while the sea quietly
croons to them throughout the period of darkness. And every wind brings
the scent of the eucalyptus to the sleeper. Lorne is a delightful
place--a combination of Devonshire and Switzerland; that is, of course,
on the small scale. The hills rise from the water’s edge very much as
Clovelly rises from the sea. The illusion that we are in Devonshire is
aided by the presence upon the table at every meal of clotted cream--a
dish beloved of Australians. The numerous hills surrounding Lorne,
with their zigzag paths and waterfalls and gullies, are reminiscent
of Switzerland, and here again the illusion is aided by the style of
the boarding-houses. For everything save the balconies recalls the
Swiss pension among the mountains. The fever of the city and the town
has never descended upon this retreat. There is no fear of man lying
upon bird or beast. The kangaroo and the wallaby do not move when the
visitor appears upon the scene. Even the snake leisurely crawls away
at the approach of the walker. As for the birds, they are a delight
to behold. Little creatures clad in the most gorgeous plumage gather
round our feet and pick up the crumbs we drop for them. They have
not the slightest fear of us. It is likely they have never heard the
detonation of a gun nor the bark of a pistol. Larrikins are barred--by
distance--from coming to Lorne; hence the birds have never been chased
by rude ruffians. St. Francis, if he came to Lorne, might easily
imagine that he had lighted upon some of his old brothers and sisters
who had not forgotten him. Besides these birds of beautiful plumage we
have our perennial friend the jackass, banished by rude noise from the
city, here entering into happy relations with us. Parties of laughing
jackasses perch on trees at our very door and make the house ring with
their infectious laughter. Life _al fresco_ for us as well as for them;
it is a magnificent change from the roar and nerve rack of the city.

Whoever comes to Lorne must walk. There is only one carriage excursion.
All other promenades are made on foot. The choice lies between the sea,
the mountain, and the gully. Few folk can resist the sport of cray
fishing amongst the rocks upon the shore. Once commenced, it becomes a
veritable fascination. They have a simple method of snaring the fish.
Two bamboo canes--to the end of one a decayed fish is lashed; to the
end of the other a loop of wire is attached--and that is all. But it is
not quite so easy as it looks. The art consists in lowering the bait
into the rock pool, where a crayfish may possibly hide. If the fish
is there, he smells the bait, and in a moment crawls out to seize it.
Then the second cane is lowered, and the loop passed under and around
the creature’s tail. Tickled by the wire, the fish curls his tail. That
action seals his doom. The wire loop is immediately tightened, and the
astonished crayfish, instead of regaling himself upon the bait, is
hauled up to the shore. It requires more than a little cleverness of
manipulation to ensnare the fish. There is no difficulty in enticing
it from its rocky fortress to attack the bait; the trouble is to
encircle the body with the loop.

The great excursions, however, are to the mountain and the gully.
Parties leave in the early morning, provided with luncheon and the
indispensable “billy” for tea. In every direction waterfalls and fern
gullies are found.

Excursions to these gullies rank among the most pleasant experiences of
a holiday. After a tramp of an hour or two through the “scrub,” a halt
is made for luncheon, and then the “billy” is boiled. The “billy” is
an Australian boiling-pot in which delicious tea is made. A suitable
spot is selected, stones are gathered upon which the pot is placed, and
then the “scrub” is searched for pieces of wood and dried fern. The pot
is surrounded with these and the fire is kindled. A muslin bag filled
with tea is immersed in the boiling water, where it remains for a few
moments. Then it is withdrawn and the tea is ready. I confess to having
had a great prejudice against “billy” tea at first. It seemed to me to
be only another form of the stewing-pot in the North of England, and to
be a deliberate invitation to dyspepsia. And now I have quite a liking
for it. Any who wish may try the experiment for themselves. The one
thing to avoid is keeping the muslin bag in the pot for too long a time.

The “bush” is being slowly conquered. Town and city folk hardly know
that it exists, so rapidly have the plough and the “forest devil”
cleared the ground in the great centres. But in many parts it still
offers great obstacles to pioneers. Where roads are not yet made, and
river beds not yet formed or deepened, life is by no means easy. At
a pension like ours in Lorne, where people from all over the State
assemble, some weird and curious stories are told by visitors of the
adventures which have befallen them. One of the most interesting was
related by a clergyman who has served in various parts of the State.
A few months ago he received a request asking him to marry a young
couple in the bush. The day was fixed, and he was preparing to ride
over to perform the ceremony, when suddenly a monsoonal storm burst
upon the landscape, and in a few hours the creek had become a river.
There was no means of telegraphic communication between the parson and
the bridegroom, but simultaneously each went out to meet the other,
directed by their sense of the fitness of things. They met at the
stream, but lo! the bride was missing; the swollen river had cut her
off. The ready bridegroom, however, was not easily daunted, and he had
no intention of postponing the wedding. While the clergyman waited
at the river bank the bridegroom rode off for his bride. The happy
pair arrived in due time, and both of them waded through the river
and presented themselves to be married. Dripping with water they were
made man and wife, and then, reentering the stream, they crossed it,
took to their horses, and rode off to commence their new career. There
have been many romantic marriages in the world, but none surely more
romantic than this.



CHAPTER XIII

SOME BUSH YARNS


In this our lazy midsummer holiday in February, our resting-place is
on the margin of the “bush.” As befits the occasion and the place, we
have laid in a stock of bush stories, and in particular we are yielding
ourselves to the enchantment of “We of the Never Never”--that frankly
true and weird story of life in the Northern Territory, where a man’s
nearest neighbour is sixty or ninety miles away. And then, just as we
finish the “Never Never” stories, there comes into our holiday life a
dear old soul who knows all about the “Never Never” country, who has
traversed its wilds and felt the strange pull of its life. She becomes,
happily for our party, reminiscent, and night after night we listen to
the recital of her adventures. Bordering upon seventy, her mind retains
the clearness almost of youth, and the simple life in the open has left
her face bronzed yet scarcely wrinkled, while her hair is as brown as a
woman’s in her thirties. It is difficult to realise that this quiet old
lady, well educated and mentally alert to all that is going on in the
Commonwealth to-day, commenced her career as a bush traveller, and has
wandered over thousands of miles of uninhabited country.

The spirit of adventure is in her blood. Her grandfather came out in
the vessel _Duff_ in 1796 as a missionary to the islands that lie to
the north of Queensland. Then there were real cannibals abroad, and a
white person was in peculiar peril. After a brave attempt to evangelise
these cannibals, the missionary found it necessary to remove to Sydney,
where he became evangelist and missionary to the scattered people in
the country round about. He had “assigned” to him one of the convicts
from Botany Bay, but this precious scoundrel, learning that a little
money was hidden in the house, conspired with another convict and made
a murderous attack upon his master. The “wee little wife”--she was
quite _petite_--rushed forward to assist her husband, and received upon
her arm a blow from a knife which laid bare the flesh to the bone. Both
husband and wife being left for dead, the robbers decamped, taking with
them all the money in the house. When the little woman recovered, she
seized her infant child and ran with him through the bush to Sydney,
seven miles distant, to seek aid. And that little fellow, who narrowly
escaped assassination, became the father of our delightful companion of
the “Never Never” adventures.

The grandfather and grandmother in the region around Sydney were
involved in many strange experiences in the early days of the
nineteenth century. Railways and roads, in the modern sense of the
word, were then unknown. Bush tracks were the only roads available
for travellers. Lawlessness was common enough, and very difficult
to suppress. England at that time was sending her convicts to Botany
Bay, as later to Van Diemen’s Land. Some of the convicts were villains
of the deepest dye; others were victims of iniquitous laws, and were
transported for the most trifling offences. Again and again the
convicts broke loose, and took to bushranging. They raided cattle
reaches, and drove off hundreds of beasts over the border. They “held
up” travellers in the approved Dick Turpin or Claude Duval style. Life
was held very cheaply then.

Persons who lived in the bush were always nervous when they had to go
into Sydney to pay money into the bank, or to withdraw it. One day a
“neighbour” of the missionary grandfather, learning that the latter was
driving into Sydney, begged him to bank a sum of five hundred pounds
for him. The commission was too dangerous, and it was declined. But
the wee little wife, with woman’s wit, hit upon a scheme for conveying
the money safely, and she accepted the commission. The buggy in which
they drove was high, and she, little woman, was very short, hence it
was necessary for her to have a footstool. Within the covering of
this footstool she sewed the bank-notes, and the journey commenced.
Within an hour of the time of starting they were “held up” by masked
bushrangers, who in the most polite manner requested husband and wife
to dismount while the buggy was thoroughly searched. The little lady
was assisted to the ground, and her footstool handed to her. Upon
this she sat, watching the robbers examine the buggy. When they were
satisfied they politely assisted her to the carriage, together with the
innocent stool, and then profusely apologised for the inconvenience
that had been caused. The story of the little lady’s wit is treasured
in the family, and is quoted against cynics who allege that
missionaries and their wives are deficient in the quality of sharpness.

Brought up in an atmosphere of adventure, it is not surprising that the
son of the old pioneer became in turn a traveller. When he married,
the “Never Never” country called to him, and in a few years he started
off, with his little family, upon a journey of two thousand miles.
Our versatile old friend who tells us the story was at that time a
girl of seven, and although sixty years have passed away since the
memorable adventure, the details of the scenes are still fresh in her
memory. First there was a kind of gipsy caravan in which the family
lived and slept when the weather was unpropitious, and in which the
stores were kept. Then came servants and cattle and horses, the latter
for use on the new homestead to which they were bound in the great
West, four months’ march distant. The roads were rough and perilous.
There was always the danger of the bushranger. And, most serious of
all, it was necessary never to lose sight of water. There was no
cross-country route available for the travellers; they were compelled
to come down from the north as far as Melbourne, and then turn again
north-west towards their destination. Melbourne was at that time a
mere collection of huts. Where flourishing suburbs now stand there was
the dense bush. In Melbourne itself a creek ran, and the gutters of
the streets were deep streamlets in which one might easily be drowned.
The whole region was wild and unsubdued. In the heart of the country
through which they passed the natives roamed at will, conquered though
uncivilised.

Sometimes they encountered hostile tribes arrayed in their warpaint,
and in search of an enemy to kill. For one of their superstitions
was that the death of any young tribesman must be surely due to the
evil influence of another tribe, and when such a death occurred the
warriors would go forth to kill some black or other--it did not matter
who he was--so that equilibrium might be restored. Once our travellers
encountered a band of warriors in search of a black to kill, and they
had evidently determined to dispatch the native belonging to the
caravan. For three days the poor fellow lay hidden in the van, fearing
to show himself, and for three days the warriors waited for their prey.
At last the discharge of a gun, with a fall of birds, convinced them
that it would be imprudent to remain longer in the neighbourhood of
this new “debbel debbel” which could evidently kill birds and might
kill them. The journey was continued amid profound stillness, which
was broken only by the screaming of parrots and the laughter of the
jackass. On one of its stretches the travellers were three weeks
without encountering a solitary human being, and then they lighted upon
a shepherd, whom they were ready to embrace.

Every week the horses were allowed two rest-days. Saturday was the
recognised washing-day. Although the travellers were “going bush,” the
cleanly habits of civilisation were strictly observed, even to the
ironing of clothes. And the little girl of seven with astonishment
watched her mother convert the tail-end of the caravan into an
ironing-board. Sunday was observed in a Christian manner. There was
always a service, the father reading the Anglican prayers and lessons
to his family and attendants.

And then one day, after four months of continuous travelling, the new
homestead came into view. The woman’s heart sank within her as she
beheld the new “home” to which they had come. It was little more than a
barn, with great gaps between the boards. And the very first thing she
beheld upon entering the bedroom was a tiger snake gliding into a hole.
Did ever woman have such a welcome to a new home? But it was the “Never
Never” country, and homesteads there boast no luxuries. But lo! when
a few months had passed a true home was formed; a man’s labour and a
woman’s deft fingers had combined to make a cosy dwelling, in which our
little girl of seven grew up to womanhood.

The bush is not everywhere so rough as this. Times have changed and
civilisation has altered the aspect of things. Our dear old grandmother
companion of the “Never Never” has a son in North Queensland who lives
in comparative luxury. His house is three hundred and fifty miles from
the nearest railway station, yet he has electric light throughout the
house, and boiling water laid on to bath and sinks. That, however,
is because Nature has been kind to him. Seven years ago, when he
went to his farm, he bored for water, and lo! an artesian well shot
up a column of water to a height of 250 feet above the ground, and
the water was boiling. And for seven years that flow has continued
without diminution. It has already formed a huge lake more than a mile
in width. The bush has a strange fascination for anyone who has once
fallen under its spell. It has happened more than once that a kindly
disposed Englishman has taken compassion upon a native baby and had
it brought up in English fashion, clothed and educated as an English
lad. And one thing has always happened when the lad reaches the age of
eighteen or nineteen. He hears the call of the bush, and one day he is
missing. Nature asserts herself as stronger than civilisation, and the
lad is off to his true habitat.

Even with Englishmen and Australians the spell, once cast, remains. Our
“Never Never” friend has another son who “went bush” for ten years, and
then, weary of it as he thought, he came to Melbourne and entered a
house of business. In less than a year he was back in the bush, unable
to resist its call. For five years they have heard no word of him. But
he is there somewhere in the North on a station, and one day he will
write or suddenly reappear. The bush plays sorry tricks with men.

Slowly the “scrub” is being cleared. Great forest fires consume the
wood and undergrowth of hundreds of square miles of land, thus
making it easier for men to exact from the soil the toll to which
they are entitled. The day must come when there will be no “bush.”
When Australia has its transcontinental railways, from Melbourne to
Fremantle and on to Port Darwin, and when an adequate population
arrives, then the bush will be replaced by cities and farms and
gardens. For there can be no doubt that Australia is a garden of Eden,
and that its chief need is men to till the soil and to replenish the
earth. And when there is true unity in Australia, and a common-sense,
God-fearing and united Central Government, the real move forward will
have begun.



CHAPTER XIV

A HONEYMOON IN THE BUSH


It is to one of the most highly esteemed citizens of Melbourne that I
owe the following thrilling narrative. He is a gentleman whose personal
service, influence, and money have for many years been freely used for
philanthropic, evangelistic, and general Church work. He is one of my
own personal friends. It is necessary to say this at the outset as a
guarantee of the truthfulness of the story which I am about to relate.
Otherwise the reader might be excused for believing that a parson,
hitherto without stain upon his character for veracity, had suddenly
turned romancer, or that his former shrewdness had deserted him,
leaving him the victim of a picturesque story-teller.

I have heard this particular story at least half a dozen times. It has
always held me fascinated, and stirred in me what is left of the old
Spanish blood--that thirst of adventure which belongs to men of the
Peninsula.

The hero is now past 70. He will not be here during many more years to
tell by word of mouth to a new generation the astonishing tale of the
great adventure forty-three years ago. It is somewhat unfortunate that
the date of the occurrence was the first of April, but there is nothing
of the _poisson d’Avril_ in the narrative.

Figure to yourself, then, a tall, well-built Englishman, thirty years
of age, out in Australia for the second time--recently married and out
upon a honeymoon which combined the romance of love with the quest for
a home in the Queensland bush. The young husband and wife had with them
for companion the brother of the bridegroom, and they were journeying
north to take possession of a sheep station in North Queensland. From
Melbourne to Rockhampton they travelled by steamer. There civilisation
ended. The distance between Rockhampton and Oakey Creek--their
destination--was 170 miles. The roads were simply bush tracks; the
rivers were unbridged. The unsubdued country provided excellent cover
for the lawless bushrangers, who spared neither life nor property.

Three horses were purchased, two of which were harnessed to an American
express wagon. The third horse was saddled for riding. It was a modest
caravan that left Rockhampton, comprising tent, baggage, food, gun,
axe, and sundries. The young bride, already tasting the joys and
romance of wedded love, set out for a new romance, which, had she been
able to forecast it, would never have been adventured. The rainy season
was drawing to a close; the weather was dry and the roads good. There
was no appearance of floods. In the tropics the atmospheric changes are
often startling. It was not long before a deluge of rain descended,
rendering locomotion exceedingly difficult on account of the softening
black soil. The first great creek, generally easy to cross, presented
a difficult problem on account of the steep and slippery wet banks,
up which the team could scarcely climb. When the plateau was gained,
the travellers determined to unyoke for the night. The married pair
slept as best they could in the wagon, while the odd person, clad in a
blanket, reposed under the wagon.

The next day a fourth horse was secured, in order that the wagon
might be moved, the task being impossible for three horses on account
of the heavy roads. Still the rain descended, causing rivers and
creeks to rise in flood. The river at Yaamba, twenty-five miles from
Rockhampton, was only just passable. The wagon had to be unloaded, and
the impedimenta all packed on the backs of the horses. After several
days’ marching at a distressingly slow rate, the travellers reached the
Mackenzie River, which was in full flood. Oakey Creek, the future home
of the newly married couple, lay only forty miles away. But between
them and safety lay the formidable water, and, what was worse, possible
starvation, for all the rations were exhausted, and the obtaining of
further supplies seemed out of the question. They were in the heart
of a country practically uninhabited. The cattle stations sometimes
lay at a distance of forty miles from each other. The trio passed
just one family of kind-hearted Scotch folk, who could not, however,
replenish the exhausted larder, since they were cut off from their
own supplies by the dangerous floods. The only thing to be done was
to attempt to cross the river in the native manner. This consisted in
stripping large sheets of bark from the gum trees, fastening them at
the ends, and making them watertight with stiff clay. A rude canoe
was thus formed. The canoes were made, but the horses refused to swim
across the seething waters; so the canoes were abandoned. It was then
decided to leave the horses, wagon, and baggage on the bank of the
river while the three travellers crossed to the other side in a frail
canoe. The brothers went first to test the strength of this primitive
boat. The bridegroom then returned for his bride. And now came a
misfortune. In crossing the river the second time the single improvised
paddle was jerked from the hand of the rower by a snag. In a moment
the little barque, with its two occupants, was at the mercy of the
swirling waters. Round and round they whirled in the centre of the
stream, driven and drawn by the force of the current. The brother on
the opposite bank was helpless. For the length of a mile the canoe was
dragged by the stream, until at last it dashed against a tree and began
to sink.

Foreseeing the catastrophe, the bridegroom had flung off all his
clothes except a Crimean shirt, and at the moment of the impact, when
the canoe commenced to sink, he seized the rein of a bridle and flung
it over the projecting bough of a tree which itself was swaying in the
current. This refuge being insecure, and another tree being descried
a few yards away, the bridegroom seized in his teeth the neckerchief
of his bride, and, entering the water, swam with her to the tree. In
turn this tree was found to be insecure, and the pair, repeating the
experiment, swam to yet another tree. It was then six o’clock at night,
and darkness was rapidly coming on. On a lower bough the wife, and on
a higher bough the husband, spent that interminable night. There they
clung, the husband clad only in one garment, the wife with clothes wet
to her skin, and both suffering from hunger. It says much for British
pluck that they spent the night in singing all the hymns and songs
they could remember in order to keep awake. To make matters worse,
two or three heavy thunderstorms burst over them during the night.
The tropical lightning played around them, and the drenching rain
poured over their exposed bodies. Their pluck never failed them. The
bridegroom declares to this day that they seemed immune from all fear.
_He_ cannot give a reason for it--probably a psychologist could.

When dawn came--and never dawn came so slowly--the pair consulted as
to the next step to be taken. They elected to be strapped together,
and either to drift down stream together to a place of safety, or
else to perish together. The final struggle was before them, and, for
life or death, they would take it together. So into the water they
passed, and, lo! the water being warmer than the night air, a new
sense of vigour came to them. Several times the bride went under the
water, but at length they reached the bank. They landed in an unknown
country. Around them was a dense scrub, into which they plunged in
the hope of finding a track leading to some cattle station. The sun
was obscured, and they had no means of taking their bearings, so they
were compelled to return to the river, along the course of which they
walked. Hour after hour they trudged through the dense growth, until
at last they struck a bush track. Then it was that the strength of the
bride gave way, for a time at least. Picture to yourself this pair:
the man clad only in a Crimean shirt, bespattered with mud; the woman
hatless, nearly bootless, the leather having been worked up into a
pulp, and she also covered with mud and wet through. The wife was too
exhausted to proceed, so the husband went forward alone to explore.
Following the cattle track, he arrived in course of time at a mob of
working bullocks, and soon afterwards came to their owners. These rough
bush workers provided the one a pair of moleskin trousers, another a
sou’wester, and a third a pair of boots, which, however, could not be
worn, so swollen and cut were the man’s feet. Provisions even here were
at a discount, being reduced to one pancake on account of the flood;
but, with true bush generosity, this last article of food was handed
over to the starving man. Three men went in quest of the wife. When
they reached the spot where the husband had left her, she was not to
be found. She had fallen asleep, and, suddenly awaking in a delirium,
had wandered into the bush to hide from black stumps which her excited
fancy had mistaken for natives. The bushmen promptly conducted the pair
to their encampment, where a bed was made for them out of long grass.
For nine days they were compelled to wait while the river subsided.
During this time they lived chiefly on stewed parrots and maize.

After the subsidence of the swollen river, the first thing was to
search for the brother, who had completely dropped out of view. He was
found a few miles away. The rest of the story need not be told. Suffice
it to say that at length their bush station was reached and their home
established.

Months afterwards, when the river was at its lowest, the husband
and wife visited the scene of their peril, and found the tree upon
which they had spent that eventful night. They took a plank from the
tree, and of it made a casket, upon which a silver plate was affixed
containing the story of the great adventure.

       *       *       *       *       *

That was forty-three years ago. The bride “passed over” a few years
ago; the aged bridegroom still survives to tell his grandchildren the
story of that wonderful night. Since that day the railway has come, and
the whole country has been opened up. The modern settler has an easy
time of it compared with the settler of those days. There are certain
parts of the country where life is still hard, and where it might be
nearly as difficult to cross a river as it was for that pair nearly
half a century ago. Episodes of this order, however, are becoming more
and more rare, and the day is rapidly approaching when Australia will
be as easy to traverse as is America, which in parts was once as wild
as the bush under the Southern Cross. When the age of ease and luxury
arrives, the children of that time should be told how difficult was
the task of the pioneers, and how great the dangers to which they were
exposed.



CHAPTER XV

THE HIGHWAYMEN OF THE BUSH


A country spacious and sparsely inhabited. A land where men found gold
or reared cattle. A remote part of the world into which Dame Fashion
dare not penetrate. And, above all, a domain dominated by the terrible
bushranger. Such was my earliest conception of Australia. Such is the
conception of it which still obtains in the minds of thousands of
British people. And how different is the reality! The country certainly
is spacious and sparsely inhabited. Men also get gold and rear cattle,
but not as once they did. The days of finding are over. And as for Dame
Fashion, she is very much in evidence. She is more audacious here than
anywhere else, except it be Paris.

But it is of the bushranger that I propose to write; the bushranger
who _was_, even as late as thirty years ago, but who now no longer
exists. The swaggering villain of the time-honoured novel who entered
an Australian bar and “held up” proprietor and patrons, and having
robbed them took to the road again, he has ceased to be. The last
stand made by bushrangers was at Beechworth, amongst the hills. It is
an enchanting country, full of natural wealth and beauty: a place
hidden from the eyes of the crowd, but sought by tired town-dwellers,
who, weary of dust and noise, aspire after a period of repose in a
spot where the air is a veritable elixir of life, and where the earth
laughs with flowers and fruits. High as is Beechworth, oranges and
lemons grow there. But, despite its attractions, the town is beginning
to die. This is the tragedy of Australia--that small towns which were
called into existence through the finding of gold begin to perish as
soon as the gold is exhausted. The mines are closed down; the miners
depart; shopkeepers lose their patrons, and they, too, are compelled
to put up the shutters. The city grows, the small country mining towns
diminish, and all because the mining towns had only mining upon which
to depend. Beechworth sprang into existence in a day as the result of
the discovery of gold in the locality. Thousands of men smitten with
the gold fever poured into the township and searched for the precious
metal. Men became rich in a few weeks. The few who went to church
thought nothing of placing upon the collection-plate a nugget of gold
when a special appeal for help was made. The rest lavished their money
upon all kinds of objects. Bars, it goes without saying, flourished.
The saloon-keepers asked what price they liked for liquor, and they
always obtained it without demur. A “treat round” has more than once
cost £40, which was cheerfully paid. In ten years’ time a saloon-keeper
could retire on a handsome competence. Gold was accounted nothing
of--it was so plentiful. The first member of Parliament for Beechworth
signalised the occasion of his election by riding through the streets
of the town upon a horse whose four shoes were made of solid gold. Then
came the reaction. The claims were worked out, the miners departed,
and Beechworth is suffering. Yet commissioners say that there is more
gold left in Beechworth than ever was taken from it, but it is to
be obtained at greater cost of money and trouble than formerly. No
longer can men dig up the quartz from a foot or two below the surface
of the ground. Shafts must now be sunk. But the gold is there for the
enterprising.

Gold and bushrangers! There is an affinity between the two. But for the
presence of the one, the others would not have come into existence.
Beechworth, fair in situation and rich in minerals, was once the centre
of the operations of the most desperate gang of bushrangers Australia
has ever known. I heard the story from the lips of the “oldest
inhabitant,” a vigorous old Scotsman who has passed his eighty-fourth
year, and who retains a clear memory and a youthful spirit. He was
one of the magistrates who tried the members of the terrible “Kelly
gang.” He pointed out the place where stood the prison in which the
precious scoundrels were incarcerated. With pride he conducted us to a
rock which is named after him--Ingram’s Rock--from which we obtained a
marvellous panorama of a hilly country extending many miles in every
direction. And there, deep down in the dell, lay caves and other
hiding-places in which the thieves found shelter from the harassing
police and soldiery. We stood in the heart of the bushrangers’ country.

The story of that time, when told to-day, makes the flesh shiver. As we
surveyed the beautiful landscape, and shared the deep tranquillity of
hill and dale, we found it difficult to believe that only thirty years
ago this countryside was at the mercy of three or four desperadoes,
who kept the inhabitants in a state of continual terror. Three or
four men--Irishmen--armed with guns and revolvers, raided where they
pleased, killed whom they pleased, and lived as they pleased. Soldiers
and police alike were foiled by them, and when they were at last taken
it was more by accident than design. Dick Turpin, so far as England is
concerned, belongs to a past age. “Dom Q” may be still wandering in
some guise or other amongst the Spanish mountains. But that a small
band of Irishmen should, at the end of the nineteenth century, and upon
British territory, continue the exploits of the old-world robbers is
almost incredible.

The father of the Kellys--for such was the name of the gang--was an
Irishman and a Roman Catholic who came over from the Emerald Isle with
the reputation of being an “informer.” His son Ned--the “terror” of
the gang--was a handsome young fellow, who, with his brothers, found
it much easier to live upon the produce of other people than to work
honestly for his own living. He became a professional cattle-stealer,
was caught and imprisoned. Released from jail, he threw off all
restraint and took to the bush as a robber. Bushrangers had been
common for many years, but at last the race was beginning to thin out.
The Kellys determined to revive the gory glory of the ancient times.
The country around Beechworth afforded them excellent cover, while
the towns and scattered houses and “stations” offered them as much
plunder as they desired. A murder was the signal for departing from
civilisation and taking to the adventures of the bush. Despite the fact
that the countryside was alarmed, and that the police were scouring the
country in search of the outlaws, these last continued their robbing
profession with almost unbelievable coolness. One day they entered the
National Bank at Euroa at a time when many of the inhabitants of the
town were at a funeral. They were well dressed, with no suggestion of
the outlaw about them. Covering the clerks with their revolvers, they
demanded all the cash the bank contained, the sum amounting to nearly
£2,000. Then, gathering the entire staff of the bank together, they
bade the manager harness a horse and prepare a carriage. And there
issued from the bank premises a buggy containing the manager, with his
wife and children, together with a cart containing the robbers and the
plunder. All were driven to Faithfull’s Creek, where the prisoners were
entertained by the thieves until such time as the latter thought fit
to leave them, which they did at nightfall. The manager of the bank
and his family found their way back to the town as best they could.
Meanwhile, the Kellys were safely hidden in one of their favourite
places of concealment. For cool daring this exploit has not often been
surpassed.

They stopped at nothing. When, after another murder, the police started
in a special train to a place where the Kellys were known to be, the
robbers raced across the country to a spot where the train had to pass.
They commandeered the stationmaster, and afterwards some platelayers
to destroy the railway, and so to wreck the coming train. Luckily,
however, the disaster was averted. One of the outlaws’ prisoners
managed to escape and possess himself of a candle, a red scarf, and
matches. With these for danger signals, he reached the railway as the
train was approaching, and, lighting the candle, held the red scarf
in front of it. The device was successful. The strange red light was
seen, and the train drew up a few yards away from the place of danger.
Meanwhile, the robbers had achieved the daring business of imprisoning
in a large hotel a number of citizens who might have made trouble had
they been at liberty. Driven in to the number of sixty-two, they were
held at bay by four outlaws, who, by force of arms and reputation,
were masters of the situation. The robbers were by this time clad in
armour made from stolen ploughshares by a local blacksmith. Head,
chest, back and sides were protected by this clumsy metal. Strangely
enough, the robbers had not thought of covering their legs, and it
was in that vulnerable spot that the chief of the gang was hit. The
hotel, within and without, was wrapped in darkness when the armed
police appeared and opened fire upon it. Unaware of the fact that women
and children were prisoners in the hotel, the police poured into the
building a deadly fire from their rifles. When it was discovered by
the shrieks of the wounded that the innocent were being struck, firing
ceased. Then the non-combatants left the building, and the police and
the enemy were left to the work. The scene was an anticipation of the
Sidney Street affair in London two years ago, when hundreds of police
and soldiers laid siege to two anarchists, who held them for a whole
day at bay. Despite the rifle-fire, the outlaws did not yield. One
of them, indeed--the leader--managed to escape in the darkness. But,
reappearing, he was shot in the legs, and his fighting career was
over. The other three remained in the house, stubbornly refusing to
surrender. Then at last the police decided to set fire to the house,
and either burn out or burn up their enemies. When the fire subsided,
the charred remains of two of the robbers were discovered amidst the
ruins of the building. How they died will never be known. The survivor
was taken to Melbourne, condemned to death, and hanged. And on the
evening of the day of the execution the sister of the robbers appeared
upon the stage of a Melbourne music-hall.

It is an amazing story. Only in the Wild West or in Australia of that
day could such a series of events have occurred.

With the passing of the Kellys, bushranging practically ceased.
It took a long time to calm the nerves of the populace, for it was
believed that other scoundrels of the same type were abroad, quite
ready to repeat the exploits of the gang recently broken up. All fear
has long since departed. That phase of Australian life has disappeared
for ever. The people to fear to-day are not bushrangers, but languorous
men who dread the discipline of hard work, and who refuse to contribute
their share to the making of a great country.



CHAPTER XVI

A SQUATTER’S HOME AND DAUGHTER


It was the first time I had seen a real live squatter and his daughter,
and the spectacle produced quite a shock. It was so unexpected, so
utterly contrary to all that I had imagined. Every living word conveys
an image to the mind of him who employs it, and I had my own notion of
what a squatter was. This was derived, at an early age, from reading
books on Colonial life, and later from the unflattering description
given by Darwin in his “Voyage Round the World.” Mr. Darwin described
a squatter as “a freed, or ticket-of-leave man, who builds a hut with
bark on unoccupied ground, buys or steals a few animals, sells spirits
without a licence, receives stolen goods, and so at last becomes rich
and turns farmer; he is the horror of all his honest neighbours.”

Now, such a person is hardly to be desired as an acquaintance, and
when I went out to Australia I firmly determined to give any squatter
that I might encounter as wide a berth as possible. But time brought
disillusionment. I began to see persons in Melbourne who were pointed
out to me as retired squatters. They were gentlemanly in appearance,
splendidly dressed, well-mannered; they stayed at the best hotels,
and some of them went to church. I began to hear stories of wonderful
mansions, splendidly furnished, of sons and daughters going to the
university, and the like, and the truth gradually dawned upon me that
there must be squatters _and_ squatters; and that in squatting, as in
everything else, there had been some remarkable developments.

And then I met this girl, and the truth stood revealed. She was of
Scotch descent, and her grandfather, having come from the Highlands
of Scotland and settled upon the land, had made a fortune, which had
passed into the hands of his son, and this girl’s father. I met her in
the drawing-room of a Free Church elder; she was staying in the house
as his guest. Beyond the fact of possessing a rosy complexion, which
advertised perfect health, gained through an outdoor life, there was
absolutely nothing to indicate that this girl had been born and reared
in the wilds of Australia, far away from human habitation. She was
dressed in the smartest style; she had just finished a boarding-school
education in one of our large cities; she could drive a motor-car
with any chauffeur, and she was as much at home in a modern city
drawing-room as she had been on that vast homestead in the far-away
north.

I confess myself to have been astonished with this amazing blend of a
perfect child of Nature and a perfect woman of the world. Were Darwin
still with us, he would have to rewrite his description of a squatter.

This girl unveiled to us the secrets of her bush home. She told us
a story of life that sounded almost incredible. Reclining upon a
deck-chair, she laughingly poured out a stream of talk about that
northern home of hers. So remote from our life did hers seem to be,
that one might have been excused for believing that, by some chance or
other, she had really come down from Mars. Far away in the north-west
corner of Australia lies the estate upon which this child was born
and reared, and to which, her term of schooling being over, she has
now returned. Her father’s land consists of a trifling _two million
acres_--that is all. Think of it--two million acres! There is no
exaggeration about the figures. And all this land in the hands of one
man! Being quick at figures, I began at once to calculate how many
homesteads of liberal size might be founded upon a territory so vast
as this. How many small towns might be created! How many industries
spring into being! How many congested areas in the great cities of
England might be relieved by means of a population transferred to these
enormous spaces! Two million acres! It takes a little time for the idea
to soak into the mind.

The nearest railway station to this homestead is 219 miles away.
Formerly the journey between the station and the home occupied three
days, by carriage or horse. The camel train occupied a longer time.
Now, even in that remote region, the motor-car has arrived, and the
time of transit has been reduced to one day. The nearest post-office
is more than thirty miles distant, while the next-door neighbour lives
twenty miles away. What solitude! What terrible isolation! And yet to
that family and its staff of servants and shepherds and shearers there
is no solitude, no sense of isolation. They live in a world of their
own; they are self-contained. The estate has its own butcher’s shop,
its own bakery, its own smithy, its own carpenters--all it needs it
possesses. No daily newspaper appears to distract their attention. The
strife of the political world, the changes of the social world never
disturb them. The mail arrives at certain periods, bringing newspapers
a few days old. But what is news to them, who are too far removed from
society to be affected by aught that goes on? I was curious to know
in what aspect life presented itself to people who were removed from
the haunts of men so far as were they. Did life drag? Did monotony
oppress them? How did they employ their time? What about culture? And
the answer was very clear and emphatic. They knew nothing of monotony;
they suffered no fear of loneliness. Every hour brought its task--there
was no time for moping. The cattle had to be fed, watched, slaughtered,
bred, bought and sold. The sheep were sheared. The fields were made to
yield their increase. Sons, daughters, and servants were all engaged in
their respective work.

And what of recreation and social interchange? “Ah!” was the laughing
answer, “we have the best time in the world--a time we would not
exchange for all the cities could offer us.” For one thing, there
is the chase. The daughters of that “station” are accomplished
horsewomen. They think nothing of undertaking a 500-mile ride over
enormous stretches of country. The side-saddle for girls is scorned;
they ride like the men. They leave home, bound for a long scamper. They
take no provisions with them; they simply ride on until they reach
another “station,” where they put up as long as they please. The laws
of hospitality in those remote parts are Oriental in character. No
invitations are issued, no requests are proffered. The “station” keeps
open house; when a visitor arrives, he or she shares the hospitality
of the establishment without question and without payment. In that
scattered world the advent of any visitor is welcome. Even the
“sundowner,” or tramp, easily finds accommodation. He may eat at the
common table in the kitchen, and sleep on a “stretcher,” or, if he
prefers it (as he generally does), he may take his repose amongst the
straw or hay.

After the chase, the race. The sport of horse-racing, beloved of the
Australians, is not lacking in that remote corner of the north-west.
It is conducted, however, without the glamour of the ring and the
grand stand, and without the pestiferous presence of the bookie. The
horse-race up there is a real race of horses for the pure pleasure
of the race. Neighbours for 100 miles around ride in and bring their
best horses to the contest. For a week the homestead is plunged in
festivity. The race is an excuse for good fellowship and for paying
calls. There is more than one race. Station after station is utilised
as a place of meeting, and thus friends and neighbours, despite the
distance that divides them, continually come together. Then there are
social festivities: the ball, the amateur play, the party, the concert.
It is all amateur, all primitive, all natural, and all wholesome.

But the greatest pleasure of all is afforded by Nature itself. To
a city man like myself that remote corner of the world, entirely
hidden from the ken of the ordinary person, would be oppressive by
its silence, its solitude, its aloofness from life. To the squatter’s
daughter this solitude is peopled by wonderful races; this silence
is broken by numberless voices. With modern literature she has but a
bowing acquaintance; of Australian politics she hears but a murmur; of
the vast world movements beyond she knows nothing. As we speak of these
things she listens with a certain acquiescence. She has heard something
of it all--a mere sigh borne upon the breeze--but uninterpreted by her.
There is no quick response. That world is not her world. Emerging from
the wild into the atmosphere of a boarding-school for a brief year or
two, she returns to that same wild with enough of polish and general
knowledge to ensure that certain rays of modern light shall penetrate
the fastnesses of her distant abode.

The moment she begins to speak of her world she becomes eloquent; it is
I who feel an ignoramus. For this girl is a true child of Nature, who
understands her mother perfectly. She speaks to me of insects of which
I know nothing more than any book of natural history can tell me. But
she can teach the professors of natural history a few things. There
is not a bird, not a beast, nor an insect of the bush but she knows
thoroughly. She can trace the white ant from the larva to the carpenter
which bores out with its teeth the interior of table and wardrobe. She
knows every note of that eternal humming with which the forest and the
glade resound. She can name every bird that flies within fifty miles
of her home. She knows the habitat and the habits of all winged and
walking and crawling creatures. Nobody has taught her; all has come
through persistent observation.

With difficulty I get her to speak of certain adventures of which the
rumours had already reached me. At last, with diffidence, she relates
them. She tells how she started a rabbit, raced it, doubled back when
it doubled, and finally caught it, killing it with a blow from her
hand--a soft blow delivered in a vital spot. She speaks of an adventure
with “the naughty, wicked dingo,” which worried the sheep. She and
a younger sister mounted each a horse, and proceeded to enclose the
dingo, chasing it from place to place, until at last it was brought to
bay, and forthwith dispatched with a blow from a stick. This little,
frail-looking girl did this. She does not boast of it; she merely
recounts the deed at my request. And her eyes blaze at the recital. She
can speak with wondrous eloquence about that world of Nature, whose
secrets she has so well learned.

This is the squatter’s daughter. It is the first time I have
encountered her like. The remembrance will live with me. She
represents a type quite distinct on the earth. She comes into city life
with a breeze from the bush, a vision of glory from afar. And now she
is back in the wild, taming horses, running races, or playing on the
piano the airs she learned in the city.



CHAPTER XVII

THE HARDSHIPS OF THE BUSH


He was the first of a large number of young fellows who came to me
asking for an introduction to some employer or other in the city--an
Englishman, of course, newly arrived from the Old Country and in search
of work. Unable to find a suitable billet at home, he had converted all
his available possessions into cash and had set out for Australia, that
El Dorado in which men were reputed to pick up gold and to rise, with
incredible swiftness, to fortune. He was a young fellow of excellent
education and of good address, a typical member of the clerk class. But
he had never received any technical education, and he had no “trade” to
fall back upon. Alas! he found that men of that class have as great a
difficulty in obtaining billets here as they have in the Old Country.
He arrived in the slack season, when employees are not in demand. Not
an office, not a warehouse open to him. He advertised in vain, and day
after day knocked at numerous office doors, always to be met with the
same reply, “Sorry; no vacancy.” There were plenty of openings on the
land, but he exposed his fine hands, saying, as he did so, “These were
not made for that kind of work.” The weeks ran on, and no opening
occurred. The stock of money he had brought out was becoming smaller
every day. It was evident that something must be done. And then came
the opportunity. It was an opportunity he would have scorned had his
capital been larger. But hunger was beginning to threaten him, and he
seized the first chance that came his way. This fine young Englishman,
with the fair hands and the semi-aristocratic drawl, was invited to
go north, a few degrees nearer the equator than Melbourne, and try
his fortune on a newly established “station.” The promises made were
not over-attractive from the point of view of comfort. Of dainties
none might be expected. Even starched linen might be banished from the
young man’s life. The railway was more than two hundred miles away
from the “station,” and the nearest neighbour resided at a distance of
six miles. Each man must be his own servant. And, in fine, the life
promised was altogether of a rough type.

The young fellow showed me the invitation, and I advised him to
accept it. And then, one afternoon, he left Melbourne on the steamer
and went up north-west. I hardly expected to see him again. But it
happened that, a year later, I paid a visit to Adelaide, and lo! there
was my friend, newly returned from the bush. The life in the north
had proved too much for him, and he had come down to Adelaide, where
at last he obtained an excellent situation. The young man I saw in
Adelaide, however, was a very different young man from the one I saw in
Melbourne. Those few months had wrought a marvellous change in him.
The old _hauteur_ had disappeared; the face and neck were bronzed,
and even burned; the fair white hands had grown slightly larger, and
they were rough and scarred with many a cut and bruise. Ten months in
the bush had wrought an extraordinary transformation in his life, and
he was grateful to be back again in civilisation. The bush life, he
declares, was his salvation. It destroyed his old ideas of labour, and
opened up to him a new vista. It made him more human, and distinctly
more grateful. Yet he wishes to leave it in his mind as the memory
of a nightmare through which he had passed. It was a remarkable and
touching story that he told me. When he quitted the train at the point
nearest to his destination, he was compelled to bid farewell to that
atmosphere of comfort and civilisation in which he had been reared.
The road soon ended, and he was trundled off in a primitive conveyance
through the bush. A river had to be crossed, hills had to be mounted.
He found himself in the midst of an immense solitude. For several days
he pushed on with his two companions. At night they lay on the ground,
covered with a kind of sacking. Not a human sound broke the awful
stillness. In the early morning a chorus of laughing jackasses woke the
sleepers, who, after a modest meal, resumed their journey. Everywhere
overhead was the eternal gum-tree, and underneath the “scrub.” Parrots
flew around them screaming and fighting; strange birds looked down upon
them, and strange animals fled at their approach. And then, one day,
the station came in view. It was managed by a company of men. Not a
woman lived there. The quarters were rough and primitive. Not a luxury
anywhere. Food was consumed at a rough table. Ablutions were performed
at a rough lavatory. The beds, or stretchers, were simplicity itself.
Guns were in evidence for the shooting of birds. The larder contained a
stock of tinned stuffs and tea--always tea, that everlasting drink of
the Australians. And outside the house stood the “billy,” nearly always
in use for the brewing of the beverage. There was a cook, who did his
work very well, and of provisions there was a sufficiency. And into
this rough spot came the Englishman with the white hands and the gentle
ways.

The first night he never slept. He sent “his soul into the invisible”
but well-known land he had left. And there came to his mind the fair
picture of an English summer, then on the wane. He trod again the
streets he knew so well, and saluted in vision the friends with whom
he had formerly companied. In the old town he had left there was the
electric car in which he rode to business (while there was a business
to go to) every day. He saw the sea, on whose border he had lived. He
went home again that night. And then, when the day broke, he rose to
face this new and hard life in the midst of which he felt himself to be
an exile, an outcast.

There were trees to be cut down, wood to be sawn, roots to be grubbed
up, loads to be hauled, water to be drawn, earth to be ploughed, and
food to be gathered. The white hands soon became brown; the face and
neck were scorched through exposure to a sun which every day became
hotter; and in a few days great blisters appeared on the soft hands,
now rapidly becoming harder. For a time work had to be suspended
on account of the sores, which caused great pain. Added to this a
multitude of mosquitoes and flies began to be troublesome, stinging
the sensitive flesh and causing great irritation and swelling. And
all the time the heat was growing more intense. One day, in the midst
of summer, the thermometer reached the abnormal height of 120 degrees
Fahrenheit. And in that sweltering atmosphere work went on as usual,
until at last Nature rebelled, and the young fellow fell sick for a few
days. When well the work was resumed from early morning until sunset.
No eight hours’ day there. It was all work, save on the day reserved
for washing and rest, the washing being regarded as somewhat of a
recreation.

There came a day when the cry of “Fire!” was raised. A volume of smoke
in the distance announced the commencement of a dreaded bush fire. The
fierce heat of the sun had kindled the dry brushwood and the scrub, and
the flame burst forth. Never, to his dying day, will that Englishman
forget the terrible scene. The whole country seemed to be a sea of
fire. With incredible swiftness the tongues of fire leaped from bush
to bush, licking up everything they encountered, and scarring the
giant gum-trees in their fiery embrace. The business of the men on
the station was to prevent the fire from attacking their homestead
and consuming in an hour the work of months. Part of the scrub was
deliberately fired, and thus a portion of land was cleared around
the house. When the flames reached the fences they were beaten down
with sticks and bags, and thus the fire swept by, leaving the house
untouched. It was a thrilling moment, and every man sang his _Te Deum_
when the danger was past. For a long time, at least, they were secure
from a bush fire. The scrub would be some time in growing again, and so
long as the fire spared homestead and life of man and beast, it proved
to be, ultimately, a friend rather than an enemy, for it accomplished
in a few hours a work of clearance which it would have taken men many
months to perform.

Some men are not made for bush life, and this Englishman was of their
number. The life proved too hard, too monotonous, too crushing for
his spirits. The promise of ultimate success and even fortune was
not sufficiently alluring to detain him longer in exile, and one day
he retrod the forest pathway, gained the railway, and by it came to
Adelaide, where he cried for very joy to find himself once again in the
midst of the busy world. The bush adventure has had a curative effect
upon this young man’s life. It has broken to pieces his “softness,”
and given him an insight into another kind of life of which formerly
he knew nothing. It will probably prevent him from ever again looking
contemptuously upon any man who is compelled to work with his hands.
And I observed that the semi-aristocratic drawl was considerably
modified.

This story may serve another purpose. It may prevent young men who have
learned no trade from venturing into a new country in the belief that
fortunes are picked up without difficulty. The failures I have met with
in Australia have been generally of the men who “could do anything,”
for that, being interpreted, means that they can do nothing well. A new
country requires men who can do something--perhaps but one thing--well.
And I would earnestly advise any young man who purposes going out to
learn a trade before he goes. The skilled man can generally find an
opening. There are already too many native-born Australians who are
unskilled workmen, and to add to their number from afar would be a
fatal error. It is necessary to say this, for several young Englishmen
who have called upon me at the time of their arrival have had,
obviously, no chance whatever to get on, for the reason that they had
learned no trade. It will be a great day for England when a technical
education is enforced upon young men who are not joining any of the
professions. Upon this point even Germany can teach us much.



CHAPTER XVIII

AMONGST THE ABORIGINES


When the first settlers came to Australia they found in possession of
the country a black population, representing a humanity low down in
the scale. The native population was never in reality so large as many
persons have imagined. It is difficult to arrive at exact figures,
because in the north there are still large numbers of natives living
in a state of practical savagery. These roam about at their will.
Where the white man has penetrated, however, the black has gradually
receded. When the black adopts “civilised” ways, his already precarious
existence becomes yet more precarious. Affecting the white man’s
vices--the first thing he naturally copies--he speedily runs down the
hill and passes off the scene. The native population is being gradually
but surely wiped out.

In less than five decades the number of aborigines has been reduced
from 1,694 to 652, and this in the State of Victoria alone. At the
census of 1901 there were found only 271 natives of pure blood in the
State, and 381 of half-castes. At the census of 1911 it was found
that the figures had fallen to 196. If in fifty years the decrease
in population has been so marked and so startling, it requires no
prophetic gift to foretell the speedy extinction of the Australian
native. A few more years and not a black will be left. That terrible
law of the survival of the fittest will again have asserted itself.
When, therefore, the opportunity presented itself to me to see one
of the three native settlements still left in Victoria, of course I
immediately availed myself of it.

Two hours’ steady climbing on the railway brings one to Healesville.
And four miles from Healesville lies Coranderrk, a Government
settlement for the aborigines. Quite off the road lies the colony of
seventy men and women. There is no indication of its existence other
than what is supplied by a fingerpost, which signifies nothing to
anyone who does not know what lies behind the name Coranderrk. But the
site is ideal for a retired residence. It lies in the centre of a vast
amphitheatre of hills, and day and night a profound silence envelops
the colony. Never a sound from the outside world penetrates the
solitude. The quietness is that of a mausoleum. The race that inhabits
it is slowly dying; what more fitting as an accompaniment of death than
the solemn stillness which already heralds the eternal stillness of the
tomb?

There is more than a suggestion of the American South in this colony.
The old men and women, dressed in an odd mixture of British costumes,
might well be the originals of some of the characters in “Uncle Tom’s
Cabin.” Black skins, grisly hair, and light-coloured garments form
a curious compound. There is no fashion, no symmetry in any of the
garments. Slouch hats of the Wild West, straw hats of Bond Street, and
old billycock hats make up the male headgear; while various coloured
vests, trousers, coats, and cravats complete the attire.

The log cabins, some twenty in all, which are scattered over the
settlement, complete the illusion that, after all, we are in the
American South, amongst the negro population. The one dash of modernity
is supplied by one or two mulattos--girls--who, clad in becoming white
garments, present a really attractive picture. These girls treated
us to a little service of song in the humble meeting-house which is
the head-quarters of the mission propaganda in the colony. For all
these folk understand English--the younger generation nothing but
English--and they all attend church. They are docile and happy, save
for an occasional row, in which the original vernacular is used with
freedom and emphasis. It was touching to hear these girls of the second
generation sing simple Sankey hymns, and to reflect that the day must
inevitably come when on this Government estate of 2,400 acres there
would be no such songs sung by native lips. The younger people marry,
and children are born; but the race is surely dying off. Some mixed
marriages occur, and the offspring of these are half-castes, who are as
little welcomed in the schools as the pure-blooded native children. One
of them pathetically remarked to me that they were shunned by the white
children. The colour line is as marked here as in America.

From the point of view of attractiveness the colony has much to
recommend it. Pasture land surrounds the houses, and most of the
natives keep their own cows. Everything, of course, is exceedingly
simple, and it is the simplicity that attracts. Laundry work is done
out of doors in a primitive manner. We found one buxom young lady
seated lazily by the side of a tub in which her clothes lay soaking.
She stretched forth her hands and rubbed her clothes in a style that
suggested that any day next week would do to finish them. In a little
natural basin on the slope of the hill the water of a rivulet had
been collected into a large bath or reservoir, and the youngsters
congregated about in a way that showed that they had not lost the
instincts of their fathers for water gymnastics. One very modern touch
appeared in the shape of three irregular pieces of wood arranged
as cricket stumps. It was a species of cricket one might without
difficulty have imagined prehistoric man to have played at. For bat,
the youth of Coranderrk employed part of a boomerang.

That word reminds me of the remarkably clever display given to us by
the natives of boomerang throwing. The boomerang is an innocent-looking
weapon which the ignorant would never suspect could be applied to
dangerous work. In appearance it resembles a rude Tee-square, and each
side is about a foot long. Thrown by an ignorant Briton like myself
the weapon merely careers along the ground for a space of thirty or
forty feet and nothing further happens, save the ironical laughter of
the natives, who receive a demonstration that even a Briton does not
know everything. But when the native throws it, the weapon accomplishes
wonders. It suddenly becomes alive. It defies all general laws. The
black sends the wood from him in a straight direction, but lo! it
whistles and sings and describes circles in the air like a bird, and
then suddenly descends to the earth in a vertical direction, landing
at the very place from which it was projected. When we saw how easily
the thing was done, we all caught the fever and became boomerang
throwers. Lawyer, doctor, parson, and merchant stood in the field and
went back in an instant to the primitive hunting ways of the savage.
The boomerang is an ugly instrument to play with, however. After a
flight of thirty seconds, during which it gains momentum, it descends
like lightning, sometimes where it is not wanted. The doctor threw
his boomerang with such precision that it returned twice and struck
him violently on the hand--the hand that had thrown it. If boomerang
throwing were introduced into England it would become a perfect craze.
It would completely eclipse the diabolo craze. But then it would be
necessary to increase the number of surgeons and ambulance men, for a
blow from a boomerang might inflict serious damage.

Another native custom was shown to us, and proved to be most
fascinating. It was the art of the fire-stick. Here, under our eyes,
was exposed the primitive way of obtaining fire. The apparatus looked
most unpromising. It consisted of a piece of soft wood about a foot
long and six inches wide, a piece of dry fibre, and a short, narrow
cane made of hard wood. Placing the cane between the palms of his two
hands, the operator swiftly turned it into the soft wood beneath with
a friction so powerful that the cane pierced the wood, causing it to
smoke. The air, blowing through the hole thus made, fanned the spark
which, falling upon the dry fibre beneath, set it on fire. Thus in one
minute, by simple friction, a fire equal to any kindled by a match was
blazing. The process was picturesque and exciting. In that group of
darkies gathered round a piece of wood, a handful of fibre, and a hard
cane, we beheld primitive man engaged in the task of kindling his fire.
It was, for the moment, ancient history incarnate. And when it was
over, a member of our party, drawing forth a box of vestas, remarked,
“Good old Bryant and May.” He remembered his mercies, and was thankful.

The one pathetic scene of the afternoon’s visit was our encounter with
the “King” of the natives. From the distance we observed a venerable
figure approaching. As he came nearer we perceived a brass plate
suspended by a chain around his neck. The apparition resembled, for all
the world, a _facchino_ of an Italian railway station--brass plate and
all. Inscribed upon the tablet was this legend:

          ANTHONY ANDERSON,
          King of Birchup.

And this was the deposed chief of the district, vanquished by the
white man, chased out of his patrimony, and reduced to the proportions
of an exile! I could not discover the native name of the ancient chief;
it was certainly _not_ Anthony Anderson. Nor could I discover why he
had assumed the name of Anderson. He was a truly pathetic figure. Skin
black as coal, his hair and beard were nearly white. The odd costume
he affected served only to set off the antiquity of his own person.
An ancient pair of light trousers, no longer white; a begreased coat;
a flaming red tie with the flame expiring, and a shapeless billycock
hat dyed through and through with grease--such was his dress. The old
man wept as he told us that all the friends of his youth were dead: he
alone was left. Once, in the long ago, he was an agile chief, master of
all that great stretch of property around the hills. But the white man
came, and his reign was over. All that remains to him is a memory of
the past, and a quiet asylum for the few remaining months or years of
his life. The king wept as he recited his story, and then--bathos! he
asked for a _pourboire_--and got it. But, then, _all_ kings get their
“tips,” some in one way, some in another. And Anthony Anderson, King of
Birchup, was primitive in his manner of asking--that is all.



CHAPTER XIX

THE GOLDEN CITIES


Two cities of Australia lay claim to the designation of the “Golden
City”--Ballarat and Bendigo. Needless to say that the cities are
rivals, and needless further to say that I am not so foolish a man as
to enter into any dispute as to which is the better city.

Both cities have been very kind to me, and each of them has its own
peculiar charm. Ballarat is built upon an eminence many hundreds of
feet above the sea level, while Bendigo is built upon a plain, and
is, therefore, a much warmer place than Ballarat. In both places gold
has been discovered to an enormous extent, and to-day each city calls
itself the golden city. And there, from that point of view, my interest
in the matter ends.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was in 1851 that the first gold was found in Bendigo; and, like
so many other things, it was discovered by accident. A man named
Johnston simply stooped and picked up a nugget of gold, the glitter
of which attracted him. Then some shepherds saw gold in the roots
of a large tuft of grass which had been washed by the waters of the
creek. And with that accidental find the fortunes of Bendigo were
made. A desolate region, uninhabited, became in an incredibly short
space of time a flourishing city. Like lightning the news travelled
that gold had been found in Bendigo, and at once there was a rush from
all parts of inhabited Australia and from the uttermost ends of the
earth. “Claims” were measured off to the new-comers, and the desolate
plain became a camp of fever-stricken men, all intent upon securing as
much as possible of the yellow metal that was to make their fortunes.
Men endured any hardship in order to compass their end. They scarcely
lived; theirs was a bare existence. All they cared for was the amassing
of gold; and when they were satisfied, or when they had exhausted their
“claim,” they went back to the ordinary ways of life--some of them
set up for life, others to squander their fortune and to arrive at a
last state worse than their first. The Bendigo historian says without
exaggeration that gold was dug up almost in bucketfuls. In one morning
two young men sank a shallow hole, and extracted from it fifty pounds
weight of gold.

The face of the earth was scarred and hacked by pick and shovel until
at last it resembled a battlefield, desolate to the last degree. And
to-day, on the site of the great struggle at White Hills, there is left
a stretch of country filled with sand, and intersected with numerous
gullies through which the cleansing water once flowed. And as on
battlefields men continually wander in search of relics, so at White
Hills the refuse is to-day subjected to a cyaniding process by means
of which the last morsel of gold is compelled to yield itself up.

A year later gold was discovered in Ballarat.

Until that year the country as far as Sydney, was a gigantic
sheep-walk. Houses were few and far between. The inhabitants of the
country around Ballarat could have been counted quite easily by a child
had one chanced to light upon them. But in a moment, when the magic
word “gold” was pronounced, men sprang, as it were, from the abyss.
Hundreds of fragile tents covered the ground; hundreds of tools were
busily employed in digging for the enriching ore. A township arose,
as by miracle, followed by a city, ever extending its borders, until
to-day there is left, as the result of sixty years’ work, one of the
most beautiful cities of Australia. “Ballarat the beautiful” they name
it, and with justice. It is beautiful. Beautiful for situation! Its
altitude is 1,500 feet above sea level. Snow falls in the winter-time
when at Melbourne the feathers of the sky never descend. In the
summer, when Melbourne is grilling in the heat, Ballarat remains with
a temperate atmosphere. In this springtide the great boulevard is
a flower-garden entrancing and perfumed. The streets are clean and
wide--very wide--and everywhere imposing buildings stand. Temples
of prayer, fine piles of commercial houses, schools and colleges,
institutes, libraries, hospitals, and, above all, statuary adorn the
city. In the mayor’s room of the Town Hall is an old print showing
Ballarat in 1852, the year of the gold fever. Not a house was then
erected. The countryside is shown dotted with canvas abodes. A decade
later, a second print shows a large and flourishing town, laid out
after the best models. And the last photograph reveals a modern, busy
city, full of life and prosperity. It seems to be a dream, this sudden
rise to power. Fifty years leave a city fresh, with the marks of its
making still upon it. Ballarat, young in years, has somehow acquired
the dignity and solidity of a city twice its age. In the old land I
used to imagine these cities to be of the mushroom type--hastily grown,
and with the mark of premature decay upon them. They are far from that.
Ballarat, type of the gold-made city, is substantial, and it is built
to abide. Another illusion cherished in the old days was that cities
such as this, having sprung out of filthy lucre, must of necessity
possess the mark of vulgarity. Ballarat shatters that illusion, for
with all its material prosperity it possesses an air of refinement that
cannot be mistaken. A high standard of education is sought. There is
a School of Mines, there are fine colleges, there are scientific and
literary societies, and there is an Eisteddfod. And this last thing is
self-revealing. It means that in some way or other Welsh influence has
been at work. And the number of Welshmen in Ballarat is explanatory
of the Eisteddfod. With pride, Ballarat people call their city the
Athens of Australia. All that is beautiful and artistic is encouraged.
Annual competitions are held for the youth of both sexes, and at these
there is wholesome rivalry in song, music, dramatic representations,
literature, art, on the mental side, while upon the physical side the
games are held after the manner of the ancient city which Ballarat
would fain copy. To the golden city come, annually, musicians, singers,
reciters, and wrestlers from all parts of the Commonwealth. Trophies,
prizes, and money are awarded to the winners. The judges are brought
from England at enormous fees to adjudicate in the competitions. To
quote the words of a municipal enthusiast, who is speaking sober
truth, “a prize won at Ballarat is the antipodean equivalent in actual
distinction to a trophy won at the Olympian games at Athens, with the
difference that in our festival the athlete gives pride of place to the
young artist in music and elocution.” From all of which it may justly
be inferred that a city built upon gold mines is not necessarily a
vulgar and a bloated city, having a population whose one ambition is
the worship of the golden calf. It is a happy task to bear this witness.

But the crowning taste of Ballarat is in its statuary. There is no
other city in the Southern Hemisphere that can boast of so many
beautiful carved figures as Ballarat. The main street of the city is
adorned with statues, amongst which is one of Moore and another of
Burns. The most imposing of all is the statue of Queen Victoria crowned
as Queen and Empress. Burns and Moore, Scotsman and Irishman, are not
to monopolise the honours of the poets. Place is to be made for a
statue of Shakespeare. Then happiness will reign, unless the Welshmen
demand a place. But they have the living Eisteddfod. In the Botanical
Gardens there are a number of figures, the most beautiful of which is
the group by Benzoni, “The Flight from Pompeii.” It is a wonderful
conception. Life-like are the mother, the father and the child, seeking
escape from the terrible rain of dust which falls upon them. The
husband shields the mother with a mantle, while she, in turn, protects
the face of her infant from the pitiless fire flakes which threaten her
little one. It is a group of which any city in the world might be proud.

Ballarat is thus the destruction of an illusion--the contradiction of
the doctrine that a golden city must be vulgar and self-assertive.
The people respect all who in any way contribute to the good of the
community. I went up to lecture there, and lo! before I was aware
of what had happened, I found myself “received” by the mayor, the
town clerk, some of the councillors, and most of the clergy. It was
embarrassing--and they honoured their visitor simply because it is
their way to show respect to any man who, in their judgment, has a
word of helpfulness to speak to the community. And that function over,
behold, at the door of the Town Hall was a motor-car in which I was
whisked round to be shown the sights. And all that for a Free Church
minister who had come to lecture to one congregation!

In the matter of appreciative open-mindedness Australia has much to
teach the mother country. Her sons listen heartily to any man who
brings a living message to them, independently of his creed or his
political opinions. A land without a State Church does lend itself to
liberty.

This, then, is the golden city of to-day. But the making of the city is
a veritable romance. All Ballarat knows its history, yet there is but
one solitary man alive who has _seen_ it all from the beginning. The
sole survivor of the pioneers of 1851 is Mr. James Oddie. Each year, on
September 1, it has been the custom of the survivors to have a banquet
in commemoration of the discovery of gold in Ballarat. As the years
have advanced the number of attendants at the banquet have declined,
until on September 1, 1910, Mr. Oddie alone remained. But he had the
banquet just the same. It was a one-man affair. In a room at the hotel
dinner was served in great state for _one_. The guest and host in one
was very cheerful. Not a soul save himself touched the meal. Waiters
thoughtfully and longingly looked on while the veteran ate. Afterwards
he gave a speech to the Pressmen intended for the world beyond, and
in that he recalled the story of the founding of Ballarat. Melancholy
meal! Mr. Oddie, it goes without saying, is an old man, and it cannot
be long before the annual banquet will end for ever.

The story of the golden city is one of the romances of the world. A
deserted vale, flanked by beautiful hills, was in a day converted into
a camp of fever-stricken people--“yellow fever,” as it is sarcastically
styled. From all parts of Australia, from New Zealand, from Tasmania,
and from Europe thousands of adventurous spirits found their way to
Ballarat. The first comers marked out their “claims,” and forthwith
entered into them to dig up the precious metal. Thirty ounces of gold
per day was the capture of that earliest party. Like the lepers of
Samaria, these fortunate men desired to keep to themselves the news
of the great find. But the inevitable newspaper man came on the spot,
and within a few hours a Geelong newspaper had given the secret to
the whole world, much to the chagrin of certain of the explorers, who
foresaw a distribution amongst many of a treasure they would fain keep
for themselves. In less than a fortnight after the news had been made
public “three men were left in Geelong and half Melbourne was on the
gold-field.” Within three weeks guns were brought up by a small band
of soldiers, and the scramble for gold was converted into commercial
“prospecting” on licence issued by the Commissioners. The Church
followed the Commissioners, and in a month’s time a Methodist church
was erected. For walls there were the trunks of trees, for roof a piece
of tarpaulin.

The springtide was in full beauty; the weather was settled, hence the
primitive church was sufficient for the needs of the people. Great
nuggets of gold were unearthed, some of them weighing 134 and 126
ounces. Fortunes were made in a day. Curious stories are told of the
effect of digging. The Wesleyan church sank bodily into the ground as
the result of undermining. The court house also suffered wreckage.
It was a mad rush by men unpractised in mining, hence accidents and
submergences were frequent. The amount of gold found in Ballarat in
fifty years was 19,375,000 ounces. The surface gold has been worked
out long ago, and now deep shafts are sunk, at the bottom of which men
work while water is sprayed upon them. It is said that fabulous wealth
still remains to be discovered in Ballarat, which for long enough will
retain the title of the Golden City. The one and only battle Australia
has ever known between white men was fought at Ballarat in connection
with the gold-finding. The raising of the price of the gold-tax
incensed some of the diggers, who became riotous, and the Government
sent up from Melbourne detachments of two British regiments. On Sunday
morning, December 3, 1854, soldiers and diggers fought. Life was lost
on both sides, the diggers suffering more heavily than the soldiers.
On the outskirts of Ballarat a monument is erected to the memory of
the fighters. Blood and gold: they have always gone together, and
although little blood was shed at Ballarat, there was enough of it to
keep unbroken the tradition that the lust of gold means the loss of
something human. Many a man made a rapid fortune in the early days of
Ballarat. Those halcyon times have passed away. Never again can the old
conditions and the old fever be repeated.

Governments are wiser to-day than formerly. They do not throw away
their gold or their land to adventurers. The law of honest work is
beginning to apply. Our youth can no longer wander into the world and
pick up nuggets of gold at will. Some of them try and do this in a
modern way by prospecting at gambling. That folly must also pass. The
world will only be happy and fraternal when its gold fever has passed,
and when honest work of brain or hand shall have taken its place.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was at Bendigo that I had the new experience of descending a gold
mine. In almost any part of the world one may descend a coal mine, but
a gold mine is much rarer, and when the opportunity was offered of
seeing the conditions under which the most precious of all metals is
extracted from the earth, I naturally embraced it immediately.

Once upon a time, within living memory, fifty years ago, there was no
need to penetrate deeply into the bowels of the earth to discover gold.
It lay upon the surface and just beneath it.

Rarely are surface nuggets found to-day; the country has been so
thoroughly scoured. But exceptions occur, and as I write there is a
note in the daily papers to the effect that a man picked up a nugget
of gold last week worth £500. There may be yet another rush to that
neighbourhood.

Deeper and deeper the mines have been sunk. When the surface and the
sub-surface had yielded all their precious secrets, men went ever
farther down in search of the yellow metal. Sometimes the mines were
a failure and the owners of shares were glad enough to give away
their shares, or to sell them at ridiculous prices, rather than pay
the continual “calls” made upon them. One man, whose name to-day is
intimately associated with Bendigo, found a fortune in this way. He
was entreated by a disappointed shareholder to buy shares at sixpence
each. It seemed like throwing money away to buy even at that price,
for the mine was exhausted. Yet he bought them, and then, in a moment,
the tide turned and gold was discovered in the exhausted mine, and
the almost penniless man who had bought shares for which he could
scarcely pay, became a semi-millionaire. Such are the fortunes of the
gold-field. The mine we descended was 2,100 feet deep. The shaft, top
gear and cage resembled those of a coal mine, save that the wheels over
the shaft were less than half the size of those of an English coal-pit.
And, of course, there was an absence of the grime associated with a
coal mine. We had to divest ourselves of all our ordinary garments
and to don a costume which for the time gave us rank amongst tramps.
Armed with a candle, we entered the cage, and descended. The journey
seemed interminable. For more than two minutes we were slowly dropping
through the shaft, enveloped in a profound darkness, and subjected to a
perpetual baptism of water which rained upon us. There are times when
seconds seem like minutes, and minutes like hours. And the two minutes
and a half we were in that cage, suspended by a slender steel rope,
seemed a small eternity.

The temperature at the bottom was nearly 80 deg. Fahrenheit, and we
were compelled to remove all clothing, save our trousers. In a few
minutes we had entered upon the experience of a Turkish bath; streams
of perspiration ran down our bodies. Whenever we lighted upon a group
of miners we saw that they also were living in a perpetual bath. Nearly
stripped, great beads of perspiration stood out on their flesh. “We are
used to it, sir,” said one of them cheerfully, but I learned that for
some of them this “use” meant disease and death--largely through want
of care when they brought their overheated bodies to the surface. Along
well-built corridors we tramped, holding our lighted candles ahead of
us. No danger in the gold mine of that terrible fire-damp which is so
fatal to coal miners. But in the gold mine there is another danger like
that which threatens colliers; that of falling masses of mineral. We
came to one place where on the previous day, without warning, a hundred
tons of rock and quartz had fallen. Happily, no man was injured; but it
is not always so. When our turn came to crawl along on hands and knees,
surrounded by angry-looking rock possessing sinister-looking gaps, the
perspiration did not decrease in volume. It seemed as if a single touch
would suffice to bring down a hundred tons weight upon our fragile
backs. The danger is always present despite every precaution taken to
ensure safety. Blasting continually goes on, and then the danger is at
its height.

Let me confess to a feeling of disappointment. In a coal mine the
black diamonds glisten under one’s eyes. There is no faith required
to believe in the presence of coal. The seams are there, and all that
is necessary is to dislodge the coal, load it in trucks and convey it
to the surface. It is otherwise in the gold mine. In my simplicity I
was looking out for nuggets, as men used to do on the surface. Alas!
we saw not so much as the ghost of a nugget. To our untrained eyes
there was not the suspicion of gold anywhere. Everywhere we caught the
glitter of a yellow substance, which at first we mistook for gold,
but which is in reality worthless. The gold is hidden in these vast
seams of quartz, which have to be dislodged, brought to the surface,
sent to the battery, crushed and washed. And then at last, when the
water has ceased flowing over the pulverised mass of sand, the gold is
discovered. It is all faith at first. These men justify their business
by faith, and then, in the final analysis, justify it by verification.
The layman would pass by all this quartz as so much rock or stone.
The expert knows that hidden within it is the most desired of all
metals. Yet they never know what may be found below. Hence, every man
is searched when he reaches the surface. A year or two ago there was
a scandal at Bendigo over gold-stealing, and there were found many
defenders of the men. Formerly the most ingenious devices were employed
by the miners to conceal any gold they had abstracted in the mine. One
of the favourite methods was to swallow the metal and to take means
later to disgorge it.

It is easy to moralise in a gold mine. Perspiration, discomfort,
danger, deprivation of the light of day, an invitation held out to
pneumonia, and all for a bit of yellow metal which men have accepted
as the basis of exchange! And to-morrow, if a fresh Bendigo were
discovered, there would be the same rush and the same risks taken. It
is civilisation. And is the world _very_ much happier than when men
exchanged one useful article for another and when gold was unknown?

After science, Nature once more. Those desolate surfaces at White
Hills, plundered of their golden treasure and bequeathed as an eyesore,
have been converted. For years they lay despised of all men. The soil
was said to be unfruitful. Men resigned themselves to the spectacle
of a wilderness. And then came one or two Spaniards who saw visions
of gardens in that belated spot. They planted tomatoes, and, lo! the
love apple flourished where the desert had reigned. And more, led by
the foreigner, whose intrusion was at first resented, the inhabitants
of the district are cultivating tomatoes, which grow beautifully on
the alluvial soil. Thus the gash made upon the face of Nature by man’s
spade and pick is slowly healing, and a red growth is obliterating the
ugly work of fifty years ago. And so it is ever: the artificial thing
goes ever deeper into the darkness, while the beauty of Nature remains
a perpetual enchantment. The gashes disappear under our mother’s
healing touch.



CHAPTER XX

THE MIRACLE OF THE MALLEE


Let no man declare anything to be impossible until he has seen the
Mallee; he will then be in a position to affirm the reality of natural
miracle wrought with the co-operation of man; he will know that a
desert can blossom as the rose, and that the place where jackals lay
can become a glorious human habitation. I have just beheld this miracle
and now hasten to declare it.

The Mallee is an immense territory embracing about one-quarter of
the State of Victoria--that is to say, twelve millions of acres.
Until recent years it was regarded as a hopeless wilderness. In the
early ’eighties a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the
possibilities of this dreaded country. Their report was dismal to the
last degree. The wise and learned men declared that the aspect of the
country was that of a wilderness in the strictest sense of the word!
sand, scrub and mallee below, the scorching sun and blue sky above, and
not a sound of life to break the solemn silence. In a journey of 100
miles from north to south the Commission did not encounter a solitary
bird or a single living creature. The only evidence of animal life was
the barked stems of stunted scrub and bushes where the rabbit had once
fed, and the dead carcases of a few dingoes which the trappers had
snared or poisoned. As for water, all that could be discovered over an
area of a few thousands of square miles was a few native wells, a small
lagoon or two and one or two muddy water-holes. Throughout the entire
region there was no grass.

Such a country was pronounced to be hopeless, and more than once the
question was asked in Parliament: “Is the Mallee worth saving?”

It is a little difficult to convey to an English reader what is meant
by “scrub.” It must be seen to be understood. But some idea of it may
be gained if the reader can imagine an interminable country as big as
four or five of the largest English counties put together, and this
country covered with a dense undergrowth through which no man unaided
could possibly force his way. A country absolutely flat, with not so
much as a ghost of a hill to serve as a landmark. Not a track ever made
by human feet. Scrub so thick that a man passing into it even for a
short distance would need the device of a piece of string fastened to a
tree at the place of entrance and by means of which alone he could find
his way out again. That was the Mallee of forty years ago. More than
one man set himself the task of conquering this wilderness. In every
case he had to retire beaten. If he succeeded in clearing a space of
ground and planting upon it wheat or vegetables, or raising a few head
of sheep or cattle, down came the dingo and the rabbit from afar to
kill his lambs and consume his green crop, or, if he successfully armed
himself against these intruders, the heavens became his foe and refused
to shower down the kindly rain. Wild animals, vermin and drought--the
settler could not withstand them.

Then came a day when the Government erected a fence of wire netting
around an enclosed area of two hundred miles. That was to keep out
the dingo and the rabbit, and to give the new settlers a chance of
cultivating the ground. Then followed the discovery of water in the
heart of the country. Already sixty-three bores have been put down
which tap water in an area of 500,000 acres. Later a supply of water
has been drawn from the Grampian Hills, eighty miles away, and this is
conveyed by means of channels to various settlements in the Mallee.
Periodically the huge receptacles at the bottoms of the fields are
filled up by this supply. Then the farmers draw it upon their land.
The discovery of water in the interior, and the new supply from
the Grampians, have helped to solve the problem of the Mallee. The
country could not possibly exist upon its rainfall, which averages at
the best only fifteen inches per annum. Enclosure and water, then,
were the two primary elements in the transformation of this desert.
The final element was found in scientific farming. One grand secret
lies in frequent fallowing. The soil is so treated that it retains
its moisture. “Dry” farming is practised by many, and the results of
this process are remarkable. Senator McColl, who has made a special
study of this particular branch of agriculture, predicts that by
means of “dry” farming most of the difficulties of the Mallee will
yet be overcome. Barely twenty years have passed since the problem
of the Mallee was seriously attacked, and already a miracle has been
accomplished. This former desert now produces one-fifth of the entire
wheat crop of the State of Victoria, and it is claimed that Mallee
wheat is the best in the world. Where twenty years ago or less a
hundred acres of land would support only one sheep, to-day five sheep
are supplied by two acres. Land that was not worth giving away is now
valued at £5 per acre, and prices are rising. The Mallee promises to be
the Beulah Land of Victoria. Indeed, the people have become prophets in
naming one of their chief townships “Beulah.” At the first, the place
was named in faith, and when the great drought came “Beulah” seemed
to be a ghastly caricature of the actual situation. One poor settler,
crushed to the dust by misfortune, yet retained enough waggishness to
parody a well-known revival hymn thus:

  “We’ve reached the land of drought and heat
   Where nothing grows for us to eat;
   For winds that blow with scorching heat
   This Beulah land is hard to beat.
     O Beulah land, hot Beulah land,
     As on the burning soil we stand
     We look away across the plains
     And wonder why it never rains!”

That year of drought was terrible. Men were reduced to living on the
very minimum of rations. It was only a decade ago, but the recovery
has been phenomenal. As the years pass, science will lay for ever the
spectre of drought.

It was through this wonderfully fertile country that I had the
privilege of motoring in December, 1913. The experience was unique
in every way. The hospitality of the people was unbounded. In the
small towns there were banquets and receptions given in honour of
the “distinguished visitor.” Churches and halls were crowded for the
sermons and lectures. Farmers drove in by carriage and motor from every
point of the compass. An angel from heaven could not have been treated
more royally than was a preacher from Melbourne. To my amazement I
found in little far-away Beulah the electric light installed in every
house. The churches are beautiful little buildings. The streets of the
“town” are wide. The shops are modern. The houses are commodious and
comfortable. A year ago there was not a garden in the township: to-day
every house has a garden. A grass lawn springs up as by magic when once
water is laid on.

My tour consisted of an eighty-mile drive through one vast wheat
field. As far as the eye could reach in every direction the fields
were filled with ripening or ripened wheat. Fields! I said. And
what fields! Several of them extended for over half a mile in one
direction alone. Farming here _is_ farming. Land is measured by miles
rather than by acres. The whole process of reaping is modern. The
“complete harvester” is in general use over these immense fields. It
is a wonderful piece of machinery, completely superseding the old
methods of reaping, binding, stacking, etc. The “harvester” does
everything. It cuts the wheat, winnows it, fills up one bag with chaff
and another with wheat, while the driver moves across the vast space.
Automatically, the bags filled with grain are deposited at certain
intervals upon the field. When the “harvester” has been over the crop
there is nothing more to be done; the wheat is ready for exportation.
The perfect climate permits this complete process to be undertaken at a
stroke. The wheat is cut when quite ripe and quite dry. It never lies
in the fields to be sodden and spoiled by capricious rain, as is often
the case in England.

At this harvest season in the Mallee we tasted all the charms of a
perfect Australian summer climate. The eucalyptus was putting forth its
new, delicate tips of gold and brown--a perfect blend of bush colour.
The sky was a deep blue, unrelieved by a fleck of cloud. The air, dry
and hot, encompassed us like the breath of a generous oven in which
all manner of savoury things were yielding up their odours. This blend
of bush perfumes, liberated by the heat of the sun, has a character
all its own. The charm is completed by the extreme clearness of the
atmosphere, which creates many a sweet illusion of the landscape. On
these broad spaces the mirage is frequently seen. At least half a dozen
times we were tricked into believing that ahead of us lay a glorious
stretch of water, when all that awaited us was a particularly dry part
of the plain.

Despite the partition of the country amongst farmers, there is an air
of solitude in the Mallee that is at times depressing. During our
eighty miles run we encountered upon the highway only four living
beings, while on the morrow, we encountered not a single human being.
Life is confined to the farms-teads, which are scattered. Neighbours
are separated by several miles from each other. But these farm-houses
were the surprise of our journey. Not one of them is twenty-five years
old, yet we found in each the telephone installed. One farmer, at whose
generous table we lunched, has his own plant of air gas, and his house
is brilliantly illuminated at night. In every house we visited we
found a valuable piano: in one case it was a German instrument worth
over £100. These are the Mallee farmers who in twenty years or less
have compelled this wilderness to blossom as the rose, and who, as the
result, have furnished their houses in modern fashion, and with many
luxuries. I could not help contrasting many of the farms I know well
“at home” with these abodes of comparative luxury in the once desert of
Australia.

In some cases the primitive houses and the modern abodes stand side by
side. The former, built of rude pine blocks and covered with corrugated
iron, represent the struggle and the simplicity of the pioneer days:
the latter represent success and comfort. Most of these farmers are
deeply religious men. They have not allowed their motor-cars to cheat
them out of the old-fashioned Sunday. The churches are crowded on
Sundays, and it is quite a common sight to behold the chapel yard
filled with motors, buggies, cycles, and other means of locomotion.
Worshippers come for twenty miles to their central churches. And these
Mallee men have not allowed their prosperity to kill their native
generous sentiments. They are most generous towards their churches.
One small congregation raised £80 last year for foreign mission work.
A modification of the tithe system is in operation amongst these good
people. They give in “kind” as well as in money. So many bags per
hundred of wheat and oats are set aside for sale on behalf of Christian
work. It is a primitive but very effective method of giving.

There is another side to the picture. Away on the back blocks are men
and women who are more heathen than any persons in Fiji or Samoa.
A clergyman in the Mallee told me that he had visited people in
distant places of the Mallee who had not even seen a church for more
than eighteen years. These families grow up in complete ignorance of
religion. One child of twelve years of age was brought in to the “town”
to become a mother: later her sister, a child of fourteen, followed her
for the same purpose. My friend discovered that these children, brought
up amongst the animals, scarcely knew the name of God. Their moral
sense was unawakened. There are therefore drawbacks to a garden which
has sprung out of the desert.



CHAPTER XXI

THE ANNUAL SHOWS


Once a year, at least, each Australian State gives demonstrable
evidence, in the most attractive manner, of its natural wealth. Every
State has its annual Agricultural “Show” to which all loyal people pay
homage, for a display of the stock and the produce of a country is more
than a pastime, it is a revelation of power and possibilities. Here
is an immense tract of country, covering thousands of square miles.
Less than a century ago it was a wild “bush” covered with the gum tree
and every variety of undergrowth. Less than fifty years ago only a
mere fraction of the space was “cleared” for agricultural purposes.
Slowly the work of preparing the soil has advanced. So far as the great
outside world is concerned the cultivation of the country has proceeded
in silence. No person without special knowledge of the march of events
could have dreamed that progress has been so marked as the issue has
revealed it to be. Only when the total results are massed together in
a great “Show” is it possible to understand how marvellous has been
the rate of progress. Canada has long called, with alluring voice, to
the Old Country to come and aid its progress and share its wealth.
Australia has now called to the old world. These vast spaces must be
filled, not with fools in search of an easy berth, but with strong,
earnest men and women who will co-operate with Nature in fructifying
the earth.

It was that I might behold with my own eyes what the Commonwealth had
already done in conquering the soil, and that I might also help to make
the old Mother at home open her eyes to the facts, that I attended five
of Australia’s “Shows.”

They were impressive, great, revealing. From every part of the States
machinery and produce had been sent. It was a veritable panorama of a
young country’s life and effort. Wheels, still and in motion--the work
of man. Life, still and in motion--the work of God. It was quite a
serious show. There were few amusements in it. People who attended it
in thousands went to pay homage to the manhood of the country. It was
the life of a young nation, under this attractive guise, that received
the universal salutation. All this work was Australia’s own. The
vast mass of machinery and implements were fabricated in Australia’s
workshops. True the Old Country had a share in the exhibits, but not
a great share. There were imports, but not many. America, too, always
ready to capture Poles, or equators, or anything else, was represented
amongst the machines. But the significant thing was that the greater
part of the machinery and implements were made by Australians. The
child has grown up, and got to work, and the old Mother hardly realises
what he is doing so far away.

To take the machinery first. Here were engines, threshing-machines,
mowers, ploughs, harrows, planters, seed-sowers, rollers, hoes, pumps,
forges, grinders, separators, tanks, stoves, fire-fighters, and
hundreds of other agricultural implements “too numerous to mention,”
as the consecrated phrase runs, such as one would find in any English
agricultural show. But there were others peculiar to Australia. For
example, fly-proof tents, window fly-screens, rabbit poisoners, poison
carts, all suggestive of Australian conditions. Of the rabbit poisoners
I know next to nothing, save that the farmers are compelled to resort
to strong measures in order to exterminate these pests of the land.
But of the flies I am beginning to learn, by experience, a little. How
grateful these fly-proof screens and tents appeared! Flies are already
appearing in alarming numbers, and we are bidden to prepare for the
annual invasion, when nothing is sacred from their inquisitive and
poisonous tentacles. Still amongst the machinery, we observe “forest
devils” and stump-pullers. These, again, are peculiarly Australian,
called into existence by the exigencies of agricultural life. The
country abounds with the stumps of trees. The giants have been levelled
to the ground, but the stumps remain, firmly rooted in the soil. Now
certain portable “forest devils” have been invented by means of which
one man can, with the aid of a lever and a wheel-gear, draw from the
ground the most stubborn stump of a tree. Agricultural dentistry--that
is what it is! Again, there are several varieties of steel windmills
and other machinery for raising and distributing water. Irrigation is
one of the problems of this growing country, and engineering science
is doing its best to solve that problem. They have even the milking
machine, that last contrivance to compel steel and rubber to do what
hitherto the human hand alone has been able to accomplish. Farther on
are carriages and buggies, eminently suited for this land. But one
needs to know them. To a new-comer they present the appearance of
supreme uncomfortableness. Persons who try them speak in different
terms of them. Certain types of English carriages do not appear to have
found their way here. But while machinery has a peculiar fascination,
it is wholly eclipsed by the live stock and produce of the country.
I am no judge of cattle, but the professional judges who awarded
prizes had much to say about the quality of the horses and oxen and
sheep and swine. And everybody seemed pleased, so I cheerfully add my
“Amen,” without reason, save that unreasonable reason that “everybody
says so.” And “everybody” in this connection must be right. But I do
know wool when I see it. Australia is proud of its wool, and it has
reason to be. Many of the prize sheep seemed to have more wool than
flesh upon them. Again and again I buried my hand, and wrist, and even
beyond that, in the wool of the sheep. It hung upon them in layers; a
burden to the poor animals, a little gold mine to the wool-growers.
Of poultry, also, I am no judge, being severely limited in experience
to a few hens who do not lay nearly so many eggs per day as they
should, considering what is spent upon them. But in the show they had
hens which had laid an average of 240–250 eggs in the season, and they
looked quite cheerful after the effort. One farmer printed a notice
to the effect that his profits on eggs alone during the year had
been £441. Intimations of that kind provoke serious thought in many
directions. But the produce! It was a perfect revelation of the wealth
of the country. The average Englishman, coming out here for the first
time, would not believe that any State could produce the variety that
these States produce. The point to be observed is that this wonderful
productiveness is the fertility of a country not long cleared. And the
further point to be noted is that there is very much more to follow
as the country develops. Perhaps the most interesting thing in the
show was the various collections of exhibits from societies or groups,
representing the produce of a certain district. The _whole_ of the
produce of the district was shown in sample. Think of one limited area
producing wheat--yielding thirty-six bushels for every bushel and a
quarter of seed--oats, barley, maize, peas, rye grass, linseed, hemp,
mangolds, beetroot (nearly half a yard long), sugar beet, carrots,
onions, turnips, cabbage, potatoes (many weighing more than a pound),
apples, lemons, nuts, olive oil, meal, poultry, eggs, wool, wine,
bacon, butter and honey. That is the product of one district only.
The place seems capable of producing everything. Honey is the thing
that imposes itself upon one. It is a great country for honey. In
the bush it flows wild and men gather it in bucketfuls. And where it
is cultivated it is cheap enough, being about one-third the price of
English honey. Of course, all this means that industries are springing
up everywhere. Australia has its own condensed milk factories; it dries
its own raisins, makes its own chutney, and sauces, and jams, and tins
fruit for home use and export.

I said there is more to follow. The science of agriculture is being
developed. There are State Schools’ competitions, which include samples
of forestry, fruit trees, grains, forage and roots, grasses and
clovers, potatoes, fibres, vegetables, honey, etc. But the competitors
must describe as well as exhibit. They must be able to answer questions
on soils and produce, and they must be able to make models. The whole
trend of agricultural education is scientific.

The folk at home do not know all this. They ought to know. Now that a
Land Act is in operation, and the big estates are being cut up, we may
expect a great boom in agriculture. People will then be wanted from the
Old Country. There is plenty of room, and a population is imperatively
needed. But let none go over until the gong sounds.



CHAPTER XXII

AN INTERLUDE--A DUST STORM IN SUMMER


The day had been intolerably hot. A copper haze hung over the
landscape, weighing upon it with the solemnity of a funeral pall. All
life was weary. The leaves of the blue gum tree drooped in a manner
unusual for them. The flowers hung their heads upon their stalks as if
the oppression of the atmosphere was insupportable, and the day for
the shattering of the fragile floral vase had arrived. Men returned
home from their labour, and after the evening meal refused to stir out
either to concert, lecture, theatre, or entertainment of any kind.
It was a north wind day of a peculiarly unpleasant type, followed
by a still more unpleasant evening. Then came a lull. A deathly
silence reigned over the city and suburbs. A curious veil of murky
cloud overspread the face of the sky. In the bedroom the thermometer
registered over 90 degrees. We glanced at the glass and thanked God
that our beds were outside in the open air. But even there the heat was
oppressive. The little lad, always so careful to cover up his body, had
flung off all the coverings from his bed, and lay exposed to the air of
the night. It was a night when to woo the goddess of sleep was next to
impossible. The hours passed by--eleven, twelve, one. Still no sleep.
Still that terrible oppression. Still that suffocating heat.

And then, in a moment of time, without the least warning or premonitory
sign, there came a change such as Englishmen never experience in their
own country. It was a sudden roar, a descending blast, a tempest
unchained. The storm literally burst upon us. It was an explosion,
instantaneous and complete. The great trees around us were suddenly
seized by the mysterious and invisible power of the storm, and bent
and rocked and shaken and twisted in a manner terrifying to behold.
The wind travelled, so we learned the next day, at the mad speed of
sixty-five miles an hour.

The entire neighbourhood appeared to be seized in the grip of a storm
fiend which wreaked its vengeance upon everything that lay in its path.
Balconies upon which men slept were shaken as if some malign power
determined to wreck them. Out into that storm I stepped, clad only in
pyjamas. The terror of it fascinated me, held me spellbound, compelled
me to share it. It was a _tourmente_ of the Alps repeated in the
streets of a Southern city, but with clouds of dust in place of clouds
of snow. The cold air from the South encountering the hot air of the
languishing city created an aerial funnel which sucked up the _débris_
of the streets into its enormous mouth. That dust! Can I ever forget
it? It blotted out from my vision the brilliant light of the electric
lamps. It obscured the houses across the wide streets. It blackened
the country beyond, and made the dark night a scene of terror. Steadily
the temperature dropped until within half an hour the glass registered
twenty-five degrees less than it did at midnight. Then the heavens
began to blaze and the thunder to roar. From a dozen points at once the
lightning broke forth. Crash after crash of thunder shook the house.
And still the choking dust mounted high into the air. Would the rain
never descend and give us once more a clear atmosphere? One short,
sharp, tropical storm of rain, one welcome deluge, and this dust fiend
would be laid for the time. The inky clouds could not promise so much
benediction and after all mock us!

The lightning ceased as suddenly as it commenced. The last peal of
thunder sounded, and still no drop of rain fell. Meanwhile the storm of
wind and dust recommenced, this time with increased fury. It drove all
outdoor sleepers within doors. Beds were hastily dragged from balconies
into bedrooms. Lights were seen in nearly every room within the line
of vision. The cries of startled children mingled with the furious
screaming of the wind. It was a night of horror and of fear. For three
hours the tempest raged, and then, in a moment of time, it ceased with
dramatic suddenness. The dust gradually fell again to the ground from
which it had been drawn. The face of the sky cleared, and the stars
shone out. The atmosphere became chilly, and discarded blankets were
once more drawn over shivering persons, half asleep and half awake. The
_tourmente_ had spent itself.

From out of a brazen sky the sun shone down next morning upon a scene
of wreckage. Trees were uprooted, fences torn down, shrubs destroyed,
flowers broken from their stalks and left dead upon the ground. Gardens
looked as if some demon had wrought his evil will upon them during the
night. Poor broken lilies, prostrate roses, crushed herbs, wounded
by that cruel storm! The house within was enveloped in a mantle of
fine dust. Nothing had escaped. It was but yesterday that the entire
establishment was clean and attractive; this morning it is a scene of
desolation, a place over which a woman can only shed tears. The rain
had not descended: we must set to work and clean up the house and hope
for the merciful showers from heaven to come and wash the face of that
Nature which the storm has so begrimed.

A storm so bad as this may not occur again for weeks or months. Once in
a lifetime is sufficient. It represents the unpleasant side of Nature
in a sub-tropical country. Seasoned Colonials, while they dislike these
terrible outbursts of Nature in the South, console themselves that
these dust storms are nothing in comparison with the dust storms of the
north. “You should go to Broken Hill to know what dust can do,” said
one of them; “a dust storm there is terrible.” But that of this awful
night is quite bad enough for me.



CHAPTER XXIII

CHRISTMAS IN AUSTRALIA


While it may be far from exact to say, with certain modern
philosophers, that climate creates and explains religions, it is
undoubtedly true that climate exercises a modifying effect upon certain
of the traditional observances of religion. Christmas is a case in
point. A man brought up in a northern clime associates the great
festival with the shortest day, and often with the sharpest weather.
Keen frost, deep snow, biting winds, roaring fires, bare gardens--these
are the framework of his Christmas. His thought transfers these wintry
conditions to the Holy Land, and he pictures the great Birth as having
occurred amidst the rigours of a northern winter. In this he is
probably wrong, but it is an error taught him by his native soil, and
from which often he has not sufficient knowledge or imagination to free
himself. Christmas and cold are to him synonymous.

When such a man crosses the seas and lives for a time in a tropical or
a sub-tropical climate, he finds it exceedingly difficult to adjust
himself to the new Christmas conditions. He finds his new Christmas so
utterly different from anything he has hitherto experienced, that the
observance of the festival smacks of unreality. It is now midsummer
with him; the days of the year are at their longest; the fireplaces
are filled with shavings, or discreetly hidden from view by painted
screens. The winds that blow come with fiery breath, the gardens
are blooming with summer flowers, and the orchards are filled with
fruit trees bearing their ripened produce. It requires a particularly
powerful imagination to surmount this actual Christmas and to replace
it by the traditional Christmas of the Old Land. And this kind of
imagination I do not possess.

It was an announcement in a large shop in Collins Street that first
made me aware of the proximity of Christmas: “Christmas Presents for
the Folks at Home--the last English mail in time for Christmas leaves
Melbourne on Nov. 19.” Thus ran the notice. And it struck me in a most
curious manner. The calendar distinctly pointed to Christmas, but
the weather and the gardens and the general surroundings whispered
mockingly: “This is nearing midsummer; the longest day is coming.
Christmas is a fiction--poor Englishman, there is no Christmas for you;
get out your duck suits and straw hat, and prepare for picnics and a
summer holiday.” And then I knew that I must walk by faith and not by
sight. For the first time in my life Christmas became empty of meaning.
All the sentiment of it vanished in a moment. I was alone, an actor
in the midst of a stage devoid of scenery. Every single “property”
of the great Christmas festival slowly accumulated during more than
forty years of life had been carried away in an instant. Blazing logs,
crackling fires, merry parties, mysterious stockings, frosty window
panes, keen air, snow-covered ground, and, above all, the waits--all
had gone, carried off by the magician who lives on this side of the
Equator.

And immediately Collins Street, for the moment, became a place of
exile. Its light turned to darkness, its charm fled. I turned to the
dear little woman at my side, and I saw that her face was wet with
tears.

We had to encounter a new kind of Christmas, and when the first shock
was over we settled to the idea, and determined to have a good time.
“But why not have the old and the new?” we said. If space had placed
13,000 miles between us and the Christmas we love so well, space
could not imprison our thoughts. So we determined to fly to the Old
Country and have an old-fashioned English Christmas. In a moment of
time we were in Gamage’s, showing the children the wonderful toys.
Then we shopped in Regent Street, and afterwards went to Maskelyne and
Devant’s, and later took the train into the country. We watched the
snow fall, and afterwards did some snowballing. We went to church, and
sang hymns and carols. And then came dinner and the family party. We
had a real good time, until the maid came and said: “There’s a north
wind, madam. I am going to close the windows.” And in a moment we were
back to our own Christmas, with the thermometer registering a little
over ninety degrees.

That north wind needs a word of explanation. It is the sirocco of
Victoria. Its hot breath is heralded by a day or a night of depression.
And when it arrives it is pitiless. Great clouds of dust come with
it, making life unbearable. Like a funeral pall the dust hangs over
everything. The skin becomes hot and dry, and everybody is out of
temper. It is useless to fight the north wind. The only thing to be
done is to run away from it by closing up the house and hermetically
sealing every window until the calamity is overpast. When the change
comes and the wind veers to the south, the relief is unspeakably
precious. The temperature will drop sometimes no fewer than thirty-five
degrees in half an hour. And then it is that influenza is likely to be
contracted. I said the thermometer registered ninety degrees; that was
when the north wind commenced to blow. But at midday the mercury had
mounted up to one hundred degrees in _the shade_. It was terrible. The
wind was as the breath of a fiery oven. The trees drooped, the flowers
hung lifeless upon their stalks, the grass of the lawn turned brown
in an hour, and the parched earth gaped and gasped. Over the entire
soil there quivered the fateful shimmer of the heat. Men and birds and
beasts were smitten with an overwhelming languor. It was the African
desert over again without relief. Little wonder, then, on the next
day, the journals reported fires in every direction. One single spark
sufficed to set an entire countryside on fire. Enormous crops of wheat,
ripe and ready to be reaped, were consumed by the flames in a single
morning. Useless to fight that raging furnace! Once the first fiery
tongue leapt from one stalk to another the whole area was doomed. In
one part of Victoria the bush and wheat-field fires devastated fifty
miles of country.

Thus our Christmas week opened. After that all Christmas ceremony was
obviously mere stage acting. Yet the form was rigorously observed.
Cards were exchanged and presents given. But _such_ presents! Take the
following alluring notices, for example, and let anyone imagine how
they struck an Englishman for the first time:

“New sunshades and parasols--splendid presents for Christmas.” “New
summer hats--just the thing for a Christmas present.” “Indian muslins,
just arrived--nothing better for a Christmas present.” It was all lost
upon me. For parasols I insisted upon reading “umbrellas”; for summer
hats, “furs and snow-boots”; for Indian muslins, “warm West of England
tweeds”--habits like mine cannot be broken in a moment. Of course,
there are toy fairs arranged for the youngsters, and there is even a
pretence of having Father Christmas in traditional garb. But what can
the white-bearded, frosted patriarch mean to children who have never
seen snow and whose patriarchs are sunburnt with long exposure to the
atmosphere in the hot Bush?

Most of all I miss the poultry display. Those long lines of turkeys and
geese killed a week in advance of Christmas, and exhibited in enticing
fashion until Christmas Eve!--we have none of that here. Imagine a
turkey being hung day after day for a week in an atmosphere like this!
There is one display, and that is on Christmas Eve, and even that one
is modest compared with what we have been accustomed to in the Old
Country. The birds are not killed until the last minute, hence they are
not so tender as English turkeys. It is mere slavery, this traditional
eating of turkey and plum-pudding at Christmas time; but the older folk
here permit themselves to be willing victims of custom. It is turkey
and plum-pudding at home; then it shall be that here, so they argue.
Climate and season protest against it, but in vain. One family of which
I heard drew down their blinds one Christmas, and lit the gas, and
ate their Christmas dinner under artificial light. It was the nearest
approach they could make to the Old Country way.

The younger generation is making the daring experiment of trying to
abandon the English Christmas, and to replace it by an Australian
festival. They argue that the transplanting of Northern customs to
these hot climes is ridiculous, and that whereas rich and heavy meals
may be in place at Christmastide in a climate where snow and frost are
found, they are utterly out of place here under azure-burning skies.
Some plants will not bear transplanting, and this is one of them. The
Yule-log and furs have never established themselves here at midsummer,
neither should the turkey and plum-pudding be permitted to do so. Hence
the young Australian is quietly dropping the traditional Christmas
fare, and substituting for it ices, cool drinks, and fruit. And as
peaches and apricots are now selling at one penny per pound, he finds
it advantageous, in more ways than one, to accept the natural boon of
the country rather than the artificial one of tradition.

A new Christmas is being born in which the old spirit is finding fresh
forms more consonant with the climate. God forbid that the old spirit
should ever die!

The great heat which ushered in our last Christmas week in Australia
was exceptionally trying during the hours of public worship. For many,
church-going was out of the question. People remained at home, seeking
coolness in darkened houses. Those who ventured out to church on the
Sunday morning had to travel in stifling railway carriages, or walk
over baking pavements. Within the church electric fans were moving,
together with a multitude of hand fans. At first it is distracting to
a preacher to speak to hundreds of people who are fanning themselves;
after a time, however, neither preacher nor audience takes any notice
of the motion. The feminine portion of the congregation is clad wholly
in white; the men affect light cashmeres, tweeds, or tussore silk.
Scarcely a black hat is seen. “Topees,” tropical helmets, and straws
are the order of the day. At night the church was full for a special
Christmas service. But everybody was languid. The hymns were sung
without the usual enthusiasm. The great heat had, for the time being,
ruined the organ, which remained silent. The poor preacher used up a
handkerchief or two in the effort to keep his face dry. Then it was
that the incongruity of keeping the traditional Christmas under the
Southern Cross was manifest in its fullest form. For the choir stood
and sang the carol, beginning:

  “See amid the winter snow,”

and the thermometer registered over ninety degrees!

They sang again Rossetti’s beautiful song,

  “In the bleak mid-winter,”

and the great organ solemnly protested that it had been ruined
temporarily by midsummer heat.

No! it is useless to try and link up a Northern Christmas with our
Australian climate. The effort miserably fails.

Christmas Day, however, compensated us for all the trying heat of the
previous week. There came one of those dramatic changes in temperature
for which Melbourne is noted. In one hour the glass fell nearly thirty
degrees. A “southerly buster” broke over us without warning, and when
the dust storm had passed people were glad to put on thicker clothing.
And so it came to pass that Christmas Day was chilly. The tempest broke
up the heat and gave us weather less than normal. With the cooler
temperature, goose and plum-pudding seemed more in place than in
former years. But how could there be an English Christmas Day when the
light remained until half-past eight? Before the kindly darkness came
on, the little people, who “at home” would have been busy with the
Christmas-tree, were yawning and inquiring after bed.

One can never forget these Christmas days under the Southern Cross, but
to experience the ancient sentiment of Christmas one must be in the
ancient home.



CHAPTER XXIV

SOCIAL LIFE IN AUSTRALIA


It is intensely interesting in a new country like Australia to watch
the evolution of the aristocracy. The process is very rapid. That old
idea about ten generations being necessary to make a gentleman has no
countenance in that part of the world. Ten years or less now suffice.
It is all a question of money-bags, and money is made with great ease
and rapidity in Australia--at least by some. A heavy gamble in land
will change a man of moderate fortune into a wealthy person. Indeed,
when one comes to look into the matter, quite a large number of the
people in Australia who are to-day extremely rich owe their wealth not
to trading of any kind but to a gamble with land. They came out in the
early days, and obtained land for nothing at all, or next to nothing.
The Government of that time had no foresight, nor backsight either.
Criminally forgetful of the iniquitous land laws of the old world,
they did not scruple to transfer these to the new soil, and so lay
the foundation of serious trouble in the days to come. Men who paid a
ten-pound note for a piece of land were enabled to sell it some years
later for a fabulous sum, with the consequence that to the end of time
the public must pay increased prices for the wares it purchases. In
Collins Street, for example, land which was once ten pounds an acre is
now sold at twelve hundred sovereigns per foot, and at the chemist’s
shop in that street we must pay half-a-crown for a bottle of mixture
which in England would be sold for ninepence!

But, of course, the public does not count; it merely looks on, suffers,
and--pays, while the land gambler is clothed with purple and fine
linen, and fares sumptuously every day. And that brings me back to
this gentleman, now in the guise of an aristocrat, but often bearing
marks of the clay out of which he has fashioned himself. The evolution
of the aristocrat out here, I was saying, is rapid. A few years, and
his children obliterate all traces of their father’s former life. The
old deal is stained and varnished, and appears as excellent mahogany.
As I gaze upon this throng of well-dressed people, and remember their
beginnings, I perceive a mirror of the world, “Queen Anne in front
and Mary Ann behind.” It is not their success that offends so much
as their veneer and pretence. These people conveniently forget their
humble origin. They assume important airs which ill fit them. They
gather themselves together into a close corporation from which the
unmoneyed are excluded. When they marry their weddings are described as
“fashionable” weddings. A nod from Government House is their beatitude.
An English title is worshipped by them. It is all very comic to an
Englishman, this bid for place and fame. Aristocratic pretence in
England is bad enough, where family pedigrees count for something; it
is vulgar here, where many of the pretenders have no pedigree at all.
Australia has the chance to maintain a pure and wholesome democracy of
the highest type; it will be a pity if she forfeits it.

Over against this crowd of would-be aristocrats there must be placed a
smaller and nobler company of people who, ascending from humble life,
have nevertheless preserved their simplicity, their modesty, and--their
Christianity. They are amongst the very best men of Australia, admired
by all who can appraise worth.

The great social season begins at the end of October. Everybody who is
anybody must now go to milliner, dressmaker, tailor, and bootmaker, and
henceforward, until the end of the season, appear in public places with
the great. Dinners, luncheons, “five o’clocks,” balls, and all kinds of
reunions serve to assemble our new aristocracy. Government House, of
course, sets the pace and the fashion. It is the ambition of all who
aspire to a place among the chosen to be received at Government House.

The Melbourne spring season begins with Henley-on-Yarra. It is
an imitation of Henley-on-Thames, and it fairly rivals the older
institution. The dresses are quite as smart, the social life quite as
gay, and the boats quite as attractive as those “at home.” What is
lacking is the Thames, with its locks and banks and exquisite green
surroundings. The Yarra can never rival, in these respects, the English
river. But it has a charm of its own. Scores of thousands of people
attend it. It is a people’s holiday, and anyone can procure a boat and
join the procession. It is a pretty spectacle--the best and the most
innocent of all Australian open-air functions.

Henley is followed by a carnival of racing which centres in the
famous “Cup.” There is money enough in Melbourne for prize-fights,
boxing-matches, and sports of all kinds. It is not much to the credit
of this class of people that they cheerfully pay big prices for their
lower pleasures, while the Hospital Saturday and Sunday Fund suffered
last year to the extent of a thousand pounds. We have long since
discovered that these pleasure-lovers have not only little love for the
Church--they give very little to ordinary charity. Were the much-abused
Churches to withdraw from Hospital Sunday, some of the philanthropic
institutions would be compelled to close down.

The craze of the ordinary Victorian is horse-racing. He is simply mad
on it. “Meetings” are frequent throughout the year. Hundreds of men
live for nothing else. We have a number of parasites who live on the
community, contributing nothing to its wealth or progress, and who are
interested alone in betting and gambling. Gambling is one great vice of
the Australian people. It has infected every class of the community.
An attack upon gambling evokes no kind of enthusiasm; too many people
are involved in the matter. Even some Church members will ask, with
naïve innocence, “Where is the harm in gambling if you can afford it?”
Taking the community as a whole, it would be an exception to find an
ordinary man who did not dabble a little in gambling. The people see
no harm in it. This is why the “Cup” holds such a place in the public
mind. For weeks before the race all conversation turns towards Cup Day.
Milliners, dressmakers, opticians, and tradesmen of every class lay
themselves out to cater for “Cup” customers. The newspapers are full
of it. More space is devoted in the Melbourne papers to a description
of the great race than is ever given in the London journals to a
description of the Derby at Epsom. If a visitor from the planet Mars
came to the city he would not receive more attention than the “Cup”
receives. It is a species of madness, an obsession. One-sixth of the
population of the city witnesses the actual running of the race. The
Governor-General is there, together with the governors of other States,
who journey to Melbourne expressly for the occasion. And all to witness
a race that endures exactly three minutes!

It is urged that a function of this kind is a social magnet which
brings together people from all over the country; that, in fact,
it is a grand opportunity for the reunion of friends. We all admit
that. And there is no reason why the Melbourne Cup should not have a
social significance pure and simple. If it had, it might be a healthy
thing for the community. But, handicapped as it is with the gambling
element, it becomes, for a number of people, a social nuisance. It
is the entanglement of all our sports with the practice of betting
that has ruined what might easily have become an excellent means of
social cement. And it goes without saying that the wrong horse won
last year. Thousands of persons had staked their all on Beragoon. The
usual excuses were given for the defeat of the favourite, but the
unexpected happened and Posinatus won. “It is the fortune of war and of
horse-racing,” was the comment; but it is not at all likely that the
fools who lost their money will learn anything as the result thereof.

If Australia had but the courage to clear itself of the gambling
parasite which is sapping its best life! For so young a country to
have embarked upon this dangerous path is not good. Strong nations are
not built up of men to whom pleasure is the very first consideration,
especially when that pleasure is tainted with betting. A sudden
reverse of national fortune would sober this people and start it
upon a more noble path. Pity if it does not learn without that stern
necessity. What the country needs is a religious revival of a deep
and genuine kind. The men of fine minds and loftier ideals, who are
better patriots than the gamblers, and who desire to see healthy and
pure sport encouraged and unhealthy sport discouraged, are rewarded by
being dubbed “wowsers.” Undoubtedly some are too puritanical in their
protest, but with many Australians there is no _modus vivendi_--it is
all or nothing.

The zest for sport is, I imagine, even a little keener than in England.
It is no uncommon thing to see at the best football matches, where,
for example, the university team is playing, a considerable number
of medical and other professional men. The better educated classes
patronise open-air sport to a greater degree than do the corresponding
classes in England. And Australian football is a little more scientific
than either Rugby or Association. It is a game entirely alone. The
man who seizes the ball with his hands may not run with it unless he
bounces it every few yards as he runs. This is a distinct improvement
upon the old game. But even here there is far too much rough play, and
even brutality, in the playing of the game.

It need scarcely be said that life out here is largely an open-air
life. The numerous suburbs are filled with people who come to and from
the city on business. From the nearer to the remoter suburbs there
is abundant space in which men and women can breathe without fear
of stifling. Large, airy streets, a clear atmosphere, gardens and
parks galore--everything makes for an open-air life. And the hours
of business are so arranged that the invitation to the open is not a
hollow mockery. From Monday to Thursday all shops close at six o’clock.
On Friday they remain open until ten o’clock. On Saturdays every shop
is closed at one o’clock midday. Thus business becomes service, and is
never allowed to degenerate into slavery. Might not the Mother Country
learn a lesson from her Southern daughter? If Melbourne can transact
its business, in large and small shops alike, within reasonable hours,
why cannot London do likewise? Thousands of small tradesmen in the
Old Country are condemned to late hours without any reason save that
of stupidity and selfishness on somebody’s part. In Australia they do
not leave it to the parochial “conscience” to decide whether the shops
in a given locality shall close early or not. They know human nature
too well to yield to that folly. No! The hours of closing are fixed by
Parliament, and the law leaves no loophole for selfish tradesmen to
advantage themselves at the expense of their neighbours. You close at
the appointed hour, or are subject to a heavy fine. This ampler liberty
is the radical reason for the Australian’s freer, open-air life and
love of sport.

Both Adelaide and Melbourne possess beautiful public gardens. Here,
even in midwinter, there is a rosery in the centre of the gardens,
with roses of every hue still flourishing. And in these beds a mass of
splendid colour. And it is midwinter! The difficulty for a new arrival
is to get accustomed to this topsy-turvydom. The good folk here are
talking about the “shortest day” arriving on June 21. Day does not
break until a little after seven o’clock, and it is dark before six at
night. On Saturday afternoons in June football is being played, and
in October cricket commences. And when Christmas arrives we shall be
sweltering in the heat of midsummer. South here is the equal of north
at home, and an Australian east means an English west. It is all Alice
in Wonderland, a life of topsy-turvy, and it is not at all easy at
first to adjust oneself to the new conditions.



CHAPTER XXV

LABOUR CONDITIONS IN AUSTRALIA


The increasing number of immigrants arriving on Australian shores is
an eloquent witness to the fact that Australia is slowly winning a
reputation “at home” as the “working man’s paradise.” There are always
a few malcontents in every community, and amongst the immigrants there
is no exception to this rule. Some come out expecting to find slabs
of gold awaiting them in the streets, and they are disappointed when
they discover that they will be required to work hard, especially if
they go upon the land. But the majority show every sign of contentment.
From a large number of new-comers I have heard practically the one
comment: “We would not return to the old conditions; we are more than
happy under the Southern Cross.” To cite a few cases. A boot operative,
who at Kettering had earned on an average only 18s. 6d. per week for
the last twelve months, came out a short time ago. Within two hours
of landing he obtained a billet at a pound a week, plus board and
lodging. He has practically the pound clear. This is his start. He will
soon double or treble that amount. He is not yet in his own business.
Indeed, for the sake of his elder child he desires to go on to the
land, and his present situation is a kind of apprenticeship to his
future career.

Domestic servants, who at home earned only £14 or £16 a year, start
here with £30 or £35 per annum. The domestic problem is acute in
Australia. Hundreds of people are unable to obtain maids at any price.
Good domestic servants are always in great demand. Girls in service
have a large amount of liberty. “Slaveys” are unknown. Other cases
known to me are those of a commercial traveller who had the offer
of three situations within an hour of landing in Adelaide; three
carpenters who obtained places immediately at a wage double that
they had received in England; two engineers who obtained employment
in the Newport works within a day of landing, and many others. Now,
nearly all the men I encountered from the Old Land told me that the
utmost ignorance prevails at home about labour questions in Australia.
They said: “Why do you not enlighten people a little more concerning
the conditions of labour in Australia?” To this they frequently add
the remark that, while Canada seems an easy distance from England,
Australia seems so far away as to frighten people from attempting to
emigrate. This, of course, is easily understood. Eight or ten days
from Liverpool takes one to Canada. It is five times eight days from
Liverpool to Australia. If a man goes to Canada, and discovers that
he has made a mistake, he can easily return home; but it seems very
different when the case is Australia. He has got to the uttermost
ends of the earth, and the frightful expanse of water, covering 13,000
miles, lies between him and “home.”

Now, I venture to think that this is a mere bogey. The distance looks
worse on paper than it is in reality. When once the trip has been made
the mystery of distance is solved, and the traveller can intelligently
think himself back over the seas, and in doing this the terror ceases
to exist. It is the unknown that troubles one. But if a man is certain
before he starts out that he is doing right in coming, that is, if he
takes reasonable precautions to inform himself concerning his chances
of employment here, he has nothing to fear. He will not desire to
return. Australia will become his home. The Old Land will not disappear
from his horizon; it will rather lie before him from afar, spread out
in true perspective. He will better see the Old Land from here than he
saw it at home. How, then, shall he take these reasonable precautions?
I advise any prospective immigrant to see the Agents-General in London.
Each State has its Agent, and from him all particulars can be obtained.

To be quite frank, there is no place in Australia for ne’er-do-wells,
for loungers, for lotus-eaters, for men who have no kindly feeling
towards honest work. But for real workers, in nearly all branches,
there is abundance of room. As against Canada, Australia has the
advantage of being sunlit all the year round. There are no rigorous
winters. In the north there are no winters at all. Men having sons do
exceedingly well in Australia. There is a great shortage of boys.

To begin with wages. In practically all departments wages are
higher--much higher--than at home. The high wages represent an
evolution. They are the result of the working of Trade Unionism. The
unions first fought the battle, and now legislation has fixed the
terms of employment. One great institution in Australia is the “Wages
Boards.” A word is necessary concerning these. It is not every trade
that has its wages board, but as things look at present it will not be
long before wages boards are universal. This system of fixing wages
dates from the year 1896, when one or two trades fell under the rule.
In 1900 it was extended to other trades, and in 1907 to yet others,
including shop employees, carters, and drivers. Both wages and hours
are fixed, the minimum being, in many cases, much higher than the
maximum in England. In 1897 the system was applied to outside women
workers in the clothing trade, with this result, that whereas in that
year the average wage of women workers was 12s. 3d. per week, in 1908
it rose to £1 2s. 4d. per week. The wages boards are formed upon the
application of masters and men. A chairman is selected--generally an
outsider and an impartial man--and regular business is transacted. A
minimum wage is fixed, not always to the employer’s liking.

The system has many advantages, and some disadvantages. It does not
always work fairly, and it does not always discriminate between the
genuine worker who is worthy of his salary and the idler who shirks
his work. But, taken as a whole, the system has been a boon, and has
done much to reduce sweating. In the present troubled condition of
labour in England it might be advantageous for leaders to examine the
Australian system, and to adopt its best points. Not only are wages
fixed; the hours of labour are rigidly fixed also. The eight hours day
for the majority of trades has been in operation since 1855, when the
agitation took practical shape. In factories the working week is one
of forty-eight hours, distributed in such a manner as to allow of work
ceasing on five nights of the week at five o’clock, and on Saturday at
noon. Shop hours are similarly fixed. As previously mentioned, shops
close at six o’clock at night and one o’clock on Saturdays. Exceptions
are made in the case of fruit and bread shops, as well as tobacconists,
hairdressers, restaurants, and the like. The chemists are compelled
to close at 8 P.M. There is a ridiculous side to this at times. One
evening I entered a newsagent’s shop to purchase a top for my boy. The
proprietor sold toys as well as books and papers. The hour was a little
after six. I purchased my evening paper without difficulty, but the
top was refused, although it stared me in the face from a shelf in the
rear. It was useless to plead. “It is after six,” the proprietor said,
“and I dare not sell you the top.” You will see at once that there is
secured abundant leisure for the vast majority of the population.

A recent increase concerns clerks. It had been urged upon the board
by the Western Australian and the Victorian branches of the Federated
Clerks’ Union that a minimum wage of £4 a week should be paid, the
working week to consist of 38 hours. This log, however, has been turned
down. The decisions arrived at were as follows: Wool clerks to work for
37 hours a week from March to September, and 48 hours from September to
March; clerks in shops, factories, mills, etc., 48 hours a week; all
other clerks 42½ hours. The scale of pay was fixed as follows:

Clerks 21 years of age and over, 48s. a week.

Under 16 years of age, 10s.

Commencing work at 16 years, 12s. 6d. for the first six months, and
15s. for the second six months.

Commencing at 17 years, 15s.; with one year’s experience, 17s. 6d.;
with two years’ experience, 20s.

Commencing at 18 years of age, 17s. 6d.; with one year’s experience,
20s.; with two years’ experience, 22s. 6d.; with three years’
experience, 25s.

Commencing at 19 years of age, 20s.; with one year’s experience, 22s.
6d.; with two years’ experience, 25s.; with three years’ experience,
27s. 6d.; with four years’ experience, 30s.

Commencing at 20 years of age, 25s.; with one year’s experience, 27s.
6d.; with two years’ experience, 30s.; with three years’ experience,
32s. 6d.; with four years’ experience, 35s.; with five years’
experience, 40s.; and thereafter the minimum wage.

The principle has also been established _of equal pay for both sexes_.
Now, this sounds magnificent on paper. But the question is, will it
finally work? This rate, however, may be compared with the rate of pay
for labourers, who get as much as 9s. per day as Government servants.

Another interesting thing concerns seamen. The eight hours’ day is in
operation throughout the Commonwealth in nearly all departments of
labour. But until recently seamen have not come within its provisions.
For some time there had been an agitation amongst them, and as a
result of conferences between the masters and the men, the matter was
submitted to the decision of the Arbitration Court, with the result
that seamen on the Australian coast were placed on an equality with the
workers on land. The judge, in giving his decision, referred to the
“meagre pittance” received at present by able-bodied seamen. The award
has restricted the hours of labour in port for seamen to eight hours,
and in daylight, excepting on days of departure. At sea, stokehold men
and deck hands are also placed upon the eight hours’ footing. The week
consists of six working days. If a ship remains in port on Sundays or
holidays, the seamen are to be free from labour. When a ship departs
from a main port on a Sunday or holiday each seaman is entitled to
an extra day’s pay. If Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day,
Good Friday, or Easter Monday be spent at sea, the seaman is to be
compensated by receiving either an extra day’s pay for each holiday so
spent at sea or an extra day off on shore. Overtime is to be paid for
at the rate of 1s. 3d. or 1s. 6d. per hour. The new rates of pay are
fixed as follows: Boatswain, £9 per month; lamp-trimmer, £9; A.B., £8;
ordinary seaman under eighteen, £5; over eighteen, £6; donkeyman, £11;
fireman, £10--all per month, plus food.

British seamen will rub their eyes at this list. Few in Australia
regard it as other than just. The lot of the seaman was, not so many
years ago, hard and inhuman. It has gradually been ameliorated. In
the Old Land there is still abundant room for improvement, both in
the matter of hours and wages. Australia is certainly setting a fine
fashion and a fair pace in these things.

But with all these privileges there is a good deal of discontent in
the labour world. There are too many strikes, some of which seem to
the ordinary beholder to be stupid. It is serious when a thousand men
strike because one of their number has been dismissed for a violation
of the rules of the establishment. And there is a good deal of friction
between Union and non-Union men. The goal of many of the foremost
Labour men is avowed State Socialism.

Christmas is a favourable opportunity for observing the working of
the Labour Laws in the colony. In the Old Land, the fortnight before
Christmas Day is a period of rush and pressure and working overtime. On
Christmas Eve, in particular, the shops are open until midnight, and
even beyond. In Australia matters are very different. Two years ago
Christmas Day fell on a Sunday. In the previous week the shops closed
as usual each evening at six o’clock, and on Christmas Eve, being a
Saturday, _the shops were all closed at one o’clock midday_. Is it not
enough to make the average English shopkeeper gasp with astonishment
and envy? Festival or no festival, the Australian workman observes
the law as to hours of work; and he does not exceed his measure. On
Christmas Eve of that year the final postal delivery was, as usual
on a Saturday, at noon. Boxing Day being a general holiday, it was a
holiday also for the postmen. Thus no letters were delivered for three
days. Australia is called the “Workers’ Paradise,” and the name is well
merited.



CHAPTER XXVI

DEAD FLIES IN THE LABOUR MOVEMENT


In the year 1913 Messrs. Fred. B. Smith and Raymond Robins, the
leaders of the “Men and Religion Movement” in America, paid a visit
to Australia. They were received with open arms, and everywhere they
gathered immense audiences of men to listen to their remarkable
message. Mr. Smith has, since his tour, given his impressions of the
conditions in Australia with singularly clear penetration. He says:

“Here we found that from the law-making end about everything that could
be dreamed of for the good of the people has been done. Raymond Robins
was simply overwhelmed with the magnitude of their legislation upon
these questions. They have an eight-hour day universal labour law. They
have a minimum wage law. They have an old-age pension Act. They have
stringent laws concerning the operation of dangerous machinery without
adequate protection for the workmen. There is not another land on earth
with so little poverty in it. From the material standpoint they have
reached a very high standard.”

This is true photography. Mr. Smith kept his eyes open during his stay
in the Commonwealth. But he was not blind to the other side of the
picture. He continues:

“The striking thing is that while these men have been engaged in
passing the most arbitrary industrial laws they have permitted, in many
cases, the loosest ones to exist upon the great moral questions. The
public bars are loosely run. Gambling is permitted at race tracks and
cricket matches. A people may pass laws until Doomsday, and they alone
will not make people good, righteous, nor happy. There is no other such
final evidence upon this point as that given in Australia.”

This is the problem the churches in Australia have to face. The growth
of freedom has not meant the growth of morals. On every hand we
perceive the perversion of this wonderful liberty. In this Garden of
Eden the snake has already appeared.

Thus I have learned in five years that a perfect climate, a perfect
social environment, and an almost perfect social and industrial
legislation, together fail to produce morality. When the law was passed
forbidding all work in shops, warehouses, and factories after midday
on Saturday, it was thought that the Sunday morning services in the
churches might gain as the result. At least, the ancient plea, “too
tired because of hard work until late on Saturday night,” would be
impossible. But the increased facilities for pleasure have led, in many
instances, to the entire secularisation of the Sunday. Much wanted
more, more demanded the most. And so, for very many, the Christian
Sunday has gone, being replaced by a day of pleasure, sometimes pure,
and often riotous. It is not that the people who spend the Sunday on
the Bay, or in the gully, or at the seaside, or on the golf course, or
at the picture show, have any intellectual hostility to religion--many
of them never dream of cultivating their intellectual life in any
direction whatever; they simply do not care.

This problem, newly worked out amidst ideal conditions of living,
affords food for thought for those persons who imagine that a Garden of
Eden alone can make a man what he ought to be. Australia is the place
to annihilate illusions of that kind.

Mr. Smith has put his finger upon another of Australia’s sore places
thus:

“We are all agreed that in Australia, in a larger sense than in any
other place we have ever worked, ‘Labour’ and the Church seemed
estranged. To speak of one man as a ‘Labour’ man and another as a
‘Liberal’ is almost synonymous with saying that one is an anti-Church
and the other a Church man.”

The fact is, generally speaking, undoubted, but why it should be so is
difficult to understand. The common statement made by Labour leaders
is that the Church is wholly pledged to capitalism and to the classes.
No statement is more completely false. As a matter of fact, one of the
radical causes of many troubles and injustices in our social system
(I should not be far astray if I said it was _the_ radical cause) is
the iniquitous gamble in land which Australia deliberately allowed,
and even fostered, in its early days. The vicious system of the Old
World was transferred to the new soil, with the result that the present
generation is paying usurious interest for the social sins of the
fathers. House rents are wickedly high. Many commodities cost four
times their real value because shopkeepers are compelled to pay absurd
rents for their premises.

Many of the Socialists in Australia fail to allow for this. Churchmen
are not responsible for the iniquities of the system. The greatest
sinners in the olden days were men who knew far better the interior of
a saloon than the interior of a church. And it ought to be said that
the leaders of social reform in Australia to-day are men connected with
the Church.

It is difficult to write about these things without appearing to be
unsympathetic. The present writer, therefore, may be allowed to say
that all his sympathies are with men who are struggling for justice.
Labour men in Australia are right in demanding certain readjustments
which will give them a freer manhood and a fuller share of the good
things of life; but many of them are wrong in their temper and in their
methods. Further, many of them are unfair in certain of their demands.

Take a concrete instance. A year ago there was in progress a lesser
strike, involving some sixty or eighty men in an establishment which
employs over 1,500 men. And why the strike? Will it be believed that,
put in plain terms, the men struck for _less money_? The proprietor,
who is a just and generous man, offered these particular men a new
system of piece-work, by means of which they could earn as much as 17s.
per day. It was a definite offer of advancement, yet it was refused
in favour of the old system, which fixed (I believe) 12s. per day as
a stated wage and apart from piece-work. Rather than accept the new
system the men went out upon strike. To an ordinary person this seems
an act of pure folly, going dead against the men’s interests. It is an
instance of a caucus imposing a tyranny. The first and the chief need
of Australia, from an industrial point of view, is the establishment of
friendly relations between employers and employed. At present suspicion
and acrimony reign, with disastrous results.

There is a great part for the Church to play in the promotion of a
better feeling among the people, but before this can be done some
of the Socialist leaders will have to attend to a little reading,
and cease to blacken a religion the alphabet of which they do not
understand.

In point of fact, the Labour men see but two classes: the working
classes, whose interests lie in high wages, low rents, and cheap
land; and the non-working classes, whose interests lie in low wages,
high rents, and dear land. It is obvious that there is room both for
information to be imparted to, reconciliation to be effected between,
and justice accorded by these parties. The Council of Churches
has instituted a “Labour Sunday,” in which the radical principles
underlying the relation of master and man are expounded according to
Christ. There is far too much suspicion on the part of the workers
against the Churches. Perhaps “suspicion” is too mild a term to employ
in view of the following extracts taken from official Labour papers.
_The Tocsin_ said a year or two back: “Take it any road you will,
religion is a curse and a snare and a delusion and a malicious sham.”
Another Labour paper, _The Worker_, remarked: “When the Labour movement
has to turn to God for help, it will be God help it indeed.... Its (the
party’s) creed is purely materialistic, concerning no world but this
world. Labour writes on its doorposts, ‘Wanted.--A Saviour; no God need
apply.’” Ministers of religion are described as “wolves in sheep’s
clothing, Pharisees, whited sepulchres, who call themselves teachers of
Christianity, reptiles to be loathed, who, under the cloak of religious
authority or clerical superiority, help to rivet more firmly the chains
of injustice and wrong.” Of the Churches it is said: “Taking them as
a whole, they are the sanctuaries of the sweater, the oppressor, and
the Customs defrauder.” It would seem almost hopeless to reason with
men of this type. They have no discrimination. They have nothing but
opprobrium to pour upon the Churches and upon Christianity. Theirs is
a bitter and a wild crusade. It may be that certain types of religion
which have flourished, and still to an extent flourish, have irritated
them, and that with reason, but this wholesale attack is pitiful. Some
of the workers appreciate “Labour Sunday”; others regard it as an
insult. Happily, not all the Labour men outside the Churches are of
this inflammable and virulent type. The Church in Australia has all
its work cut out to reconcile the Labour party with the Evangel.

A man who speaks plainly about these things is likely to become
unpopular. Two years ago I got into trouble through telling a few cold
truths about the conditions of Australian labour. The affair came about
thus: Labour was very scarce in certain trades, notably the building
trade. Builders and contractors could not obtain nearly sufficient
men to enable them to fulfil their contracts in time. High wages were
paid and offered, but the shortage continued. Some of the men took
advantage of this fact to further their own interests. One gentleman in
particular was pointed out to me as by no means a rare case. He was in
receipt of over £4 per week. Pay-night was Friday, and this gentleman,
having received his salary, went in for a “good time” on that same
evening--so “good” that he was unable to appear at work on the
Saturday. With several cases of this order before me, I remarked to a
reporter that some Australian workmen needed to take a more honourable
view of work. They needed to learn the meaning of Mr. Ruskin’s
prophetic word concerning work as a factor in making character. Many
of the workmen simply work for their pay, and they work as badly as
they can. They have no conscience in their labour. And then I cited the
cases named above.

This is how the chief Labour paper in Australia refers to the matter:

“Work is merely a means to an end, and there is nothing in it except
for what it brings. The reason Mr. Spurr does not work is because he
gets the products of labour he requires without producing them himself.
As a matter of fact, the employing class simply want the workers to
toil like galley slaves in order that they may make huge profits--and
do no work. Manhood! Who are the men who spend their lives in arduous
toil because they have been told it is right to work hard? The workers!
Who are the unfortunates who see their wives becoming shrivelled-up
drudges, careworn and ugly in middle life--while the employer’s wife
blooms with health and good feeding? Who are the victims who watch
their sons and daughters being drawn into the drudgery of the factory
when they ought to be at school? Who are the patient slaves who toil
on, trying to prevent their daughters from being flung on the streets
after they themselves have been sucked dry in the mill of labour and
flung on the scrap-heap? The workers!”

Now, if this had been written in England, or in some parts of England,
where wages are short and hours are long, there would have been point
in the remarks. But in Australia there is an eight-hour day, and the
wages are high, being fixed by wages boards. It is not the question
of sweating nor over-work that is here raised, but the question of
remunerative labour. The sweating and the grinding employers have
no greater enemy than the present writer. But when an employer pays
(as in the case cited) a liberal wage, he has the right to expect
conscientious work from his men. And it is not conscientious when
a man, by taking a day off for drinking, hampers and harasses his
employer, who admittedly pays him well. I repeat, a number of
Australian workmen need to take a more dignified and honourable view
of work. Conditions of labour there are better than in any other part
of the world. It is a thousand pities that certain paid “leaders” are
eternally seeking to foment a bad spirit between masters and men.

The moral side of labour seems to me to be insufficiently emphasised.
One of the speakers at an annual demonstration hinted that a six hours’
day was a desirable goal to aim at. The suggestion was received with
great applause. And the reason given was that when the actual needs of
a community have been supplied work should cease and play begin. One
speaker announced as his ideal for the twenty-four hours, eight hours’
work, eight hours’ play, and eight hours’ sleep. He left no place for
work of another kind, i.e. the work of study, of information, and of
culture. This omission is symptomatic; it represents a real omission
in the life of many young Australians. Work, play, and sleep, in the
sense intended by many out there, will not conduce to the building of a
great nation. Not so have the great world-empires been built up. Not so
has Britain risen to her supreme position. One cannot help feeling that
work is not yet invested with the dignity and sacredness which belong
to it. It is too frequently, amongst Australians, regarded as a yoke
which must, willy-nilly, be borne for a certain number of hours per
day, and which ought to be thrown off at the earliest possible moment.
The glory of work has not yet dawned upon the minds of many of this new
generation in this new country. Their fathers knew it, rejoiced in it,
and succeeded by means of it. The sons take life far too easily and
light-heartedly. It is their peril that they do so. Another thing is
that the term “worker” is too frequently restricted to one class of the
community. A “worker” is almost exclusively conceived to be a person
who toils with his hands, and soils them in the effort. Workers with
brain and pen are often spoken of contemptuously, as if they did not
know the meaning of labour. A friend of mine, a leading doctor in the
city, told me a story which is typical of the thought of many workers.
He attended a football match last season played between two teams, one
of which was the University team. As the University men emerged from
the pavilion to take the field a voice was raised in the crowd, “_Here
come the loafers_,” and the remark met with not a little laughter. And
these “loafers” are the coming physicians, journalists, and teachers
of the State! The gulf created by prejudice between toilers with the
hand and toilers with the brain needs speedily bridging. And it may be
added that for these “loafers” there is nothing so easy as an eight
hours’ day. This is a kind and sympathetic criticism, and it is not
superfluous.

As an illustration, on the other side, of what can be done and is being
done to make labour a worthy thing, so far as agriculture is concerned,
it may be well to describe some developments to which Australia is
committed. At Ballarat we saw, in full operation, the work of the
Agricultural High School. It was a perfect revelation to us. Here, for
the first time, a new type of agriculturist is being produced. The
old type, both at home and here, is well known, strong, hard-working,
dogged, and not too well educated. The new type is entirely different
from the old. This high school has been established by the Director
of Education for the purpose of giving a broad and liberal education
to the young men and women in whose hands the cultivation of the soil
rests. It is an experimental college, but its success is already so
striking that similar institutions will certainly spring up all over
the Commonwealth. It claims to be the best-equipped school for experts
in Victoria. The pile of buildings, which cost £13,000, is very
imposing, and beautifully situated on the outskirts of the city. It is
surrounded by eighty acres of land, used for experiments, as well as
for the practical purpose of supplying the institution with vegetables.
The whole land is carefully mapped out into certain lengths, upon
each of which a trial is made of the value of various phosphates
and manures. Thus, before a student passes in the work of practical
agriculture, he knows exactly what is the fertilising power of every
manure in the market. He also knows the cost of production; hence he
can tell immediately whether or not his land will pay at a certain
price.

The staff of teachers includes seven Masters of Arts, a Doctor of
Philosophy, two Bachelors of Arts, and others. The curriculum is most
thorough. The one idea of the institution is to produce intelligent
students who can unite science to labour. The course of training
includes carpentry, book-keeping, commercial correspondence, history,
botany, art, chemistry, mathematics, languages, and cooking. Think of
the old-fashioned farmer and his wife with these accomplishments! We
watched the students at work, and a healthier or more intelligent body
of maidens and youths it would be impossible to find. The girls, no
matter what their station, take their turn in cookery. Each day the
kitchen is served by these young ladies, who cook the food, serve the
meals, and then wash up. There are no servants to do the dirtier work.
Everything is done by the young ladies themselves. We had the honour of
lunching with the director and some of his staff. The meal served to us
was, he assured me, just the ordinary meal of the establishment. Not a
single extra dish had been created in honour of the visitors. It was
the daily sixpenny meal. We had for sixpence five courses, including
tomato soup, beautifully cooked fish, meat, and vegetables, a tasty
pudding, cheese, and coffee.

This combination of the literary with the practical is a splendid idea.
No student leaves the institution with only theoretical knowledge.

It ought to be said that the land upon which the experiments are made
is exceedingly poor, and this is its great advantage for purposes of
education. No poorer land is likely to be bought by these students
when they set up for themselves. They know, therefore, how to make the
best of the worst. Science pitted against a poor soil has conquered.
The introduction of artificial manures has produced the most surprising
results. The buildings of the institution are modern in every respect,
the ventilation and the lighting being perfect.

In the matter of agricultural education, as shown in the Ballarat High
School, Victoria is ahead of the Old Country. Is it not possible to
adopt the best features of this school and apply them to the conditions
in the Old Land? The soil is the radical and the burning question at
home. The congestion of England in her towns and cities can only be
relieved as the rural life of the country is revived. The poorest soil
can be made productive by the use of scientific methods. The Scottish
delegation to Australia were greatly impressed by what they saw at
Ballarat. May not the mother learn a little from her daughter? The
redemption of the land in England and Ireland would solve many of the
social difficulties at home.



CHAPTER XXVII

AUSTRALIAN POLITICS


I have no intention of discussing Australian politics. All that I shall
attempt is a little portraiture, without the slightest “touching up.”
In 1910 Labour was triumphant at the elections. Looking through the
list of triumphant candidates, I observe there were two labourers, a
bricklayer, five miners, an engine-driver, an engine-fitter, a plumber,
two farmers, a hatter, a traveller, a tailor, a pattern-maker, a
quarryman, an orchardist, a watchmaker, a physician, an agent, two
barristers, and three journalists. Was there ever such a Parliament as
that? Of “middle-class” men there are very few; of so-called gentlemen
scarcely any.

In 1912 the Liberals were returned to power in Victoria. “Liberal” in
Australia is the equivalent of quasi-Conservative in England. There is
really no “Liberal” party in the English sense of the word. The members
of this party in Australia are Protectionists. The “Conservatives” are
Free Traders, and also upholders of the “classes.” This is by way of
explanation. An Englishman does not easily or rapidly disentangle the
political threads in this new country. They are much more complex
than at home. The old English “Radical” party is represented here by
the Labour party, which exceeds in its demands the programme of the
Birmingham and Bradlaugh schools of the ’eighties.

The chief interest of the 1912 elections lay in the fact that for
the first time the principles of preferential voting were put into
practice. And it must be admitted that the experiment, with one
exception, proved a great success. It was an experiment which might
with great advantage be tried in England. In Australia, as in England,
three-cornered contests work much harm and most manifest injustice.
The introduction of a third party in an election has had the effect of
splitting votes, and of returning to Parliament one whom the majority
of the people would not and did not vote for. Preferential voting
removes this anomaly--this injustice. For the benefit of any who do
not understand its working, I may be permitted to explain the method.
Three candidates offer themselves for election. Of these only one may
represent the constituency. The three, we will suppose, represent
only two interests, but for reasons of vanity or gain, in place of a
single issue between two opponents, one of the interests is divided
between two persons, each of whom has his advocates. Under the old
system, as I have said, this rivalry was often fatal to the interests
of the majority of the electors. While two quarrelled over the dainty
morsel, the third, and least desirable, made off with it. But under
preferential voting the electors are compelled to vote, in the order
of their preference, for all three candidates. Unless they do this
the voting-paper is rendered null and void. If one of the candidates
secures an absolute majority over the other two--that is, if against
his name the figure 1 predominates in numbers more than equal to 2 and
3 together--No. 1 is at once declared elected. But if No. 1 on the
list has only a relative majority--that is, if Nos. 2 and 3 together
outnumber him--then the votes given to No. 3, the last on the list,
are taken from him and divided, in the order of preference, between
Nos. 1 and 2. It may happen that the position of No. 1 is thereby so
strengthened that he gains an absolute majority, in which case he is
declared elected. Or it may happen, as in one case it did, that in the
order of preference the votes taken from No. 3 and added to No. 2 give
to the last-named the absolute majority, in which case he is declared
elected. All parties are agreed that the system has worked excellently
in the last election. The actual will of the majority of the electors
has triumphed. In this matter, as in the other matter of voting by
post, the Old Country has something to learn from Australia.

In 1911 the Referendum was submitted to the Australian people. To the
astonishment of the Labour Government Australia voted “No” in the
most emphatic manner to the proposals contained in the Referenda. A
year previously Labour swept the boards; then the reaction came. The
Government asked too much at once, and it adopted the policy of “all or
nothing.” Had its proposals been more modest, the Referenda would have
gone through without doubt. Thousands of people who would have voted
“Yes” for many of the separate proposals were compelled to vote “No”
for the scheme as it was presented to them _en bloc_. Great numbers of
men were genuinely sorry to have been compelled to say “No” to certain
of the proposals made, but the way in which the good and the bad were
mixed together left them no alternative. The most regrettable thing was
that, as the result of the voting, certain vicious monopolies continue
to drain the purses of the people. The general feeling is that these
monopolies should cease at once. Take the case of one city, in which is
a fruit “ring” which keeps up fabulous prices for fruit sold retail.
Apples, which are sold wholesale at half a crown the case of forty
pounds, are priced at one penny and twopence each in the shops. And for
oranges, which in England sell for one halfpenny, threepence each is
demanded. There is apparently no power available to prevent the leeches
of the ring from continuing their business. Then there is a fish ring,
which outrageously robs the public. Fish in parts of Australia near
the coast costs three times the price charged in England. Wood, which
“up country” can be bought for six shillings a ton, costs twenty-five
shillings in the capital. So also is it with coal, which is sold at
an inflated price. And the public suffer and pay. If that part of the
Referenda which had reference to this kind of thing had been detached
from the rest, I believe it would have been universally approved, but
the policy of “all or none” deprived the people of the boon.

Again in 1913 certain referenda were submitted to the Australian people
for their decision. The questions were drawn up by the late Labour
Government, submitted to the Governor-General for his signature, and
circulated all over the Commonwealth. Every elector, male and female,
had placed in his hand a complete statement of the case. Not only were
the questions submitted, but upon the same pages the pros and cons of
the case were set forth. The Liberals used their best arguments against
the proposals, and entreated the electors to vote “No.” The Labour
men used their best arguments, and urged the electors to vote “Yes.”
The proposals were very simple. They were frankly Socialistic. They
included the nationalisation of a number of industries, the fixing
of prices for commodities, the destruction of trusts, and similar
measures. The sacred formula of Labour in submitting these proposals
was: “Shall the people rule?” The Liberals, on their part, steadfastly
resisted the proposals on the ground that some of them were unjust,
and that others were unnecessary, since it was alleged that the State
already possessed sufficient power to deal with unfair monopolies. At
first it was thought that the “Ayes” had it, but in the final count
it was seen that the referenda were lost. Two facts stand out very
clearly: the “Ayes” have gained considerably since the last time
referenda were submitted, and the voting has been remarkably close. It
is clear to all that the Commonwealth is almost equally divided in its
opinion about the matter. We may take it as certain that each side put
forth all its effort, and that, therefore, the late decision of the
people fairly represents the state of mind in the country for some time
to come.

More moderate referenda, and a different personnel, might have ensured
victory for the proposals. For it is certain that there needs to be
some change in Australia in certain directions. Faulty government
in the early years of the life of Australia has produced, without
doubt, certain abuses which ought to be swept away. The cost of living
generally and the prices of certain commodities in particular both
point to underlying radical wrongs which the referenda sought to
remove. There can be no doubt that Socialistic ideas are gaining in
Australia.[B] Labour is solid, and it is a force to be reckoned with.
It is also a growing force. And if a conflict is to be avoided in the
future, the principle of Christ will have to be applied, and men must
agree with their adversaries while they are in the way with them.

    [B] As these pages are going to the press, the cable announces
        the return of Labour at the elections of 1914.

The question of Protection or Free Trade is one upon which opinion
is sharply divided. In all the Churches the best men take opposite
sides in the matter. It is unwise, therefore, to introduce politics
in any shape or form into pulpit or upon the religious platform. One
party affirms Protection to be the insanest policy that Australia has
committed itself to; another claims for Protection all the virtues.
The practical facts are that for good clothing one pays 50 or 60 per
cent. more than in England; house rent is higher than at home; taxes
are lower; paper and printing are much dearer; furniture is very
much dearer; tea is cheaper, but sugar is 40 or 50 per cent. dearer;
books, of course, are dearer. A pamphlet which at home would sell for
twopence costs sixpence in Australia. And so with other things. On the
contrary, fruit is much cheaper, where the “ring” does not operate.
Beautiful large eating apples sell for half a crown the case of 40
lbs. A large, juicy pineapple costs fourpence or sixpence. Bananas are
cheap. Australians do not regard as “dear” what I should. They balance
wages and expenditure. Many incomes are larger than in England. The
great question has yet to be settled in Australia whether, after all,
Protection does protect--_the right people_.



CHAPTER XXVIII

RELIGION IN AUSTRALIA


In 1912 there were published the statistics of the religious census for
the entire Commonwealth, and they form instructive reading. The face
value of the figures is considerable. They seem to show that Australia
is an extremely religious nation. The vast majority of the people
claim to belong to one or other of the Churches. The Episcopal Church
is at the top with 1,710,443 adherents; Roman Catholics and “other”
Catholics, whatever that may mean, come next with a total of 999,450
persons. Then follow Presbyterians and Methodists, each with more than
half a million adherents; Congregationalists and Baptists between
them number 160,000; “Undefined” Protestants, 109,861; Lutherans,
72,395; Unitarians are at the bottom of the list with 2,175 adherents;
Freethinkers return themselves as numbering 3,254; Agnostics, 3,084;
Atheists, 579; while over 110,000 persons declined to make any
declaration whatever.

These figures are very instructive, especially when compared with
the returns of the last census taken a decade ago. In ten years
Anglicans have increased 14 per cent., Presbyterians 30 per cent.,
Methodists 8 per cent., Baptists 9 per cent., Congregationalists 6
per cent., and Roman Catholics 8 per cent. _Pro rata_, therefore,
Presbyterians stand at the top by a long way. It is interesting to
note that “Freethinkers”--a very elastic term--have declined 65 per
cent., while “Agnostics”--another very elastic term--have increased
from 971 to 3,084. “Atheists” have doubled their numbers, rising from
274 to 579. Now, what is the value of these figures? To deal with the
Atheists first. Their numbers are inconsiderable even at the high
rate of increase which they show. Thirty years ago atheists were very
numerous in the Commonwealth. At that time there was a propaganda led
by a notorious person of very odd temperament. That phase of things
has almost entirely passed away. The whole Commonwealth numbers only
579 Atheists, and one knows exactly where to find them. For the
greater part they are composed of persons whose education is extremely
defective and whose impertinence is unbounded. I speak of those whom I
know in Melbourne and Sydney. We look for the handful of Atheists on
the Yarra Bank in Melbourne and in the Domain in Sydney. To hear these
gentlemen speak is not to be impressed so much with their Atheism as
with their unbounded audacity, ignorance, and rudeness. Some of them
display a banner containing the inscription: “No God, no masters.”
One of their speakers informed his audience that the inscription was
the translation of the famous “ni Dieu, ni maître,” and he pronounced
it “nee doo, nee mater.” Australians laugh at the noisy group of
revolutionists. We were always given to understand that the number
of Atheists was growing considerably, but the census figures came as
a cold douche upon the amazing claims put forward by the sceptical
party. The slump in “Freethinking” is remarkable, as is also the
growth of Agnosticism. This latter, however, must not be taken too
seriously. There are undoubtedly a number of estimable men of culture
who are sincerely Agnostic. For these I have a real respect. Some of
them I know well. Amongst them are one or two public teachers. But I
am afraid the majority who label themselves Agnostics are intellectual
_dilettanti_. The truth of this opinion may be gauged by the fact
that of the many young men who have come to me with their religious
difficulties--men who speak of themselves as “Agnostics”--I have not
yet found one who had a real appreciation of the present trend of
religious thought. They are still fighting the bogies of Ingersoll,
or they are obsessed with the outgrown philosophy of Spencer, or they
imagine that Haeckel represents the _ne plus ultra_ of scientific
thought. There is an immense amount of educational work yet to be
accomplished in Australia on the religious side.

As regards the Church figures proper, it is natural that the Anglican
and the Roman communions should claim the largest numbers. But it would
be interesting to know how much of the professed attachment is real
and how much is purely nominal. We all know that in England men put
themselves down as belonging to the National Church who have no real
relation to it. It is the same here. The real test of attachment to a
Church is to be found in the number of active communicants and workers,
and this information is withheld from us--rather, it was never sought.

The figures, while valuable, are quite superficial. More than four
millions of people claim to belong to the Churches. If the claim were
real, we should require to build many more churches than we at present
possess. But, as a fact, not twenty-five per cent. of the population
attend church regularly. There is much to be thankful for, but the
condition of things is distinctly unsatisfactory. Abstinence from
church, however, according to the census figures, is not due to the
spread of Agnostic or Atheistic principles; it finds its reason in
the sheer indifference of the majority of the people. One could wish
there was enough of interest in religion to awaken hostility towards
it, for hostility means life, while indifference means death. The
indifference has no intellectual basis whatever in the vast majority of
cases. In this seductive climate pleasure is the ruling passion. Men
think of little else than enjoying themselves. Work (as little of it as
possible), play, and sleep; this is the Australian trinity, adored by
the many.

One reason for indifference or hostility to the Churches is found, as
has already been indicated, in the grotesque misconceptions invented
or fostered by certain Socialists. In one Labour weekly there is an
incessant “girding” at the Churches. The clergy and Church members
are eternally placed in the pillory. In a long paragraph headed “The
Church a Buttress of Capitalism,” this paper says: “Being blinded
by superstition and sentiment, the workers have allowed themselves
to be fooled and hoodwinked. They have believed what ecclesiastical
diplomats, to serve ends of their own, chose to instil into their
ignorant minds. They have believed, as these tricksters tell them,
that they must be content to remain in the position of life in which
it has pleased the Almighty to place them.” The insane charge that
our Churches are the homes of grasping capitalists, the places where
the poor are taught to keep their position in humble dependence upon
their betters, is recklessly untrue. For one thing, Australians would
not support this kind of teaching for a single hour; for another, they
never hear anything remotely approaching it. Invincible prejudice of
this kind is pitiful, but it has the fatal effect of keeping many
people outside the churches.

The broad question of religion in Australia cannot be considered
without distinct reference to the influence of climate upon modes of
thought and expression.

It is not, of course, concerning religion _per se_ that there is any
problem under the Southern Cross. Climate affects only the accidentals
of our humanity; it does not touch the essentials. All that makes man
man is found equally in Britain, America, Australia, the Orient, and
the Islands. And the essence of religion--of Christianity--remains
the same in any climate and under any conditions. Of all Christians,
notwithstanding their colour, or habits, or surroundings, it is
demanded that they shall obey their Master and conform their lives to
His.

The problem concerns the form, or forms, which this religion shall
take in a new world. The Anglo-Saxons who came out to Australia as
pioneers brought with them their traditions--personal, domestic,
social, religious. In the Old Land custom had decreed a certain type
and standard of dress; a certain style of house; a certain mode of
living. The pioneers, in transferring their bodies from Britain to
Australia, transferred these styles and modes at the same time. They
affected frock coats and silk hats--positive absurdities (the latter
especially in a semi-tropical climate). They built many of their houses
on the English plan--another absurdity. And they observed English hours
of labour and business, and adopted English food--a final absurdity.
This Sicilian or Greek climate demands a style of dress and a mode of
life such as those which have been evolved by experience in the older
countries rejoicing in a sun like ours. One day Australia will fit its
Greek or Italian life into a suitable environment.

But the British who first came out also brought with them a set of
traditional sentiments associated with their religion. December 21 was
known to them as the shortest day of the year. Christmas was observed
in a setting of ice and snow. Santa Claus was a creature of the cold,
and appeared enveloped in furs. The Watch Night service was celebrated
in the gloomiest time of the year. Advent was the ecclesiastical
season appropriate, by reason of shortening days, for meditating upon
the end of all things. On the long and dismal nights of December,
Spohr’s “Last Judgment” seemed a fitting work to be performed. And
last, the pioneers--many of them Scotch--brought with them the Puritan
spirit and austerity.

And the climate mocked these traditional sentiments. December 21 turned
out to be the longest, the brightest, and often the hottest day of the
year. Christmas fell in the midsummer, when frequently the heat is
almost unsupportable. The familiar ice and snow were entirely absent.
Santa Claus in furs appeared ludicrous. December was far too cheerful
a month for the encouragement of gloomy thoughts upon the end of all
things. The cricket and the frog, the ’possum and the jackass, the mina
and the thrush, all threw out their defiant challenge to Spohr and his
awe-inspiring work.

And the climate is triumphing. It is true the traditional “Father
Christmas” appears in more than one place in Australia. But a new
“Father Christmas” is arising. He does not descend chimneys, nor shiver
with the cold, nor affect snow trappings. He drives along the streets
in a bush wagon drawn by bush ponies. The new “Father Christmas” is an
Australian, pure and simple. The children understand him and revere
him--so far as Australian children revere anything. He is essentially
modern. He has no ancient history behind him, and in this particular he
matches the country. The new “Father Christmas” is a product of the
climate. A new Christmas Day has also dawned. The dear old Christmas
“at home” is--or was--a time of reunion. It was essentially a domestic
festival. In Australia it is a holiday, pure and simple. Thousands of
people take their annual vacation at Christmas, and thousands more
leave home for mountain and seaside. The coastal steamers are crowded
with passengers. At Christmastide the churches in the city are thinly
attended; most of the regular worshippers are away on holiday. Again
the climate has triumphed. Turkey and plum-pudding still garnish the
tables, but they are doomed. It is only a question of time, and there
will be celebrated underneath the Southern Cross at Christmas festival
as different from that which is known “at home” as the poles are apart
from each other.

A new “Watch Night” service has been created. Through dismal streets,
with snow or sleet, and in the teeth of a biting wind, the old folk
in the Old Country trudged to the warmed church on the last night of
the year. When the clock sounded the hour of midnight everybody felt
relieved. The tension was over. The corner had been turned. From that
moment the days would lengthen until the height of summer. But in
Australia there is nothing to suggest solemnity. The last night of the
old year is a warm, delightful summer night, redolent with the perfume
of a hundred balms and the stifling scent of a thousand flowers. Do
what one will, it is impossible, in these conditions, to impart reality
into a hymn which speaks of “Days and moments quickly flying.” It is
the fault of the climate. The Puritan spirit is departing--yea! has
well-nigh departed. A handful of folk are left who would in no wise
travel on the Sabbath nor permit the piano to be used for secular
purposes. The pioneers were severe, austere, rigid in their Puritanism.
The original “Scots’ Church” resembled a barn. The present “Scots’
Church” in the city is a cathedral, containing one of the finest organs
in Victoria--or anywhere else. The contrast between the two buildings
marks the difference between the Puritanical spirit of seventy years
ago and the light, gay spirit of to-day. Fathers who would on no
account pay visits on the Sabbath have begotten sons who go to church
when they please--which is not often--and who spend the majority of
their Sundays on the golf course or on the bay. The temper of the
people has entirely changed. And the climate has done it.

The climate--behold the enemy! Shall we say that, varying the phrase
of Gambetta? Or shall we condemn the people for yielding to its
seductions? We have amongst us a great number of people who would
be irreligious in any climate and under any conditions. The climate
aids and abets them, but they themselves are the chief offenders,
the guilty people upon whom the chief responsibility falls. We must
leave them out of our consideration. The grave question remaining
is, how the Church will adapt itself to the new conditions. The
climate, unquestionably, is destroying many of the English religious
traditions. A new tradition--or, rather, a new set of traditions--will
have to be created. It is inevitable. A number of the Anglican clergy
are realising this so far as their own Church is concerned. They openly
express their conviction that the archaisms of the Prayer-book are a
distinct hindrance to their work. The older people cling for dear life
to the service they love. The younger generation is becoming impatient.
The Anglican Church in Australia will have to follow the example of the
Episcopal Church in America, and work out its own salvation. The day
will come when a Governor-General from England will not be required.
With his passing will also pass the Governor’s pew in the Cathedral.
The native Governor, like the American President, may be a Presbyterian
or a Congregationalist or a Baptist, and he will worship at his own
church. The Church of England in Australia will then be the Episcopal
Church of Australia, and, like other Churches, it will have to stand
upon its own merits. Many of the clergy see this, and desire to be
ready against the new time. The same is true of other Churches. The
English type will gradually pass, and give place to an Australian type
of religious life. And the climate will largely determine the form that
the new type must take. The danger is that it may be superficial. The
hope for Australia, religiously, lies in a united Evangelical Church,
the life of which will create its own form. To use the simile of our
Lord, the new wine must be put into new bottles.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Anglican Church in Australia is seriously considering its relation
to the mother Church at home.

A significant discussion took place two or three years back at the
Anglican Provincial Synod held in Melbourne. A resolution was moved by
an arch-deacon:

“That this Provincial Synod of Victoria respectfully requests the
General Synod of Australia and Tasmania to consider the advisability
and practicability of taking such steps as may be necessary to obtain
authority from the Church of England to enable the Church in Australia
to adapt the liturgy and discipline of the Church of England to the
varied needs of Australia, provided that no step be taken that will
destroy the nexus between the Church in England and the Church in
Australia.”

An amendment was moved by the then Dean Stephen--one of the finest
Anglicans in Australia--that the last clause of the resolution be
omitted; and the amendment was lost. But only for a time. Young
Churchmen possessing vision are impatient with the yoke imposed
upon them by Canterbury and York. They say, quite frankly, that it
is ridiculous for the Anglican Church in Australia to be under the
dominion of the two English provinces which legislate for conditions so
entirely different from those obtaining in the new country. The view
of Australian-born Anglicans is that they ought to think Imperially,
and that their connection should be with the whole Episcopal
communion rather than with the two English provinces. In fine, the
Episcopal Church in Australia needs autonomy. It was noticed that the
Australians almost to a man stood with Dean Stephen, while those on the
Conservative side were “imported” clergymen, such as the Archbishop,
good Dean MacCullagh, and others. There is no doubt about it that,
sooner or later, the question of separation will have to be faced.
As Australia develops its own clergy, the “imports” will be reduced,
and finally they will cease, and then autonomy will be granted. The
“Episcopal Church of Australia” in communion with the Episcopal
Churches elsewhere will better represent the genius of the Australian
people than a “Church of England” in Australia.... And sympathetic
lookers-on clearly perceive that the change would be to the immense
gain of the Church in Australia. The development is worth watching.

Meanwhile another movement has been started, tending in the direction
of Church union. At the beginning of 1913 a leading layman belonging
to the Congregational Church invited to dinner at the Grand Hotel
a company of eighty leaders of the Protestant Churches, to whom
he unfolded his plans. At this gathering it was decided to hold
in Melbourne an unofficial Congress of the Churches in the month
of September, 1913. Membership in the Congress was to be entirely
personal, in order that the fullest and frankest discussion of the
problems involved might be discussed, without reference to official
decisions. The idea was to create an atmosphere which, in its turn,
might be expected to permeate the Church Synods and other official
bodies.

To be quite frank, many of those who approved of the idea were not
at all sanguine as to the ultimate result of the Congress; they
thought that the scheme would end in talk, yet they were willing to
go forward, if only in the interests of a finer fraternal feeling.
But it soon became evident that a deeply serious spirit was at work.
Men who were regarded as _hors concours_ rallied to the cause. The
Anglicans, who at first had been tacitly left out of the reckoning,
expressed a hearty desire to join in the movement. And at once I have
to say, as one who sat on two of the Commissions, that, if the movement
accomplished nothing further than the bringing together in friendly
and frank conference men of the most diverse minds, it more than
justified itself. The hours we spent together in trying to understand
each other’s positions, and in seeking a synthesis of our opposing
views and practices, were amongst the most sacred of our lives. In
fact, we were all amazed at the discovery we made of each other’s real
and essential Christianity. Men who passed each other in the streets
for years without a sign of recognition, and with mutual suspicion, at
last supped together, prayed together, communed together, and learned
to love each other. Members of eight Churches formed the Congress,
i.e. Anglican, Brethren, Baptist, Church of Christ, Congregationalist,
Methodist, Presbyterian, and the Society of Friends. Three Commissions
were formed: The first to consider “The Standardisation of College
Curricula, and the possibility of Combined Theological Education”; the
second to consider “The Union Control of Home Missions,” and the third
to consider “The Difficulties and Possibilities of Organic Union.”
These bodies sat during the space of four months to collect evidence,
to reduce differences to the minimum, and to prepare a report for
discussion at the Congress itself.

The daily Press rendered great service from the very first. It allowed
representative men to write special (and lengthy) articles on Church
union, and expressions of opinion were freely invited. The religious
Press, it need hardly be said, was equally sympathetic. And so, long
before the Congress was opened, a kindly atmosphere was created.

The _personnel_ of the Congress was remarkable. At the opening
reception the Lord Mayor (a Roman Catholic) offered the most cordial
greetings to the guests, which included several Anglican Bishops,
Presidents of Conference, Moderators of Assemblies, and Chairmen of
Unions.

The temper of the Congress was admirable--yea, perfect. It was
understood from the beginning that nothing should be suppressed;
that no man should, for reasons of courtesy or delicacy, conceal his
convictions; that every difficulty should, as far as possible, be
openly faced. A few extreme things were said--things that might well
have produced irritation. But whatever was felt, no sign of hostility
was displayed. Speakers were applauded for their frankness, even when
the frankness stung. It would be fatiguing to follow the course of
the sessions; all that I aim at is to set forth the results which were
arrived at.

And first with regard to Commission No. 1. The findings of the
Commission were as follows: It was unanimously agreed that an effort
be forthwith made to raise the standard of theological education and
unite the forces available towards this end by adopting a system of
co-operation in theological education such as now prevails in Montreal.
This means that the students of the various theological colleges may
now have common training in all great subjects, such as Old and New
Testament language and literature, Church History, Biblical Theology,
Historical Theology, Philosophy of Religion, Apologetics, Comparative
Study of Religion, Homiletics, Sociology, Missions, etc. For this
purpose it was suggested that a common hall should be erected, or,
failing this, that the largest available room in any of the existing
colleges should be used for the purpose of giving common lectures on
the subjects specified. A full and complete time-table was drawn up
by the Chairman of the Commission. The wisdom of this arrangement
is apparent to all. Each student will now have the advantage of the
very best instruction given by the very best available professors. In
place of paddling in a shallow pool, each man may now swim in the deep
water. Nothing better than this will break down that provincialism
which has been for too long the curse of small colleges. Australia, in
particular, needs that broader outlook which a more generous education
of the type proposed alone can give. In pioneering days simpler
teaching was ample; now that the times have changed, and Australia is
sharing the culture of the old world, the highest ministerial equipment
is demanded.

There was no difficulty with regard to Commission No. 2. Everybody had
recognised in a general way the scandal of overlapping in Home Mission
districts. But the evidence collected by the Commission determined
the Congress to insist upon the immediate cessation of this scandal.
We heard of small “townships” (there are no “villages” in Australia)
consisting of 200 people, in which two or three churches were
struggling for less than a bare existence. We realised the enormous
waste of energy and of money which this scandalous state of things
entails. The report of the Commission was heartily endorsed that this
overlapping “constitutes a problem of the most serious order, and is a
reproach which the Churches are bound in honour to efface.” Pending the
coming organic union in which the entire question would be immediately
settled, the Commission suggested the forming of an Advisory Committee
of the Churches, to which all proposals of denominational extension
shall be referred, as also all questions relating to overlapping and
co-operation. There is no need to enumerate the details of the scheme;
it is sufficient to state the general principle.

The most serious work of the Congress was reserved for the last day,
when “the difficulties and possibilities of organic union” were
discussed. Each of the Churches supplied a statement of what it
regarded as essential to real union. These statements were subsequently
amended (save in one case) so as to narrow the issue. Methodists,
Congregationalists, and Presbyterians were seen to be in practical
agreement upon all main things, and the opinion was openly expressed
that there was no valid reason why they should remain apart. The real
difficulties in the way to union seemed to come from the Anglican and
the Baptist Churches: the one in its doctrine of Orders, the other
in its doctrine and practice of Baptism. And yet in both cases the
olive branch was generously held out. The Anglican representatives so
modified their statement regarding the Historic Episcopate and Orders
as to bring it within reasonable approach to the Free Church doctrine
of the ministry. The Baptist representatives committed the following
statement to writing:

“The committee think they are warranted in saying that our people
generally would be prepared to leave the question of baptism quite
open--for each person to receive according to his conscience--and
not to make it a test of Church membership. That is to say, in the
interests of a great movement towards unity, they, on their part,
would not make baptism a test question, one way or another. While
firmly believing that the baptism of intelligent believers in Christ
is the best safeguard of spiritual Church membership, inasmuch as
the candidate of his own will yields to the yoke of Christ, yet they
believe that the majority of Baptists would consider the question of
the unity of the Churches to be the major question, hence they would be
willing ... to cease to demand the immersion of intelligent believers
as a _sine qua non_ of Church membership. They could not surrender the
truth of believers’ baptism, yet they would be prepared to admit the
broader basis of Church membership.... Is it too much to ask those
Churches which practise infant baptism to so reconsider their position
as (while guarding the ideas of infant and parental dedication) to
throw greater emphasis upon that later personal dedication to Christ
which the Baptist rite expresses?”

The total result of this Commission is thus summarised: “The formal
obstacles to union have been more clearly defined than ever before, and
the Commission believe they will be regarded as smaller than they were
supposed to be.”

Such was the Congress. Without doubt it accomplished a world of good.
It cleared the air, it brought us all closer together. And what
now remains to be done? First of all a Continuation Committee was
appointed to further the next work of the Congress, to meet in further
conference, to grapple with the few remaining obstacles that lie in the
path to union, and to bring the whole subject before the various Church
Courts. The Congress represented the _élite_ of the Churches, the most
thoughtful, the most advanced, the most influential. The difficulty may
lie with the rank and file of the Churches, those in whom prejudice is
most firmly established, and from whom it is with greater difficulty
dislodged--the ill-informed, the uncharitable, the stubborn. To conquer
these may not be easy, but it will be finally sure if we have patience.
In a land like Australia, with its keen problems, its democratic life,
its great future, and its freedom from hampering traditions, there
should easily be established one great United Australasian Evangelical
Church.



CHAPTER XXIX

IN VAN DIEMEN’S LAND--AN IMPRESSION


The sight of a map such as this map of Tasmania which lies before me
causes an Englishman who beholds it for the first time to deal severely
with himself, to interrogate himself concerning his habits, to assure
himself beyond the shadow of a doubt that he is really temperate. For
it is a study in topsy-turvydom, and the contrariness of the thing lies
either in the remarkable map itself or in the man who reads it.

Imagine a nice fat slice of the middle of the map of England, clearly
cut out and converted into a separate chart, with a new disposition of
the counties thus: To the north, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall together;
below these, Westmorland; by the side of Westmorland, Lincoln; below
Westmorland, Somerset, by the side of which is Glamorgan; and at the
bottom of all, Kent. Now, think of a country with a map like that.
Surely it is not superfluous to reaffirm the correctness of one’s
personal habits, in declaring that this map really exists. And, looking
into it a little farther, one sees marked a river Jordan, and the towns
of Jericho, Tiberias, and Bagdad, while in a footnote the information
is conveyed that “Sheffield enjoys an exhilarating climate, being
situated in a high altitude.” Sheffield, of all places!

When, however, the first feeling of amusement created by the sight
of the map has passed away, one readily understands how this curious
collection of counties came into existence. Little by little the life
of the island country has developed, and love in high places has sought
to perpetuate, by means of the dear old names, some of the sweet
memories of the far-away land which sent its sons and daughters to
people the empty space of the lone southern country. Caprice probably
accounts for Jericho and Tiberias.

Tasmania guards the old English names; but, more than that, it guards,
better than does Australia proper, the characteristics of old English
life. For one thing, the climate permits this. In Australia, during a
great part of the year, the surroundings are utterly un-English. Mild
winters, scorching summers, the absence of snow and ice, the presence
of native flora, create a social life and surroundings which never
recall the Old Country, with its wonderful green grass, its unique
hedges, and carefully sheltered abodes. Little wonder, then, that
the new generation of Australians fails entirely to understand the
conditions of English life, or to sympathise with them. Its youth read
a cable announcing that “snow has fallen continuously in England for
twenty-four hours,” and they murmur, “_What_ a country!”

But in Tasmania so many things recall the Old Land. The climate is
English _at the best_, with the exception of the west coast, where
it always seems to be raining. There is a patch of country on that
coast where the rainfall reaches the amazing total of 140 inches per
annum. But that is pure extravagance. The inhabitants of that quarter
appear to be very contented; they make every provision to meet the odd
requirements of the climate, and as they are happy it is not our affair
to quarrel with them.

Apart from the west coast, Tasmania is an ideal place of residence.
I had the pleasure of traversing the island from end to end, and
it completely captured me. I am no longer astonished that so many
Anglo-Indians, their professional work achieved, find in Tasmania a
final home. Unable, after the heat of India, to live in England, they
find Tasmania an ideal residence. The climate, generally speaking,
resembles that of Cornwall. At midsummer the average temperature is
only 63 degrees, while at midwinter it is 43 degrees. Thus the terrible
heat to which we in Victoria were occasionally subjected at midsummer
is nearly unknown in Tasmania. And one happy consequence is that all
kinds of fruit grown in Britain are grown in Tasmania, which is more
than we can say of Australia. Two crops of strawberries appear each
year--in December and February. During the nearly five years of my
residence in Melbourne strawberries have been taboo. Australia cannot
produce strawberries worthy of the name. The climate forbids. But in
Hobart we come to our own again. The strawberries placed upon our table
at the hotel are equal to any we formerly tasted in Kent or Sussex.

Life in Tasmania possesses many English characteristics. Launceston and
Hobart are to all intents and purposes English towns. The “villa” or
bungalow type of house, so common in Australia, is comparatively rare
in Tasmania. The fronts of the houses are directly exposed to the sun.
The familiar English “terrace” is repeated in Tasmania, while small
flights of stone steps, carefully whitened, lead from the pavement
to the front door. In some places the dismal London “basement” is
found. Again and again, when walking or driving through the several
towns of the island, have I imagined myself to be in the Midlands of
the Old Country, and at times in Penzance. The lazy leisure of those
smaller English towns is duplicated in the Tasmanian centres. Nobody
is in a hurry. The island is limited, and there are no express trains
nor greyhound steamers to catch. The mail from beyond enters and is
dispatched three times per week. There is but one day and one night
train in the twenty-four hours between Launceston and Hobart. Why,
then, should anyone kill himself with over-exertion? Mail days alone
are the bustling days, and the apple season alone the strenuous one.
For the rest, life moves smoothly and easily.

There are two or three ways of approaching Tasmania from the mainland.
The popular route from Victoria is by steamer to Launceston, and thence
to Hobart, or the west and east coasts by rail. A second route is
by the New Zealand steamers, which call first at Hobart. And a third
route is the round tour by sea, touching the two chief cities and
the important coastal towns. The first two routes, once the terrors
of the sea are over, are romantically beautiful. In the one case the
steamer proceeds for the final three hours up the course of the River
Tamar; in the other case, up the course of the River Derwent. Of the
two, the scenery of the Derwent is far more attractive. Mountains rise
from the edge of the water, in which, as in a perfect mirror, they
are marvellously reflected. The bay at Hobart rivals Sydney Harbour.
Indeed, many travellers prefer it to Sydney. It cannot, of course,
compare for a moment with Sydney for extent, but, flanked by the mass
of Mount Wellington, it possesses a majesty which Sydney lacks.

In the summer-time Tasmania is essentially a pleasure resort for the
parched and panting inhabitants of the mainland. It offers every
conceivable attraction to visitors. It is a land of rivers, of
mountains, of valleys, and of exhilarating plateaux. Here, in the
long ago, when Tasmania was joined to the Australian land, Nature
engaged in one of her titanic conflicts. Violent eruptions took place,
terrible separations occurred, and to-day the island bears witness,
in many a gash and elevation and depression, to the character of
the convulsions which rent its life in far-away ages. Nature, as
is her way, has concealed most of the scars with coverings of rare
beauty. The mountains, flung up by appalling forces, are covered
with the everlasting eucalyptus, the stately wattle, and shrubs and
undergrowth of every hue. In the winter and late on into the spring
Mount Wellington is covered with snow. Then Hobart possesses its
fairest setting. At a place called Fern Tree, situated on the slopes
of Mount Wellington at an elevation of 2,000 feet above the sea, we
came across a very beautiful resting place. One solitary hotel and
a few boarding-houses contain the total of population. Well named
is the locality, for giant tree ferns flourish in the neighbouring
gullies. There are masses of huge fronds so dense and interlaced as
to form a veritable Indian jungle, and the presence of an occasional
tiger-snake completes the Indian picture. From the veranda of the
best boarding-house I have stayed at for many a long day the view
of mountain and gully is perfect. Behind, in the distance, lies the
harbour of Hobart, the warships of the Australian Squadron resting upon
its bosom. Here we are out of the world, breathing mountain air that
recalls Switzerland. We are enveloped with the quietness of Eden.

In this land of mountains, hills, and valleys there is abundance of
water. Droughts, such as periodically visit Australia, are unknown
here. The rainfall is even and plentiful. And always there are the
lakes situated in high altitudes. The Great Lake has a circumference of
ninety miles. While these abide, the supply of water is sure. On the
railway journey between Launceston and Hobart an excellent idea of the
undulating character of the country is obtained. The line is sinuous
and at times nerve-straining. To avoid tunnelling, the sides of the
mountain are skirted, and it is no uncommon thing for a traveller to
look out of the window and to behold his train bent like a serpent,
its head and tail gliding in approved reptile fashion. Small as is
Tasmania, it boasts no fewer than fifty mountains, the altitudes of
which range from 2,500 to 5,000 feet. These elevations result in a
wonderfully pure air, and in a bracing climate in which neither malaria
nor chest affections can flourish.

But to every rule there is an exception, and we have been unlucky
enough to taste the exception. We fled from Melbourne to escape the
wicked heat. The city and suburbs were stifling. Day after day the
north wind blew; at noon the temperature rose to 107 degrees in the
shade, and at midnight the glass registered 90 degrees in the bedroom.
The adults in our home barely clothed themselves, while the children,
dressed in bathing costumes, were placed in the bath to “play seaside,”
and thus to keep cool. We came to Tasmania for coolness, and then, what
had not happened in the island for forty years, and what may not again
happen for another forty, _did_ happen. The heat wave followed us, and
for three days Tasmania experienced the horrors of inferno. We tried
the river, hoping to find a breeze, but the breath that greeted us was
as from the mouth of an oven. On the third day bush fires broke out
spontaneously all over the island. Motorists, whose route lay through
the bush, had to cover themselves with rugs and to rush through the
heat at speed far beyond that permitted by law. Some handsome cars
emerged from the ordeal blistered and burned and spoiled. Trains ran
a gauntlet of fire. One curious passenger, protruding his head to
see what was the matter, fell back into the carriage with beard and
eyebrows well singed. The city and the country were enveloped in a
great heat haze impregnated with the smoke from a hundred fires. Upon
the night before the wave broke we ascended an eminence and beheld a
terrifying spectacle. The entire countryside seemed to be on fire.
Great red flames licked up the grass and undergrowth, and embraced,
to their death, the giant eucalyptus trees. Men watched with anxiety
solitary houses which lay in the path of the fire. At last the naval
brigade was called out to try to beat down the flames. At dawn the
hill-side was still smouldering here and there, while great charred
patches showed how completely the flames had done their work. A few
hours later the rain fell, and men bared their faces to its refreshing
coolness. Soon Tasmania recovered its normal climate, and we rejoiced
in a keen and bracing atmosphere amongst the mountains.



CHAPTER XXX

THE ROMANCE OF TASMANIA


If, to the average Briton, Australia represents the limit of distance
from “home,” what can Tasmania, New Zealand, and the Islands of the
Southern Pacific represent? They are the limit beyond the limit; the
uttermost stretch of far-awayness. That is the reason, perhaps, why
Englishmen think of Tasmania with a shiver, especially if they happen
to know its history. The present name of the island--Tasmania--holds
less of terror than did the former name--Van Diemen’s Land. There was
something sinister in the very name, especially when it was wrongly
spelled, as by the budding aspirant to geographical fame--Van Demon’s
Land. Van Diemen himself was a shadowy personality, of whom the average
school geographer knew nothing whatever. The land itself, however, was
well known as a convict settlement, even by those who knew nothing more
about it; and with Van Diemen _plus_ the convicts, there seemed to be
a subtle suggestion of a land of fire--a second Tierra del Fuego. The
reason cannot easily be explained; but the fact is undeniably there.
Men thought of Van Diemen’s Land with a kind of horror.

But now, this same land, with the softer name of Tasmania, has become
famous as the great home of the apple, and as the sanatorium, for sick
and healthy folk alike, of the Southern Pacific. And in the new name of
the country its discoverer has at length come to his own. It frequently
happens in this world of ours that to the wrong man fall the honours.
Van Diemen was the Governor of the Batavian Dutch Settlement, and he
it was who sent out Tasman on successive voyages of discovery. Tasman
did the work, and Van Diemen reaped the honours. To Tasman belongs the
credit of discovering the great South land, of which Tasmania is now a
part. Exactly 270 years have passed since the hitherto unknown island
was marked upon the map of the world. The Dutch, however, although
the discoverers of the island, were not its occupiers. They noted its
existence and passed on. It was reserved for Britain--all-encompassing
Britain--to add this neglected strip of territory to its expanding
Empire, and that in the year 1803. I have been fortunate enough to
encounter several experts in Tasmanian history; men who, from various
points of view, have studied the life of the island; newspaper men,
librarians, the curator of the museum, an elderly clergyman, and
several old settlers. And I shall set down what they have told me.

The transition from the old state of things to the new is one of
the marvels of the New World. At the commencement of the nineteenth
century the island was a great bush waste. It consisted of mountains
and forests, rivers and lakes, as at present, but the land was
uncultivated. There were no roads. Not an apple grew. Wild beasts, wild
birds, and wild men divided the territory between them. Tasmania was
off the highway of the world--a scrap-heap upon which savages dwelt.
And to-day this island, about the size of Scotland and an integral
part of the Australasian Commonwealth, is one of the most fruitful
places upon God’s earth. It does a large trade in fruit, minerals,
wool, timber and agricultural produce. It has established a number
of important towns, each a centre of industry. It grows strawberries
and hops equal to the best grown in Kent. It offers trout fishing of
such a character as to satisfy the ambition of the biggest boaster of
grand catches. Politically it is free; the women have the franchise.
Commercially it is successful. Many men have made a fortune through its
commerce, while its small population of less than 200,000 persons has
managed to deposit in the public banks nearly four millions sterling,
and in the savings bank more than a million and a half. The railways
are owned by the State. In the matter of education, full provision
is made for the instruction of all. There is a university with an
excellent staff of professors. The education is non-sectarian in the
day schools, but the clergy of the various denominations are allowed
to give religious instruction either during or after school hours, as
may be convenient for all concerned. School fees are very moderate, and
in the case of the very poor the education is entirely free. In cases
where children reside more than two miles from a State school, free
railway tickets to and from the nearest station are provided by the
Department.

The land is thus cleared and civilised. A few ugly creatures still
infest the forests. The serpent is always to be dreaded. It is an
unwritten law that any man who encounters a serpent shall at once, if
he can, break its back. Sometimes the serpent is too sharp for its
antagonist, inflicting a wound and then escaping. Men who penetrate
into the bush carry with them a small outfit against the bite of the
snake. The remedy is drastic. The flesh around the wound is immediately
cut with a knife, permanganate of potash is dropped into it, and then
the flesh above the wound is tightly bound with a ligature. This is
first-aid until the services of a doctor are secured. The “Tasmanian
Devil” I have seen only in the museum. It is a horrible-looking
creature, in appearance like a bear, of nocturnal habits, and very fond
of attacking sheep. One day, perhaps, a substantial Saint Patrick will
be able to boast that he has cleared the land of snakes.

The story of Tasmania since it became a part of the British Empire
is not altogether a pleasant one. It opens with a page of convict
history. The Governor of New South Wales, finding himself in Sydney
with a glut of convicts on hand, thought of Tasmania as a means of
relieving the congestion. So there came to the south of the island--to
Hobart Town--an assortment of choice criminals, transported from
England for offences more or less dreadful. Those were the days when
brutality reigned upon the bench, when a man was hanged for sheep
stealing, and when, for a political offence, a man sacrificed his
liberty. We must not too hastily assume that all the convicts sent
out in those barbarous days were really bad men. Many of them to-day
would be good-naturedly allowed to continue their harangues. But
others of the convicts belonged to the dregs of society. They were
thieves, murderers, unredeemed villains. And this motley crowd came
to Hobart. Prison discipline at that time was both severe and lax.
Sometimes devilishly severe, as in the case of a soldier who, convicted
of drunkenness and using abusive language, was sentenced to receive
_nine hundred_ lashes. On the other hand, discipline was as lax as
possible. The convicts were required to work for a certain number of
hours per day for the Government. These tasks completed, they were
turned out to shift for themselves, which they did with amazing energy.
The desperadoes amongst them immediately returned to their old ways.
Robberies with violence and burglaries were of frequent occurrence.
The streets at night were quite unsafe for pedestrians. Some of the
convicts escaped from their captors and took to bushranging. When
the settlers arrived and began farming, the bushrangers immediately
attacked them, with others, as their legitimate prey. At one time the
colony was in a state of practical anarchy. Morality was unknown. The
most amazing transactions took place. The open “sale” of wives was
common. There is upon record a “deal” in which a man sold his wife for
a five-pound note and a bottle of rum. And nobody protested. And all
this less than a century ago, and under the British flag. Yet there
are men in our time, adepts at misreading the prophetical books of the
Bible, who continue to assert that the world is growing ever worse.
They do not know the history of that world which they so pitilessly
condemn.

The transportation of convicts and the importation of settlers to
Tasmania speedily created another problem--that of the aborigines. The
natives of the island had to be met and dealt with. Numerically they
were not an important people, but they were the proprietors of the
territory, hence some terms had to be made with them. The Tasmanian
native offered to anthropologists a knotty problem. Here was a pure
savage of the most degraded type known. In no way had civilisation
touched him. He belonged to an ancient age, so it was said. Cut off
from the mainland, he had experienced no contact with the aboriginal
of the great continent beyond. He possessed no stone weapons. His
instruments of killing were fabricated of wood. He had never learned
the art of fastening a sharp stone head to a piece of wood in order to
increase his power of smiting. His spears were pointed, but not with
iron. He had no domestic animal for friend. The dog was unknown to
him. His social habits were primitive and disgusting. He lived upon
shell fish, birds and eggs, and he was expert in spearing fish. He
treated his women folk badly. He never practised the delectable art of
kissing. And he was a polygamist. Of clothing he was entirely innocent.
Faint traces of religious belief were found in him. He burned his dead
and smeared his face with the ashes of the calcined corpse. Authentic
portraits of the aborigines in the museum at Hobart represent them as
exceedingly gross and repulsive people. The chiefs cultivated their
hair in a peculiar style; it fell into ringlets, like ram’s wool, over
their faces. The wives of the chiefs had little trouble with their
hair. They disposed of it all by the simple process of clean shaving.
Their heads were as smooth as a billiard ball.

Now, whence came these people? The theories concerning them are
innumerable. One claims them as perfect specimens of primitive man
of the Palæolithic Age. Another deduces evidence which shows them
to be degenerates. The truth is that all the theories are echoes of
previous prejudices. The Tasmanian savage will ever remain a mystery.
No man really knows his history. All that is really certain is that
when civilisation discovered him he was a filthy savage, more likely a
degenerate than a starting-point.

The inevitable conflict came, provoked, one is ashamed to say, not by
the savages, but by the cruelty of the early settlers. Mr. Bonwick, in
his history of Tasmania, tells some horrible tales of the devilry of
those early white men. Two gentlemen of Hobart told me that they well
remember, when boys, how white men would go into the bush on a Sunday
morning “blackbirding”--that is, shooting down the natives for “sport.”
It was considered a grand game.

The natives, themselves savage and cruel, returned the insult, and for
years there was a deadly feud between whites and blacks. Then came
a war of extermination, mingled with a mission of conciliation. The
Government issued pictorial proclamations setting forth the character
of official British justice. A black and white boy were represented
clothed, and standing with linked arms. Underneath the Governor was
seen shaking hands with a black; while at the bottom a black man
was shown shooting a white man and being hanged upon a tree for the
offence. This was completed by the representation of a white man
shooting a black and being hanged for the crime. These rude pictures,
which conveyed British ideas of justice to the blacks, were affixed to
trees in the bush.

The final work of conciliation was effected by a Mr. Robinson, a
Methodist, who did what the Government alone could not have done. This
man, a bricklayer, touched with the sorrows of the blacks, opened his
house to them and became their friend. He learned their language, and
then, aided by the Government, went out into the wilds to preach glad
tidings to the natives. In a few years he succeeded in bringing into
Hobart the entire native population, to be protected. Some of the
horrible savages became Christians, and, according to Mr. Bonwick,
died with words upon their lips of which no white Christian need be
ashamed. The rest--it is a sordid story--fell into civilised ways and
took to drinking spirits. That hastened the end--the race speedily
died out. In 1869 one male aboriginal alone survived. In 1864 he had
appeared, of all places, at a _ball_ given at Government House. He
was the last man of his race--a curiosity exhibited at a dance. From
this his decline was rapid. He was seldom sober, and in 1869, after a
drunken bout, he perished. Trucanini, the last aboriginal woman, died
in 1876. The race is now extinct. Our people have no cause to pride
themselves upon some of their history in Tasmania. But a new generation
has come, and it is for them to maintain Tasmania at that moral, as
well as commercial and social height, which it is the glory of Britain
now to maintain.



CHAPTER XXXI

A PARADISE OF FRUIT


Who in England does not know the Tasmanian apple--rosy, juicy, and
expensive--appearing about Easter, and continuing until the English
orchards yield their own annual output? A foreign and delectable fruit
is this apple, welcome enough in the off season “at home.”

I am writing in the very heart of Tasmania, in the midst of a wonderful
valley, covered with huge crops of hops and apples. We have done two
days of motoring, and in the aggregate have covered many thousands of
acres, yet never have we lost the view of immense orchards and hop
gardens. From a score of heights we have gazed upon plains and valleys
unsurpassed for loveliness and fertility. We are in the true home of
the apple.

The house in which we are now staying is a roomy, old-fashioned
farm-house, built after the English pattern, with certain Tasmanian
features added, the whole being surrounded by an old-world garden, such
as is seen in small English country towns or large English villages.
We are playing at an English holiday, and cheating ourselves with
the sweet illusion that the railway yonder really goes to London.
Everything here is so English that it would occasion no surprise to
discover that this old-fashioned railway is the branch of an English
trunk line to London.

To this place we came from Glenorchy, where Dr. Benjafield, the Medical
Officer of Health, has one of the finest pear orchards in the southern
hemisphere. Two better centres of the apple and pear industry than
Glenorchy and Bushy Park it would be impossible to find. All that can
be known about the cultivation of the apple and the pear we learn
here, from the very beginning of the process when the bush is cleared
and fruit saplings are planted until the moment of packing for the
English market. Roaming over these enormous expanses of cultivated
land, it appears almost incredible that this fertility is the work of a
comparatively few years. In the Old Land orchards very frequently have
a history. Here there has been no time for making history. A few years
ago this country was covered with a stubborn scrub, surmounted with
the giant eucalyptus. To-day it has been brought under the dominion of
man, to whom it yields a marvellous profit. A system of almost perfect
irrigation has converted land which aforetime was worth ten shillings
an acre into fertile orchards which to-day could not be bought for two
or three hundred times that amount.

No fewer than 200 varieties of apples are grown in Tasmania, including
all the best English fruit, such as Ribstons, Cox’s Orange, and the
like. As to pears, one grower alone cultivates seventy varieties,
and he boasts, with pardonable pride, that his fruit has graced the
table of King George. An afternoon spent on his estate was a perfect
revelation of the possibilities of the soil. We stood in the centre
of one of the largest orchards I have ever seen, and gazed along
avenues of fruit trees extending half a mile in length. Pear and apple
trees occupied the ground, the former predominating. The fruit was so
plentiful that in scores of cases it completely hid the wood of the
branches from view. Enormous branches, bending under their healthful
weight, literally touched the ground, and here and there was the
spectacle of branches broken in twain by reason of the excess of fruit
they bore. Some of the pears weigh eighteen ounces when fully ripe,
and Dr. Benjafield assured me that they fetched as much as a shilling
each, wholesale, in Covent Garden Market. In this orchard, one of five
owned by him, were no fewer than 5,000 pear trees. Had the camera been
able faithfully to depict the fruit-laden trees, I would have sent
some photographs home; but, unfortunately, the protruding fruit is
not so distinct from the leaf in a photograph as to give the desired
impression.

Orcharding means fortune for the majority of growers if they will
attend to their business, cleaning their ground, pruning the trees, and
spraying against the dreaded codling-moth. One grower openly admitted
that, as a professional man, he had earned nearly £2,000 a year, but
the fruit industry paid him better. Year by year the output increases.
One estate of 290 acres that I visited is only five years old, and yet
in that short time it has yielded 80,000 cases of apples, each case
containing from forty to fifty pounds weight of fruit. The ambition of
Tasmania is to become the chief fruit-producing area of the southern
hemisphere. This year it is likely that a million cases will be shipped
from Hobart to Great Britain, South America, and Europe.

These facts and figures show what a change is passing over an island
which a century ago was the haunt of the most degraded aboriginal
known. And how easily it might have been Dutch or French instead of
British! Pride of the flag is most naturally engendered at the view of
these wonderful conquests of Britain’s mind and toil.

Orcharding in Tasmania--and, for that matter, in Australia also--offers
certain hints which the British “at home” would do well to heed. The
Australian and the Tasmanian understand the art of making their fruit
trees produce the maximum of yield with the minimum of labour and
expenditure. It is true that the unparalleled climate has much to do
with their success. But I was a little astonished to learn that poor
soil--third-rate soil--produces the best results in apples. The secret
lies, not in the richness of the soil, but in careful irrigation and in
careful pruning. The trees are what in England would be called dwarfs.
They rarely exceed eight or ten feet in height. They are thus dwarfed
so as to dispense with the loss of time in the use of ladders. All the
fruit can be picked by men standing on the earth or upon small boxes,
or by boys who leap into the fork of the tree, and from that elevation
gather the fruit. This method makes an astonishing difference to the
time and expense of plucking.

Not only are the trees deliberately dwarfed, but they are so pruned
that all the fruit is thrown into six or seven large branches, which
are thick with apples, growing as low down as a foot from the ground.
Thus, by the cutting away of all inner branches, light and air gain
access to every part of the tree. It is a simple method of cultivation,
but it is highly successful. In addition to this, the growers practise
what is called “summer pruning.” Two or three weeks before the apples
are gathered all superfluous small branches and leaves are removed,
so that the sun can reach every apple on the tree. The appearance of
apple trees developed on this system is rather curious at first, and it
contrasts unfavourably with the large and bushy aspect of trees in an
English orchard; but, judged by results, the Tasmanian and Australian
system is far preferable to the English system.

As I write, the picking season is in full swing. We are following the
entire process. Swarms of men and boys invade the orchards, filling
their bags with the golden fruit. But oh! the holocaust! It is enough
to make a man weep to see the thousands of “rejects.” The tiniest
speck in an apple, a little sunburn, or the merest suspicion of the
codling-moth is sufficient to cause the fruit to be flung upon the
ground. Only sound fruit, absolutely perfect, is allowed to be packed.
Lynx-eyed inspectors open each case of apples upon the wharf, and
defect in a single apple means condemnation for the entire case. In
the packing-sheds each apple is wrapped in a separate piece of paper
before being committed to the case. Clever workers can earn as much as
ten or eleven shillings a day by wrapping up the fruit. They are paid a
penny a case of, say, one hundred and fifty or sixty apples. Think of
the rapid manipulation of the fingers which, at this rate of work, can
earn eleven shillings a day! It means the handling of twenty thousand
separate pieces of fruit.

The healthfulness of the orchardist’s life is apparent to all. Dr.
Benjafield, in presenting his annual report as Medical Officer of
Glenorchy, declared that the health of the municipality, a district
of one hundred square miles, had established for the year a world’s
record--not a death from preventible infectious disease; one case
only of true consumption; the death-rate nearly down to zero. Dr.
Benjafield is a medico trained in London and Edinburgh, and he has been
in Tasmania for thirty years. Besides being Medical Officer of Health,
he is an orchardist on his own account, and he speaks of health in the
orchard thus:

“I have seen for myself the great things which are included in life
in a garden. I have seen many babies born in the district, but never
a mother died. I have seen rollicking, toothless, fat babies munching
away at red apples, or stuffing in raw strawberries, and their mothers
just laughed at the horror on my face; and when the thermometer stands
at 90 degrees or 100 degrees sunstroke never troubles them.”

The much-lauded “simple life” is the general life here--“early to bed
and early to rise”--and then the whole day in the sunshine--pruning
in winter, digging and ploughing in spring, weeding and spraying, in
big apple and pear orchards, and picking small fruits in early summer,
and later on the harder fruits as they come in, until the great autumn
gatherings close the season.

There is no hustle here--a great thing that in the battle of life. Each
worker has own row to hoe, and pretty well his own time that he takes
to do it.

In the next chapter I shall say something of the orchards as a
desirable investment for English workers.

Meanwhile, let us follow the fruit to the end. When all the sound fruit
has been exported there remain millions of “rejects,” which are sent
to the jam factory and there converted to profitable uses. At Hobart
we inspected a large factory where every kind of jam is made and many
kinds of fruit preserved. The process is wonderfully clean, most of
the fruit being untouched by hand. A great deal of “pulp” is sent to
England, to be there treated and converted into preserve, but the jam
itself is not exported, because English people have a great prejudice
against tinned preserves. This is a pity, and the prejudice is
entirely without foundation since the introduction of enamelled tins.
If this prejudice could only be overcome, Englishmen might taste a new
sensation at present denied to most of them--peach jam. Australia and
Tasmania can supply this delicacy, but not until the folk at home look
with kindlier eyes upon the despised “tin.”



CHAPTER XXXII

THE OUTLOOK IN TASMANIA


I freely admit that Van Diemen’s Land greatly fascinated me. Its varied
scenery, its mountains, its mild climate, its fertility, each left
their impression. I was fortunate enough to fall into the kind hands of
several gentlemen who have greatly helped in the making of Tasmania,
and they made my tour not only a pleasure, but the means of acquiring a
great deal of information about the actual state of the country and its
immediate prospects. With two or three motor-cars at one’s disposal,
driven by gentlemen who know the country through and through, and with
authority to travel anywhere I chose on the State railways, my way was
made exceedingly easy.

I promised in this chapter to write about Tasmania as a colony for the
British people. Little Britain, in the North Sea, does not know very
much about its possessions in the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. The
average Englishman knows practically nothing about Tasmania. But he
ought to know something about it. Tasmanians are not a self-assertive
people. They do not advertise their country. Hence, for the many, it
remains a land in the mist.

The area of the island, including the small islands to the north,
is nearly seventeen million acres. About one-third of this space is
under cultivation. The entire population is less than 200,000--about
one-third the population of the City of Melbourne. The average
population works out at six or seven persons to the square mile. It
will be seen at once that the island is sparsely populated. The need
of Tasmania is population, though not nearly to the same extent as
Australia. Men who have the right to speak with authority upon the
matter declare that Tasmania needs a population of one million persons
in order that it may be profitably developed. The railways at present
entail a loss of £70,000 per annum. A Special Commissioner has recently
been appointed to try to grapple with this particular problem. He has
instructions to make the railways pay. But they cannot pay until there
is a larger influx of inhabitants.

Now, there are three things concerning Tasmania that should be of
interest to very many Englishmen, both from the point of view of
capital and the point of view of emigration, i.e. fruit, power, and
minerals.

I have said that two-thirds of the land is not yet under cultivation.
It is only right to say that at present there is little prospect of
this territory being explored and subdued, and even if there were,
it is doubtful if a great part of it is arable land. The forest is
exceedingly dense, and men soon become “bushed.” When it is cleared it
may turn out to be very valuable property, or it may not. But it is
believed that part of this hidden country is rich in minerals, if not
in soil. And, further, it is as likely as not that the land may bear
apples, since it is demonstrated that an inferior soil can produce
prolific crops of apples. Leaving aside, then, all that is doubtful,
and dealing only with the Tasmania that is known, the possibilities of
a great development of the country are bound up with fruit, power, and
minerals.

Fruit, first of all. An immense development can take place in this
direction. There are hundreds of thousands of acres of “bush” awaiting
the coming of the farmer. We had a striking illustration of what may be
done in an excursion to the Russell Falls. After leaving the fruitful
Derwent Valley, and bidding farewell to the railway at Russell, we
plunged into the bush. In every direction stretched out the scrub. Few
people beyond tourists ever pass along this way. So quiet is the road
that serpents come forth from the undergrowth and stretch themselves
in the sunshine which floods the dusty route. We ran over two of these
reptiles, one of them measuring five feet in length. Here and there
we espied huts in which settlers were residing; from various points
rose wreaths of smoke, an indication that the work of “burning off”
was in progress. At the entrance to the Russell Falls we encountered a
typical settler, who speedily showed us how quickly an energetic man
can subdue the bush and make it fruitful. Eighteen months ago this man
purchased seventy-two acres of land. Including the fees for survey, the
land cost him £39, and he was allowed fourteen years in which to pay
the money. A day or two ago he was offered £2,000 for the property.
Wisely he declined the offer, for the prospects of his investment are
worth more to him than £2,000. He is comparatively a young man, with
a family of small children. Given health and strength, his future is
secured, and all for an outlay of £39. The rest depends upon his toil.
Already, in this brief period, he has planted 115 apple trees, and has
made the ground bear a healthy crop of strawberries, raspberries, peas,
hops, and potatoes. Past his door runs the river, in which, the night
before our visit, over three hundred trout were caught by some fifteen
fishermen, our settler himself being responsible for forty of these.
Birds, fish, rabbits, and hares are all in the neighbourhood. The
property contains about three thousand eucalyptus trees, which will all
be felled and used for firewood. In two years’ time the railway will
pass through this estate, and of course increase its value. At present
the homestead is isolated. The nearest pillar-box for the reception
of letters is some distance away on the roadside, and consists of an
old candle-box secured to the stump of a tree. In a few years all this
will be changed as the land is rendered fertile. What this man has done
others are doing and others may do. This subjugation of the soil is one
of the most healthful and lucrative of employments. It should attract a
number of the right class of Englishmen.

At Moonah I saw the prospectus of a scheme for planting and developing
orchard land. In the place named in the prospectus land is offered,
right out, by the Government for ten shillings an acre. It carries
200,000 tons of firewood, and in ground crops and orchard would yield
very speedily an amazing profit.

The fruit industry, then, I place first of all.

Next to this is the development of power. Tasmania is noted for its
lakes, all of which are situated amongst the mountains at an altitude
of 3,000 or more feet above the sea. A great scheme for utilising
this water in the production of electric power is now actually in
progress. Hobart can be supplied with power for lighting, heating,
and locomotion, and the country _en route_ from the lakes can all be
opened up to the magic wire. This means a great thing for the island,
and holds the promise of great developments. Tasmania may yet be able
to show civilisation that smoke is entirely unnecessary in commercial
and domestic life. Certain it is that the future of Tasmania will be
materially affected by the introduction of electric power on the scale
proposed. And Melbourne, which for a city under the Southern Cross has
far too much smoke, might condescend to learn from Tasmania a lesson in
sweetness and light.

And, finally, there is the development of minerals.

There are tin mines in Tasmania which have a world-wide reputation--the
Mount Bischoff and the Mount Lyell. They have both proved to be a
means of fortune to the shareholders. During the half-year ended
December 31, 1911, the ore smelted at the Launceston works yielded
1,417 tons of fine tin, and a good proportion of this came from the
Mount Bischoff mine. The dividends for the last half-year amounted to
thirty thousand pounds sterling, and when it is remembered that the
capital of the company is only sixty thousand pounds, it will be seen
that the earnings are remarkable. These mountains of tin show no sign
of diminution. Tasmania stands third in the world of tin production.
Beyond tin, there are copper, gold, iron ore, and coal worked in the
island, and it is practically known that the unexplored part of the
island contains minerals in abundance.

These three things, then, hold abundant promise for the future of
Tasmania from the commercial point of view, while the salubrious
climate establishes the claim of the place to be a grand health resort
for the southern and other peoples.

As I went from place to place in the island, and observed the
sparseness of the population, the situation assumed something of a
pathetic aspect. There is room enough for immigrants up to a certain
number. An influx of 800,000 persons would make Tasmania one of the
most prosperous places in the world. With such a population the
limitations of the island would always prevent the growth of those
disproportions between the classes which obtain in the great areas of
the Old and New Worlds. Tasmania might, well governed, become a model
State. Its situation in the sea puts it in touch with Australia, New
Zealand, and the islands. In the fruit season the great liners call at
Hobart for fruit. By means of these Tasmania has a direct connection
with Europe. That connection will be immensely strengthened when the
larger population arrives. On the other hand, the isolation of Tasmania
from the mainland will always preserve for the island a degree of
quietness of which hustling centres know nothing. The union of repose
and commercial and agricultural activity would be ideal, and it is
possible in Tasmania as in few places I have seen.

These facts are surely worthy of the consideration of the British
people.



CHAPTER XXXIII

REVIEW


A period of five years is sufficiently long to enable a man to
correct or to confirm his earlier impressions of a people. Looking
backward, I find I have very little, if anything, to correct of my
first impressions of Australia and its people. It may be an advantage,
therefore, to set down in better order than is possible in fugitive
correspondence some of the deepened impressions which a careful study
of Australian life has created. During my sojourn under the Southern
Cross I visited the capitals of all the Australian States--Tasmania
included--from Brisbane to Perth and Hobart. This has meant a good
deal of travelling by land and sea. But travelling on the main routes
in Australia is rendered luxurious by means of corridor trains, with
sleeping, observation, and dining-cars attached; and also by means of
a remarkable service of coastal steamers, second to none in the world.
The luxury of such boats as the _Indarra_ and _Canberra_ exceeds by
far anything of which the P. and O. or Orient companies can boast. It
is off the track that travelling becomes a weariness and a torment.
But it has been my lot to travel off and on the main routes, with the
result that the very first impression which Australia made upon me
has been immensely strengthened, namely, that of the vast territory
of the country and its enormous natural wealth. A map enables one to
understand a little of the vastness of this lone land, but the reality
does not actually seize the mind until a person begins to travel over
its wonderful spaces. Upon this continent I have experienced every kind
of climate, from the tropical, with its enervating heat, to the frigid,
with its bracing cold. What other land can grow the varied fruits that
flourish in Australia? What other country can boast the possession of
more than half the kinds of precious stones in existence? Think of the
sugar-cane, the pineapple, the mango, and the common English gooseberry
growing upon the same soil! Think of gold, silver, tin, and coal cheek
by jowl! When it is claimed that Australia is naturally the richest
country in the world, who that knows the facts can deny the claim? Its
possibilities are unbounded. The merest fraction only of the natural
riches of the land has thus far been touched, and out of this fraction
men have made enormous fortunes. It seems to me that Australia may
easily become the granary, the dairy, the orchard, and the wool supply
of the Empire. Capital and labour alone are required to develop the
land. There are millions of acres yet untouched, while the northern
territory is crying aloud for men to come and unlock the treasure house
of Nature, hitherto hidden from the whites.

But here the question of a White Australia presents itself. The
Commonwealth is committed to this policy. Meanwhile, what of the great
north? It is admitted that white men cannot labour to advantage in
that terrible climate. There are many of our fellow-subjects in India
who could work there, and would, if they were permitted, but then they
may not cross the colour line. Australia is to be reserved for a white
population. It need not necessarily be British. Already it is, in small
parts, Spanish, German, Greek, and Italian; but it must be white. It
is only fair to say that Australians, in deciding upon this “white”
policy, are not animated by selfishness, as is sometimes supposed.
They honestly fear the appearance of a negro problem such as exists
in America, and many of them fear it upon moral grounds. But such a
problem does not present itself when it is the question of coloured
persons, who in intelligence, diligence, _and morality_ are quite equal
to the average white man. It is better not to press this question of
“white” morality in the north, even in Australia, or some very ugly
stories could be told. Looking at the matter dispassionately, in full
view of all the factors--the northern climate being the chief--it
would seem that Australia must yet modify--if it does not abandon--its
“white” policy. Economically it will have to do so, and politically
it may yet be forced to do so, for “coloured” nations like Japan and
China, which admit whites into their countries, are not likely to bear
for ever the insult which is implied in their exclusion from the midst
of a people to whom they are in no way inferior.

The other question concerns labour. Unless there is a speedy, amicable
understanding between masters and men, the productive power of the
Commonwealth will be seriously hindered. Labour here, as everywhere
else, has had to fight for its rights, and, so far as Australia is
concerned, it has won some notable victories. In no place is the
working-man so well-off as here. His hours of labour are fixed upon
the basis of an eight hours’ day. Wages Boards determine his rate of
pay. His health and limbs are protected in every possible way. There
are really no “dangerous” trades for him on this account. He can claim
equality with his master. He is never called upon to grovel to a
“superior.” He is a creature entirely independent. More often than not
he owns his own house, while he has a substantial sum standing to his
name in the savings bank. His daughter can earn her thirty to forty
shillings a week behind the counter or at the typist’s desk, and yet,
despite all this, there is scarcely a week without its local strike.
Upon the least pretence tools are “downed.” Ferment is nearly always in
the air. Professional agitators take care to keep strife stirring. In a
word, labour is tending to become a tyranny. And it is due to the fact,
largely, that amongst the leaders are no such strong men as Britain has
in Philip Snowden, Ramsay Macdonald, or Arthur Henderson. The strife
is often unreasoning, and it nearly always ends in a reverse for the
striker. The present temper of labour in the Commonwealth--especially
that phase of it which is hostile to religion in any form--is a
distinct menace to the prosperity of the country.

Side by side with this question is that of the culture of the people.
A people materially prosperous in a new land are liable to forget the
higher things. Wealth tends to make them vulgar, and to limit their
horizon. Australia has not escaped this danger. There are very many
refined people--especially in connection with the Churches--who keep
themselves abreast of current thought; people who live in tasteful
houses, who are models of courtesy, and who generally understand the
art of _savoir vivre_. The children of many wealthy people proceed
to the university. There are hundreds of young women in Melbourne
who have graduated in Arts, Science, or Law, not in order to obtain
a livelihood, but solely for the culture which the study brings. But
the rank and file of the people--who obtain good wages--have little
intellectual ambition beyond the football or the cricket fields, or
the prize ring at the Stadium. The manners of this particular rank and
file leave much to be desired. The doctrine that “Jack is as good as
his master,” as practised in Australia, too often results, not in the
elevation of Jack to the rank of his master, but in the coarsening of
Jack. The Chief Justice has recently lectured Australia’s youth upon
its rudeness. The rebuke was deserved. Australians are most polite to
their women, and true gentlemen everywhere are polite to each other,
but there is a tendency amongst others to be too brusque and even
disrespectful. It is due largely to thoughtlessness, and it belongs to
a certain stage in the evolution of a country’s life. Yet it need not
be in Australia. Politeness does not cost much--a little more polish
would make the street Australian one of the best men in existence. His
natural qualities are excellent; he needs only, on the social side, a
little more consideration for the feelings of others. Nothing is more
necessary for this young country than the inculcation of the spirit of
respect.

My earlier impression of the new type of British life which is being
evolved under the Southern Cross has been abundantly confirmed during
the last five years. There can be no question that the Australian
type of Briton is wholly different from the English type. For this
difference the climate is chiefly responsible. Close observation has
revealed the fact that the third generation of Australians--that is,
the generation which owns for its parents an Australian-born father
and mother--tends towards the Italian, Sicilian, or Spanish type
rather than the English, having jet black hair and dark eyes. This is
particularly noticeable in Sydney and in Queensland. Life there is
largely Neapolitan in character.

A Neapolitan climate is producing a Neapolitan type of men and women.
The atmosphere of Puritanism, which has lingered over England even
until this day, is wholly absent from Australia. The break between
the two ways of life is complete, and the distance between them seems
destined to become wider. The British prejudice against the theatre,
for example, does not exist out here. Great numbers of Church members
openly patronise the playhouse. Some of the devoutest and most earnest
Christian men I know find a place in their programme for the theatre,
when good plays are staged. Australians, as a whole, are a sport-loving
people. They are a happy people. They take all life in the sunshine,
even their religious life. The minor chords are entirely absent from
their music. All is gay and lively. This spirit has invaded the
Sabbath. The old-fashioned Sunday exists only for a small minority of
persons. During the summer months tens of thousands of people spend the
week-end among the hills or by the seaside, and the vast majority of
these never trouble the Churches. Yet, if they were challenged, they
would disclaim hostility to the Church. They might even contribute to
its funds. Nevertheless, Sunday is for them a day of pleasure. This
problem of climate and its influence upon character and religion is one
of the most serious the country has to face.

Time has not effaced my earliest impression that the Defence Act needs
serious reconsideration. In part justification it is pleaded that
already many lads of the “larrikin” type have benefited physically
and morally as the result of drill. I am prepared to admit that, up
to a certain point. But, on the other hand, the withdrawal of boys
from technical evening schools for the purpose of training, more than
balances the gains. Australia needs, very badly, a race of competent
workmen who can finish their tasks. The discipline of apprenticeship
would secure some of that training which the Defence System aims at;
and it would secure that higher skill which we need. Nobody objects to
the boys being subject to discipline and training; our objection is to
this training being associated with militarism. There is no need for
the creation of the military spirit in Australia; it is politically a
blunder, morally indefensible, and economically a burden too great for
the people to carry.

To bid farewell to Australia is not easy. I have learned to love the
country and the people. They have treated me well, and I wish them
well. May the land of the wattle ever flourish, and its vast continent
be filled with a happy, peaceful, God-fearing people to whom EMPIRE
shall ever stand for all that is great, noble and good.


  PRINTED BY CASSELL & COMPANY, LIMITED, LA BELLE SAUVAGE, LONDON, E.C.
  F15.1214



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Page 280: “Each worker has own row” was printed that way; seems to be
missing “his” after “has”.





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