Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

a

On the 27th of the same month a widow lady, residing in Sydney, received the awful intelligence that at one blow she had been bereft of a daughter, a son-inlaw, and two grandchildren. In the experience of a life I remember no object more pathetic than the one little surviving girl, of three or four years old, who had not accompanied her parents on the fatal voyage, and whom I frequently saw on my return to Sydney. Dressed in the deepest black, and her childish mind vaguely conscious that her father and mother and brothers were gone to heaven, her sunny face and bounding step were above the reach of grief-for she could not comprehend the immensity of her loss, and had never learned its terrible details. Poor little Leonie!

At eight A.m. our party landed, the Governor being received with great warmth of welcome by all the inhabitants of the town who happened to be out of bed, and by a guard of honour, consisting of the whole garrison, namely, an ensign and twenty men.

The town contains about 500 inhabitants. It has contained that number for some years; and although a dozen or two of children were playing on the village green-brown rather—there was something about the place which denoted decay rather than growth. It looks like a little man dressed in the clothes of a large one. The streets are very wide, and cut out to be very long,

-like a certain street of Toronto, in Canada, whose name I forget, and which maintains its title for upwards of twenty miles into the unpeopled bush,—but the houses are so few and far between, that, in the oppidan sense of the word, there can be no such thing as a next door

a

[blocks in formation]

neighbour among the citizens. There is a good-sized church, capable of holding the whole population, of which, however, Romanism and Dissent claim onehalf; a gaol capacious enough for an English county; a hospital for invalid and insane convicts; and a small, but well posted barrack for the military detachment. The Hastings River, rather a fine stream, runs into the bay, and forms a kind of lagoon which constitutes the harbour ; but in high winds the bar sometimes for days together closes the port, a serious detriment to the success of the settlement.

Port Macquarie was originally a penal settlement, but all the prisoners, excepting the invalids, have been withdrawn. It is the sudden cessation of the convict expenditure, which here, as in other towns of New South Wales, gives an appearance of waning prosperity not common in young countries inhabited by the AngloSaxon, and which I do not believe to be a type of the general condition of this colony. I may add, that in 1848 the hospital was also broken up, at least for

convict purposes.

[ocr errors]

Two carriages belonging to Major Innes awaited our party, and conveyed us through seven or eight miles of forest land, some part of which is remarkable for large and handsome timber and carpeted with luxuriant fern, to Lake Innes Cottage. Here Lady Mary Fitz Roy was courteously received by a numerous circle of ladies; and we were all quickly installed in our respective apartments, as commodious and well appointed as in any English country house. There were drawing-room, dining-room, and library; a separate range for the young

[ocr errors]

ladies ; spacious offices on the opposite side of a courtyard; hot and cold baths; and, what is rare in this country, a large stable-yard and out-houses, kept well out of sight.

The house is placed on the slope of a green hill, descending to Lake Innes,—a wide sheet of water, perhaps three or four miles long by two miles wide, whose banks, framed in a margin of flags and rushes, give evidence of the gradual absorption of this splendid piece of fresh water, -rare feature in a country, which perhaps, beyond all others, is obnoxious to the stigma of the Royal Psalmist—"an arid and dry land, where no water is.” Beyond the lake and the bush bounding it, rises a distant background of mountains, and its head is only divided from the ocean by a wooded isthmus about half a mile in width.

The view from a hill behind the dwelling house, embracing a panorama of sea, lake, wood, and mountain, is strikingly beautiful. The roar of the surf on the rocky coast, and the silvery ripple of the placid lake, so near yet so different, present a singular and agreeable contrast. A luxuriant and tasteful garden, profuse in fruits and flowers, and with arcades of creeping plants bordering the walks, surrounds the house on three sides. From the knoll above mentioned, (the signal-hill, as it is called,) wide as is the prospect, no other human habitation is visible ;-the retired soldier is monarch of all he surveys.

The Major possesses sheep and cattle-stations, dotted over the country both on this and on the further side of the mountains we are about to cross. He has inns,

a

[blocks in formation]

built by himself and tenanted by his overseers or other dependants, on the unpeopled roads of the bush to a distance of 150 miles. His stock numbers, I believe, about 50,000 sheep, with herds of horses and cattle commensurate. The very soul of hospitality and kindliness, I should say that all this, and more, is requisite to keep pace with the suggestions of an open heart and a profuse hand. On the present occasion, this most elastic of cottages accommodated seventeen or eighteen persons, besides servants. There were dinner parties and dancing every evening, the chief music being furnished by a Highland bagpiper in full costume. In short, at this secluded bush-residence there was every luxury that could be found in the distant capital, except the polka ! and that one of our party imported and imparted, to the immeasurable delight of a numerous bevy of pretty girls, the daughters and friends of the house.

On the second day of our stay at Lake Innes, a riding party being proposed, in half an hour a dozen horses, half of them side-saddled, were brought to the door, and in half an hour more we were galloping along the finest sea-beach I ever saw, (perfectly level and hard sand,) for twelve miles, between two headlands. Close down to the sea-shore grows the most luxuriant forest and brush, the trees thickly enlaced by parasites and creepers, among which a handsome kind of passiflora throws its broad shining leaves, flowers and tendrils, so as to form a canopy of verdure across the cattle-paths, into which we struck to avoid the heat and glare of the sun. It was quite a scene of Boccaccio performed on horseback!

[blocks in formation]

March 6th.—Early this morning I walked down to the boathouse on the lake, with a view to a row and a swim; but, on my way down, I was entertained by a legend which somehow diverted me from my intention.

. Did my reader ever hear of the Bunyip? (fearful name to the Aboriginal native !)—a sort of “half-horse, halfalligator," haunting the wide rushy swamps and lagoons of the interior—at long intervals heard of through doubtful sources as having been seen rolling his voluminous length above the surface of the silent waters, or rearing his monstrous head over the tall rushes on their banks!

A good deal of excitement was created among the scientific and curious in Sydney, not long after my arrival, by the announcement, in the public prints, that part of the skeleton of a bunyip had been found; and further, that the head of a young one, with the skin perfect, had been picked up on the banks of the Murrumbidgee and forwarded to Sydney for examination. I fully anticipated the fatal result. I was sure that myself and other gullibles would be disabused of a pleasant superstition. Accordingly, the light of science dispelled in an instant the dubious and delightful dusk of tradition ; for the unsympathising savant, to whose inspection the specimen was submitted, unhesitatingly pronounced the head, (which somewhat resembled that of a camel, but with a more conical cranium,) to be that of the foal of a horse no more ; but to a foal

— the entire form of whose skull had been changed by a severe hydrocephalous affection!

One advantage arose from this long-deferred dis

« VorigeDoorgaan »