Imágenes de página

courts and watering-places of Germany, with more heartiness, in consequence of the constant arrival of friends and victims from England. The town lots of Adelaide formed the great rouge-et-noir table. The climate rendered out-of-door life delightful, the imaginary streets swarmed with well-dressed crowds ; so much really good society, so many fashionable men, had never before been found in a colony; every one fancied himself the hero of a great enterprise, and enjoyed all the pleasures of gambling, while dreaming that he was helping to found an empire.

In the morning the men dashed about on horses, dog-carts, barouches, and four-in-hands, which cost fabulous sums, in search of eligible sections and sites for villages. In the evenings grand dinners were given in tents and huts, where champagne, hock, burgundy, and every luxury that could be preserved in a tin case abounded ; fashionable dance music and the songs of Rossini and Donizetti resounded from the cottages of the “great world ;” and at cock-crow beaux in beards and white waistcoats, “half savage, half soft,” might be met picking their way, in the thinnest, shiniest boots, through the dust or mud of a projected highway or arcade. There was scandal written and spoken, political intrigue; a court party and an opposition, with each a newspaper; and every body flattered every body else that building, dining, dancing, drinking, writing, and speechifying was “ doing the heroic work of colonization.”

Young men of spirit were not satisfied to retire into the bush and look after a flock of silly sheep while it was possible to buy a section of land at £l an acre, give it a fine name as a village site, sell the same thing, at £10 an acre, for a bill the bank would discount, and live in style at the Southern Cross Hotel; for when a man had made such a speculation he could not, and did not, do less than invite a party of new-made friends to celebrate his good fortune by a dinner, a ball, or a pic-nic, with a few cases of champagne imported by the merchant on credit.

At this period a romantic air was infused into the simplest transactions. For instance, in the old colony exploring expeditions had been undertaken either by a government surveyor, who marched out from some

remote station without any special demonstration, or by a squatter who, with a friend or two, a stockman, and perhaps a couple of black boys, all on horseback, set out as quickly as possible to find new pastures for his stock. In South Australia they managed things very differently. Mr. V. Eyre having undertaken to explore the interior of the province, on the day appointed for

[blocks in formation]

his setting out a grand entertainment was given, over which the governor presided, at the close of an affecting speech a band of young ladies clothed in white garments marched up the room; and presented, amid the cheers of the men and the sobs of the women, a banner which they had worked, to be planted on the limits of his proposed discovery.

Mr. Eyre's journey, and a second expedition, proved the hopeless barrenness of a great part of the province. He afterwards became lieutenant-governor of the small settlement of Nelson, in New Zealand.

It is rather curious that two gallant but unsuccessful exploring expeditions, that of Mr. Eyre and that of Lieutenant (now Sir George) Grey, should have led to the appointment of two governors.

During the administration of Colonel Gawler important assistance was afforded to the colonists by the arrival of the overlanders, who, led by love of adventure and hope of gain, found their way from the bush of New South Wales and Port Phillip, across inhospitable deserts, over precipitous hills, through dense forests, rivers, and swamps, and, in spite of tribes of fiercely hostile savages, brought flocks of sheep and “mobs” of cattle and horses to the South Australians, at a time when butchers' meat was rising to famine price, when a good pair of bullocks could earn £60 a week in working from the port to the city, and horses which had arrived from Van Diemen's Land, after a long voyage of alternate calms and adverse winds, mere skeletons covered with sores, were sold as a favour at £100 each.

The overlanders saved the colony from total abandonment during the first crash of insolvency. The strength of Australia is in her pastures: sheep to the Australian before the discovery of copper and gold were what the pine-tree was to the Highland laird, who on his death-bed said to his son, “Jock, be aye putting in a tree: it will be growing while ye are sleeping." The natural pastures and the climate grow the wool, and men, women, or children can be shepherds who have neither strength to fell timber, nor power or skill to plough, to sow, or to thrash. Besides, a pack of wool is always worth cash, while a bushel of wheat in Australia may be worth 10s. one year and nothing the next; and in the worst of times ewes go on breeding and increasing, wethers boil down for tallow, while a field allowed to go out of cultivation under an Australian climate, after devouring all the capital spent on reclamation, very soon becomes as much waste as before the plough turned the first furrow.

The overlanders who brought these invaluable animals were many of them

men of education : the enormous profits reaped by the first parties, in spite of the loss of both men and beasts by drought and skirmishes with the blacks, made the overland route a favourite adventure with the young bushmen. They brought with them, as well as live stock, “old hands," who taught the cockneys how to fell a tree and make a fence, and sometimes gave the Gawler police a good deal of trouble.

The gentlemen overlanders affected a banditti style of hair and costume. They rode blood, or half-bred Arab horses, wore broadbrimmed sombreros trimmed with fur and eagle plumes, scarlet flannel shirts, broad belts filled with pistols, knives, tomahawks, tremendous beards and moustachios. They generally encamped and let their stock refresh about 100 miles from Adelaide, and then rode on to strike a bargain with their anxious customers. Before the journey became a matter of course, the arrival of a band of these brown, bearded, banditti-looking gentlemen created quite a sensation—something like the arrival of a party of successful buccaneers in a quiet seaport, with a cargo to sell, in old Dampier's time.

In a few days the stock was sold; the overland garments were exhanged for the most picturesque and fashionable costume which the best Hindley-street tailor “from Bond-street” could supply; and then, with hair combed, brushed, oiled, and gracefully arranged after Raphael or Vandyke, the overlander proceeded to spend freely the money he had so hardly gained, and, as one of the lions of the place, to cast into the shade the pert, smooth, political economists and model colonists fresh from the Adelphi.

New arrivals from England fortunate enough to be admitted to the delightful evening parties given by a lady of the “ highest ton,” the leader of the Adelaidean fashion, were astonished when, to fill up

basso in an Italian piece, she called on a huge man with brown hands, brown face, and a flowing beard, magnificently attired, in whom they recognised the individual they had met the day before in a torn flannel jersey, with a short black pipe in his mouth.

The overlanders included every rank, from the emancipist to the first-class Oxford man. By the end of 1840 they had introduced nearly 50,000 sheep into the new colony, and taught the wiser of the colonists the necessity of looking to pastoral pursuits for the safe investment of capital.

The trade of turning wild land worth a few shillings an acre into building sections, to be sold at from four or five pounds to one thousand pounds an acre, by the simple expedient of a few pegs and coloured plan, was too good to be monopolized by South Australia. The

[graphic][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »