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28th, Sunday. This day we endeavour to observe as in the land of our fathers; but alas ! the want of the churchgoing bell is greatly felt; and the paucity of books suited to the day, the heat, and consequent lassitude, make it seem a long one. There was a gale in the evening that upturned the white backs of the leaves of the trees all one way, so like what I have seen befall my own ash trees at home, that it sent me in spirit back to my own land : there was a freshness in it, too, that seemed to breathe of Scotland.

My black boy has left me to-day. These blacks are a curious race : indolent to a degree, and willing to do nothing but bask in the sun. Jackey said the mountainous region about Connobolas was “ too cabonne miserable.” This poor fellow's parents were dead, and I intended to have taken him home with me, were I spared to return thither. But he prefers being wild in the wood, sleeping under a branch by a fire of sticks, and eating fish, grubs, serpents, and opossum. Jackey has, I must confess, turned out badly. Though I paid him far beyond his expectations, poor boy, he has gone off with the bedclothes given him to sleep upon. But with him this is not considered a sin, but a work of merit ;-being detected is the sin. Even the tameblacks, as they are called, are still a savage race. If any one of another tribe is seen hunting upon their territory, he is chased and killed like a wild beast. This custom is said to be suspended once a year, when the great annual corrobory at a certain full moon is celebrated by neighbouring tribes. The moon has been an object of worship, and the occasion of rejoicing and feasting at its changes, among almost all nations. Feasts in honour of the new moon were held by the Hebrews, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and Gauls. The corrobory is held at the full. The youth of the several tribes then undergo the ceremonies necessary

AN AWKWARD VISITOR.

191

to constitute them men—such as knocking out a front tooth, and scarring the flesh. Amity exists between the tribes during the convocation, but the ceremonies not unfrequently terminate in battle and bloodshed. I have engaged, in place of Jackey, a native who accompanied Major Sir Thomas Mitchell in his discoveries in New South Wales, and was called by him, “ Tommy come last.” He is a very intelligent black, with the best expression of features I have yet seen amongst them. I have meantime sent him to seek my horses, which are not yet recovered, and he is still absent on the quest.

Sheep washing and shearing commenced with my son to-day. He has them shorn at Boree, there being a better washing pool there than at this station, and better accommodation for stowing away the wool. He is gone

thither, and I am left alone with A-, and he talks of setting off on foot with James in search of the lost horses. Our retirement was rather disagreeably invaded to-day by the visit of a man of very suspicious appearance, a stranger in the district, who appeared to have been bending his steps to the mountains for safety, but on seeing their rugged aspect, was afraid to take refuge in them. He walked into James's apartment, where Mrs. Simpson was; and sitting down unasked, as is the custom, commenced conversation with the usual salutation, “Mornin.””

Mrs. Simpson thought his look was sinister, and she did not much relish her visitor. But she knew I was in the house, and so she offered him, as is also usual, tea and damper. These he declined, but lighted his pipe and went out to the door. He seemed to take a rapid look all round, and more especially at the frowning mountain and woods ; came hurriedly in again, and asked if she was not afraid to be alone in such a place. She told him she was not alone.

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THE MOUNTED POLICE.

He talked in an embarrassed way, and she began heartily to wish that he was gone.

Several times he ran to the door, and looked eagerly about on all sides, and at last he dived out of sight in an instant. He had scarcely been gone ten minutes, when two mounted police, armed to the teeth, came galloping in pursuit, and asked if such a man had been seen, adding that they had “their chase” a-head, and were sure he was bound for the mountains.

I went out and answered that he had been here, but assured them that we did not know in what direction he had gone. I do not know that I should have shown myself to these gentry, but they inquired if any one was at home, and therefore I appeared. Their instinct, if I may use the word, is almost as wonderful as that of the blacks. One of them immediately rode down to the ford across the rivulet, leading to the mountains, and instantly declared he had not been there. They then separated and took the bush in pursuit of the delinquent; and though an inexperienced eye could see no track of living thing in the forest, the runaway was hunted into a shepherd's hut, and caught within six miles of our house.

He had suspected that he was pursued and would not have time to scale the hills, and in despair took to the banks of the creek, thinking to be concealed by its dark fringes. What his crime was we knew not; but it is not improbable that, had the pursuit not been so hot, he might have proved a troublesome neighbour. These mounted police, who are extremely daring fellows, are many of them old offenders themselves; but they are well officered and are most useful; and although not to be esteemed the first service in the world, they are a valuable corps; and having desperate men to deal with, it is very requisite that their nerve and courage should be first-rate.

CHAPTER VII.

'AUSTRALIA-LIFE IN THE BUSH.

Narrow escape of my son and James—Valiant old lady-Losses of sheep

Recovery of my horses—Colonial tactics—Moreton Bay—Improvements at our cottage-Utility of the sheep in Australia -Great heat-Failure of the water-Herons-Start for N Mulong Inn— The Bell RiverTwenty-mile Hollow-Plain of Nurya-Wellington Valley-Mr. MuirN— Its present appearance-Public scourger at Wellington-Success of the Missionaries in Australia-Rides in the forest-Breeds of cattleAustralian wines— Violent thunderstorm- A hurricane brickfielder-Native grave— Black cockatoo-Leave N-- Christmas Day–Uncertainty attending the carriage of goods in the bush—General view of the colouy - Prospects of settlers—Jealousy towards newcomers—Improbability of their obtaining unbiassed advice— The necessity of their investing a part of their capital-Losses to the stockholder from disease-Good runs the object of first importance-Artesian wells – Settlers who are likely to do well— Estimate of a young settler's outlay–His profits—The mistakes of young settlers-Wages in the bush-New Year's Day, 1842—Astronomy -Hail-storm-Escape of my sons-Sagacity of a horse-Mr. W.-Dreadful droughts—The camel-An event—Determination to return to Sydney --Letters from home—“ Tommy-Come-last” — The boomerang-Dreadful occurrence in the bush-Providential escape of Mr. B

December 1st. My younger son and James went off on their expedition in search of my horses yesterday morning; and James has returned this evening alone. We became alarmed last night, suspecting that something had befallen them, and have been kept in a state of great anxiety all day; for they are both strangers to the forest, and to lose one's way in its ranges and gulleys is most

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194

DREADFUL SITUATION.

dangerous on many accounts, and, among the rest, from the want of food and water. James's haggard, worn-out look, told us to expect something disagreeable-his tale was soon told. They wandered over ranges and glens all the day, often seeing prints of the hoofs of horses that they thought must be ours; but night closed in, and they found themselves where they knew not, with blistered feet, weary, hungry, and, worse than all, thirsty, without a drop of water. At a hut they passed, they had got a man to accompany them, who James thought might assist them; but unfortunate it was for them that they ever asked his company. He pretended to know the country, and at the top of every range assured them he knew where he was ; till at last he confessed he had lost all his landmarks, and was quite ignorant of his way! They were all in a terrible state, this stranger guide being the most alarmed of the three : they crawled on, till this man said he could go no farther, and lay down. They all resolved to endeavour to sleep, and extended themselves upon the grass. One dreadful feature of the forests of Australia is, that they do not furnish a single plant or blade that will sustain human life, nor any wild fruit; and, in this case, they were also without water. One of the party slept, the other two could not, and they soon rose and resumed their journey by the light of the moon. James had observed, at home, the night before, on looking at the rising moon, that it was straight before the cottage door ; it now struck him, that they must still be wandering farther and farther from Connobolas, as they had the moon right in front of them; this casual observation, in all probability, saved their lives. They began to retrace their steps, and, by dawn of day, to their great joy and thankfulness, reached a cottage, which was inhabited by an old woman; who, unaccustomed

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