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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 8

Travelling in Victoeia

Travelling in Victoeia.

I have not had the honour of seeing the State of New York; but I am told by those who have seen both, that its feverish energy is only surpassed in one place—Melbourne. The utter ignorance of home-dwellers about this place is extraordinary; they think it is a howling wilderness. I have seen people landing in 1857 with bowie-knives in their belts, and much astonished, instead of meeting bushrangers, at being put into a comfortably padded railway carriage, and whisked up, if it so pleased them, to a first-rate hotel. I have dined at the Wellington in Piccadilly, and I have dined at the Union in Bourke Street; and I prefer the latter. A man asked me the other day whether there were any theatres in Melbourne. I referred him to Miss Swanborough and Mr. G. V. Brooke. There is no account extant of the Melbourne of to-day; even Mr. Westgarth's admirable book is out of date. Let us have a glance at the every-day life of this terra incognita.

Day after day I and a friend of mine stayed in town, comforting one another with false excuses. Our business was well concluded, but still we lingered on, in spite of visions which occasionally arose before us of a face we knew, waiting for us, two hundred and fifty miles away on old Wimmera, and which face would probably exclaim with a look of triumph when it caught sight of us, "I knew you would stop for the race!"

For, the next day, Victoria and New South Wales were to meet in deadly conflict. Veno, the long-legged chestnut from Sydney, was to run the great intercolonial match with Alice Hawthorne, our plucky little grey. Both Houses were adjourned nem. con., so that the collective legislative wisdom of the colony might have an opportunity of drinking its cobblers, and making its bets on the grand stand; and you may depend upon it, that, when your honourables adjourn, there is something worth seeing; and that was why we stayed in town.

And so there was something worth seeing. His Excellency himself was worth all the money, with his blue coat and white waistcoat, and his brown, shrewd, handsome face. It was worth while to see our bishop and the Roman Catholic prelate bowing and kootooing together, and pleasanter yet to hear the Wesleyan's wife tell Father G——, the jolly Irish priest, that she and her husband had come to see the "trial of speed," and "that it was quite like a race, really," and Father G——offering her absolution. Pleasant to look at wore the crowded steamers, and the swarming heights around the course, and pleasantest of all was it to see the scarlet page 141 jacket (New South Wales) and the dark blue jacket(Victoria)lying side by side, all through the deadly three-mile struggle, till the poor little grey was just beat at the finish, and then to see every man who had won five shillings batter a guinea hat to pieces in the exuberance of his joy.

Now the reason I mentioned this was, firstly, to make some sort of excuse to my reader for what may otherwise appear to have been inexcusable dawdling; and, secondly, because in consequence of this delay we were forced to do in two days what we should otherwise have taken four at.

Our horses were at a station not far from the great new digging of Mount Ararat, in the Portland Bay district. Mount Ararat was two hundred miles off; for the last sixty miles there was no road; and yet we coolly said to one another at breakfast-time next morning, "We shall get in tomorrow night."

I lingered over my breakfast as one lingers on the bank of the stream, on a cold day, before plunging in. I knew that in ten minutes more I should be no longer a man with a free will, but a bale of goods ticketed and numbered, temporarily the property of the Telegraph Company, tossed from boat to rail, from rail to coach, like a portmanteau, with this difference, that if a portmanteau is injured, you can make the company pay, but if a man is damaged, they consider themselves utterly irresponsible, and, in fact, the ill-used party.

We can see from our window right down the wharf; and our little steamer is getting up her steam under the tall dark warehouses. We must be off. Good bye! "Good bye," says Jack, who aint going, puffing at his last new Vienna meerschaum; "good bye, boys, and a happy journey."

So we racéd along past the Great Princes bridge (copied in dimensions from the middle arch of London bridge), and the Hobson's Bay railway station, along the broad wharfs, with all the Hinder Street warehouses towering on our right, and the clear river on our left. Now we were among the shipping; barques, schooners, and brigs of light draught which work up the river from the bay. Here comes our little steamer, the Comet, ready to start, with the captain on the bridge—"Only just in time. Good morning, captain. Portmanteau's aboard. All right, captain. Cut away."

Ha! A little rest after that run is rather pleasant. Let us look about us; plenty to be seen here. The river is about the size of the Thames at Oxford, but deep enough to allow ships of two hundred tons and upwards to lie along the wharfs. So here we see the coasting traders in plenty, regular Australians bred and born, in all their glory. That schooner yonder is unloading cedar from the dark jungles of the Clerance far away there in the north, while her next-door neighbour is busy disgorging nuts and apples from Launston in Van Diemen's Land (I humbly ask pardon—Tasmania); and the clipper barque, whose elegant bows tower over our heads, is a timber ship from New Zealand loaded with Kauri pine, and what not. There goes the seven o'clock train across the wooden viaduct! They say that Hobson's Bay railway is paying its eighteen per cent. Ha, here we are off at last!

Here we are off at last, panting clown the river. "Where to?" say you. Well, I'll tell you. We are going down the Yarra to catch the first train from Williamstown to Geelong; from Gee-long we go to Ballarat by coach, where we sleep; and tomorrow morning we mean to coach it on to Ararat, and then, picking up our horses, to get to our home on the Wimmera.

If our reader has never been in Australia, in Australia he will hardly understand what are the sensations of a man, long banished, when he first realizes to himself the fact, "I am going home." Home! No one ever says, "I am going to Europe, sir," or "I am going to England, sir." Men say, "I am thinking of taking a run home, Jim" (or Tom, as the case may be). Then you know Jim (or Tom) considers you as a sacrosanct person, and tires not in doing errands for you—will wade the mud of little La Trobe page 142 Street for you, and tells you all the time that, when so-and-so happens (when the kye come home, in fact), he means to run home too, and see the old folk.

We are steaming at half speed past the sweet-smelling slaughter-houses, with the captain on the bridge swearing at a lumbering Norwegian bark who has got across the river, and whose skipper replies to our captain's Queen's English in an unknown and barbarous tongue. The custom-house officer on board is known to us; so the captain makes a particular exception of his eyes, beyond that of the Norwegian skipper and his crew, gives them a thump with his larboard paddlebox which cants the bark's head up stream again, and on we go.

Plenty to see here, for those who do not choose to shut their eyes, as we steam down the narrow deep river between walls of tea scrub (a shrub somewhat resembling the tamarisk). Here are some fellows fishing and catching great bream; and now, above the high green wall, we begin to see the inland landscape of broad yellow plains intersected with belts of darksome forest, while beyond, distant but forty miles, is the great dividing range, which here approaches nearer to the sea and gets lower than in any other part of its two-thousand-mile course. Mount Macedon (three thousand feet), Mount Blackwood with its rich goldmines, and Pretty Sally's Hill (Apollo, what a name!), are the three principal eminences in sight of Melbourne. It is hard to believe that that wooded roll in the land is one hundred and fifty feet higher than majestic Cader Idris, but so it is.

Now the river grows apace into a broad estuary, and now suddenly rounding an angle we see busy Williams-town before us on the right bank—a group of zinc-roofed houses, a battery, two long dark stone jetties, and a tall white lighthouse. Now we open on the bay too; there are the convict hulks under the battery, with the two ships of war lying close beyond, and away to the left the crowded shipping.

There begins a buzz of conversation now; men ask which is the Swiftsure (a new clipper of Green's, just arrived in sixty-seven days). That's her next the Red Jacket. A black ship with a white beading. The Queen's ship, the Electra, is to sail this morning for England; there she goes—that gun is to weigh anchor, and lo! in an instant her yards are blackened by two hundred men, and, rapidly as a trick in a pantomime, her masts become clothed with a cloud of canvas, and, as we touch the railway pier, the good old ship is full sail for England.

As I find that we are only a quarter of an hour behind the time of the train's starting, and as I see a guard violently gesticulating at us to run or we shall be too late, I, who have before travelled by this line, become aware that we have a good half hour to spare; and so we turn into the refreshment room to discuss a bottle of pale ale, and look through the morning's Argus. This being leisurely accomplished, we are sulkily taken into custody by the guard and locked up in a comfortable first-class carriage.

There is a gentleman at the farther end with his arm full of papers. This turns out to be his Honour Justice Blank, going on the Dash circuit—a very great person; and, after a few frigid commonplaces, we turn round and look out on to the platform.

There is a group of respectably dressed men, neat, clean, and shaved, standing together; they are diggers, who have been to town for a day or two, and are now going back to resume work. Near them are two men, who are intending to be diggers, and who have evidently not been many weeks in the country. They are dressed in the traditional old style of the digger in the pictures, the like of which was never seen, and I hope never will be, except among exceeding green new chums. They have got on new red shirts, and new wide-awakes, new moleskins, and new thigh-boots, and huge beards. One of them, too, carries a bowie-knife in a leather belt—a piece of snobbishness he will soon get laughed out of at the mines. page 143 Ah, well, we won't laugh at these two poor bears, with their sorrows before; they will be mightily changed in a year's time, or I am mistaken!

There is a group much more pleasant to contemplate. Two lanky, brown-faced, good-looking youths—the eldest about eighteen, and evidently brothers—are standing side by side, alike in face, figure, and dress; one is an inch longer than the other, but it is impossible to tell them apart. They are not bad specimens of Australian youth before the flood (of gold); and, as being characteristic, I will take notice of them in lieu of giving you statistics about the returns per share of the railway; about which the less that is said the better. They are dressed in breeches and boots, in brilliant-patterned flannel shirts of the same pattern, in white coats of expensive material, with loosely-tied blue handkerchiefs round their necks, and cabbage-tree hats on their heads. Each one has in his hand a stock-whip, some fourteen feet long, and there, lies at the feet of each a saddle and bridle. They stand side by side silent. They have that patient, stolid look, which arises from an utter absence of care, and from, let us say, not too much education. Look at the contrast they make to that lawyer, fuming up and down the platform, audibly cross-examining imaginary witnesses as to when the dawdling, jolter-headed idiots, are going to start this lumbering train of theirs. Would all the gold in Ballarat induce him to stand as quiet and unheeding as those two lads have done for half an hour? He could not do it But our two brothers, they are in no hurry, bless you. They ain't hungry or thirsty, or too hot or too cold, or tired with standing; they have plenty of money, and an easy round of duties, easily performed. They would as soon be there as elsewhere. They have never—oh, my pale friends, who are going into the schools next term to try for a first—they have never tasted of the tree of knowledge. Think and say, would you change with them?

These two brown-faced lads are known to us; so we beckon them to come on our carriage. After a quick flash if recognition from the four blue eyes, guard is beckoned up to open the door. The saddles are taken up, and the tvo brothers prepare to enter. Guard objects that the saddles must go in tie luggage-van. Guard's suggestion is received with lofty scorn. Elder brother demands of guard whether he (guarl) thinks him such a fool as to shy a thrteen-guinea saddle into the luggage-van, and have everybody else's luggage pild atop of it. Younger brother suggests that they shall go in the luggage-van themselves, and take care of their saddlery. Guard submits that the saddles will annoy the other passenger. His honour, the judge, without raising his eyes from the foolscap sheet he is reading at the other end of the carriage, says, in a throaty voice, as if he was summing up, that if the young gentlemen don't bring their saddles in he shall leave the carriage. So the valuable property is stowed away somehow, and we are once more locked up.

All this waiting about is altered nov. Then there was but one line of rais, and an accident every day; now tie trains run, I understand, with wonderful punctuality. At this time we waited nearly an hour altogether; but, being men of contented disposition, did not get very much bored. The lawyer aforementioned was enough to amuse one for a time. This leading counsel and M.L.C. grew more impatient as tie time went on, and at last, having dravn the station-master out of his private office as a terrier draws a badger, he so bullied and aggravated that peaceable man that he retired into his house in high wrath, sending this Parthian arrow at the lawyer: "If I thought there "were half-a-dozen such aggravating "chaps as you in the train, I'd start "her immediately, and have you all "smashed to punk ashes against the "goods before you'd gone ten miles."

A train comes sliding in alongside of us, and then off we go. Past the battery and the lighthouse, away on to the breezy plains, with the sea 011 our left. page 144

"The plain is grassy, wild and bare,
Wide and wild, and open to the air."

On every side a wide stretch of grey grass, with here and there a belt of dark timber, seen miles off, making capes and islands in the sea of herbage. A piece of country quite unlike anything one can see in England. Here and there is a lonely station, apparently built for the accommodation of the one public-house which stands about one hundred yards off, the only house in sight. Here two farmers get out (one of whom has lost his luggage), and two get in (one of "whom is drunk, through having waited too long at the public-house for the train). Here also the station-master holds a conversation with the guard on the most personal and private matters, every word of which is perfectly audible to the whole train, and highly interesting. And then on we go again.

A pretty blue peaked mountain right before us; the mountain grows bigger and bigger, and at length, racing along under its hanging woods and granite crags, we find that the long-drawn bay on our left is narrowing up, and that the end of our journey is near. Then we see a great town (thirty thousand inhabitants) built of wood, painted white, of red brick and grey stone, with one or two spires, and a great iron clock-tower. Then the train stops; we have come thirty miles, and we are in Geelong.

There was no time then to notice what we had been enabled to notice on former occasions—that the Geelong terminus was a handsome and commodious building, in a suburb of the second city in Victoria, in the port of Great Ballarat; no time for that now. There stands before the gateway of the station a coach like a cricket-drag, with an awning of black leather, and curtains of the same. It holds about ten people, is drawn by four splendid horses, and is driven by a very large, very fresh-coloured, and very handsome Yankee, who is now standing up on his box, and roaring in a voice half sulky, half frantic, "Now then here, now then, all aboard for Ballarat. All aboard for Ballarat." We tumble on board as fast as we can, and find that our driver is inclined to attribute the lateness of the train to a morbid wish on the part of his passengers to make themselves disagreeable to their driver. This very much embittered the relations between the ten passengers on the one hand, and the driver on the other. The latter, indeed, was the most conceited and sulky I ever met among his very sulky and conceited class.

At length all was ready, the horses were standing immoveable, the driver settled himself firmly, and said—"Ho!"

With one mad bound the four horses sprang forward together, one of the leaders fairly standing on his hind legs. Three more fierce plunges, and the coach was fairly under weigh, and the four bays were cantering through the shabby suburbs of the town.

One remarks principally that the houses are of one storey, of wood and iron, and that the population don't comb their hair, and keep many goats, who have no visible means of subsistence. Now the streets get handsomer, and the shops exhibit more plate glass; now passing through a handsome street, with some fine stone houses, and seeing glimpses of the bright blue sea down lanes, we pull up suddenly in a handsome enough market square, with a singularly pretty clock-tower in the centre. There is a pause for a moment at the post-office; and then, before we have time to think of where we are, we are up the street, up the hill, on to the breezy down, with a long black road stretching indefinitely before us.

There is a noble view beneath us now. As we look back, a circular bay, intensely blue, with a shore of white sand; a white town, pretty enough at this distance; two piers with shipping, and a peaked mountain rising from the sea on the left—as like, I suspect, to Naples and Vesuvius as two peas. The myrtle-like shrubs which fringe the shore, and the trim white villas peeping out from among them, carry out the idea amazingly, until the eye catches a tall red chimney-stack or two, and watches a little cloud of steam flying above the page 145 line miles away, and then we know that we are not, indeed, looking at a scene of Italian laziness, but on a good, honest, thriving, busy English town.

Now the whole scene has dipped down below the hill, and we are looking inland over some wooded hills, with a noble, vast stretch of corn-land, dairy-farm, and vineyards on the left. The road goes straight as a line, apparently without a break; and we think it looks level enough until we come to a grand precipitous ravine, about five hundred feet deep, and at the bottom a little river, fringed with green trees, and a pretty village, with a public-house or two, and a blacksmith's shop.

We travelled fast, and were soon up the hill, through the wood, and away-over the plains again—long weary yellow stretches of grass, bounded by dull she-oak woods, with one shabby inn by the roadside, visible for miles—the external prospect being so dull that we turned to look at our fellow passengers. There were six in our compartment; let us see what they were like. A tolerably cosmopolitan collection, upon my word. My vis-à-vis was a Chinaman, with a round, smooth, beardless face, displaying no trace of human emotion or intelligence—not unlike a cocoa-nut from which the hair has been removed. He was dressed in the height of European dandyism, save that he wore over all a tunic of sky-blue watered silk. He goggled his eyes, and looked at nothing. He did not look out of the window, or at me, or at the bottom of the carriage—he looked nowhere. He had just come back from some villanous expedition in town, and I have no doubt had a cool hundred or two stowed about him for travelling expenses. Next to him sat a big-chested, black-haired, handsome man, whom we knew. He was a French baker on a large scale; and his mission seemed to be to make himself agreeable—which he did, setting us all talking to one another, save the surly driver and the Chinaman. He tried his hand on coachman too; but, only getting an oath for his pains, he desisted, with a shrug; after which, he and his neighbour the Irishman kept us alive for a mile or two by various antics, while a Scotchman looked on approvingly, and took snuff, and a German smoked and dozed.

Such were our companions. As for the scenery we were passing through, or the road we were travelling on, the less that is said of either the better. It is hard for an Englishman to imagine a forest which is in every respect dreary and hideous; yet such is the case with the stunted belt of honeysuckle forest which generally makes its appearance between the sea and the mountains, which must be crossed before one gets into the beautiful glades and valleys among the quartz ranges. Travellers are very apt to condemn Australian woods wholesale, by their first impressions of them from the dreary she-oaks and honeysuckles near the coast—forgetting that afterwards, they saw a little farther in the interior forests more majestic, ay, and more beautiful in their way, though thin in foliage, than it will be easy to find in more than a few places in England. But whoever says that a honeysuckle forest is beautiful deserves to live in one for the rest of his life. It consists of mile beyond mile of miserable clay-land, far too rotten and uneven to walk over with comfort. Its only herbage is sparse worthless tussock-grass; its only timber very like unhappy old apple-trees after a gale of wind.

And the road through this aforesaid honeysuckle forest? Well, it is a remarkable provision of nature that the road (unless macadamised) is so unutterably bad that it quite takes off your attention from the scenery around you—one continual bump, thump, crash; crash, thump, bump. Every instant you are lifted off the seat four inches, and let down again (no cushions, mind you), as if you were playing at see-saw, and the other boy had slid off just when you were at your highest Your head is shaken till you fear fracture of the base of the skull. The creak, jump, jolt of the vehicle begins to form itself into a tune from its monotony (say the Bay of page 146 Biscay or Old Robin Grey), until some more agonising crash than usual makes you wickedly hope for an upset, that you may get a quiet walk in peace for a mile or two.

No such luck; the driver goes headlong forward, with whip, and voice—a man of one idea—to do it as quickly as possible. "Jerry, Jerry, jo; snap (from the whip). Jerry, hi. Snap, snap. Blank, blank, your blank, blank." This last to his horses. I cannot render it hero. Then snap, snap again. A dead fix, and we dream foolishly of getting out and walking. Nηπáoi. He is only gathering his horses together for a rush. Then the original Ho! and we are all right again, going along at full gallop.

The horrible discomfort of our present mode of transit would render it totally impossible for any one who had not been this road before to make any observations, whether general or particular, on the immense amount and variety of traffic which we are meeting and overtaking. We, however, who have in times heretofore, jogged leisurely along the road on horseback—we, I say, can give some sort of idea of what this hideous phantasmagoria of men, horses, drays, women, and children, which, to us, in our headlong course, appear to be tumbling head over heels and making faces at us, would appear to some happier traveller who has not bartered comfort, safety, and money for mere speed.

In one place a string of empty drays passes us going towards the town, each drawn by two horses, very similar in breed and make to inferior English hunters (for your heavy dray-horse, your Barclay and Perkins, would soon bog himself in these heavy roads). Then, again, we overtake a long caravan of loaded horse-drays toiling wearily up country with loads of all conceivable sorts of merchandise; and immediately afterwards, a caravan of bullock-drays, each drawn by eight oxen apiece, going the same way with ourselves, yet empty. How is this? say you, why thus. These bullock-drays belong to the settlers, and have been carrying down wool for shipment and are returning. As I speak, we meet a wool-dray, piled to a dangerous height with the wool-bales, and threatening each instant to topple over, which threat it religiously fulfils about every fifty miles.

Now we overtake a long file of Chinamen, just landed, all in their native dress, dusky-looking blue smocks, loose drawers of the same, and hats like Indian pagodas. They are carrying their worldly goods over their shoulders, on bamboos, as in the willow-pattern plate; and as they pass, to my astonishment, my goggle-eyed Chinese vis-à-vis wakes up, puts his head out of where the window should be, and makes a noise like a door with rusty hinges, but ten times as loud. He is replied to by the head man of the travelling Chinamen in a sound as though one were playing a hurdy-gurdy under the bed-clothes. Our Chinaman draws his head back, and looks round upon his fellow-travellers with the air of one who has said something rather clever, he believes; and before I have time to ask him, angrily, what the deuce he means by making that noise before a gentleman, I see something which puts Chinamen out of my head altogether.

A dray is upset by the roadside, evidently the dray of a newly-arrived emigrant, and all the poor little household gods are scattered about in the dirt. Poor old granny is sitting by the roadside, looking scared and wringing her hands, while the young mother is engaged half in watching her husband among the struggling horses, and half in trying to soothe the baby by her breast. She has had a sad cut, poor soul, I can see by her crumpled bonnet; and she looks pale and wild, but brave withal. A girl about fourteen is nursing and quieting a child of six, while a boy of ten helps his father. There is the bonnet-box, crushed flat by the hair trunk. Alas! for the poor Sunday bonnet inside, brought with such proud care so many miles, the last memento of happy summer church-goings in England. Poor bonnet! becoming poetical only in thy destruction! There, too, the box with the few poor books has burst page 147 open, and "The Iarmer of Englewood Forest" and "Fatherless Fanny" are in the mud with their old friend and companion, the fiddle. God speed you, my poor friends; be brave and careful, and the worst will soon be over. A twelvemonth hence you shall be sitting by the fireside laughing at all these mishaps and annoyances, bitter as they, are now.

If this purgatory of jolting continues much longer, a crisis must supervene—death, probably, or insanity. Two or three thousand years ago, as near as I can compute, there was a short cessation of it—a dream, as of being taken into an inn and having a dinner, and seeing the Chinaman eat with his knife and his fingers, dismissing his fork from office without pension; but since then things have been worse than over; and now a change is coming over me. I must be going mad. That Chinaman's head is no more fixed on his shoulders than King Charles the First's. He has got a joint in his neck like those nodding papier maché mandarins we used to have at home. How I should like to knock his head off, only I am so sleepy. Ah! that is it; before I have time to think about it, I am asleep.

I woke whenever we changed horses at a country township, and saw the same sight everywhere,—two or three largo wooden hotels, with a few travellers loitering about in the verandahs, unwilling to shoulder their heavy bundles and proceed. A drunken man dragged out and lying prone by the door, with his patient dog waiting till he should, arouse himself and come home. The blacksmith's shop, with its lot of gossiping idlers. The store, or village shop, with the proprietor at his door, with his hands in his pockets; half-a-dozen houses around, little wooden farmhouses like toys, standing just inside the three-railed fence, which inclosed the 80, 160, or 640 acre lots belonging to them; and around and beyond all the forest, now composed of Eucalypti (box and stringy bark here), and infinitely more eautiful than the miserable Banksia forest on which we poured the vials of ur wrath.

But at a place called Burat-bridge, I woke up for good; for in that place the plank road begins, and from that place the troubles of the traveller into Ballarat end. The road is of wooden planks, laid crosswise, and the coach runs as on a railway. This is an American invention. Let me do the Americans full justice. In spite of the bad and "wooden nutmeg" quality of nine-tenths of their importations, they have taught the Victorians one invaluable lesson—how to travel with speed over rough bush roads. Their double-ended Collins' picks, too, are more useful and handy than any imported from home.

We dash on through the darkening glades of a beautiful forest, the topmost boughs overhead growing more and more golden under the slanting rays of the sinking sun. As the tallest feathery bough begins to lose the light, and the magpie, most glorious of song-birds, croons out his vespers, I lean out of the coach to feast my eyes on a sight which, though so often seen, has never palled upon me—one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, Mount_Buninyong. It is the extreme southern lip of a great volcanic crater, which runs up suddenly near a thousand feet above the road, covered from the dark base to where the topmost trees stand, feathering up against the crimson west, with some of the largest timber in the world Northwards, and towards Ballarat, the lava has burst down the rim of the cup on all sides, pouring in bands from forty to sixty feet thick over the gold-beds, to the everlasting confusion of miners; but at the south end it stands up Still as abrupt and lofty as it did when all the fertile country was a fiery desert—when the internal fires were vitrifying every seam in the slate-rock, and sublimating its vapour into gold.

Buninyong. Three large hotels, and a blacksmith's shop. A stoppage. A drunken man, who is anxious to fight any man in the coach for half-a-crown. The return gold escort from Geelong; ten troopers, in scarlet shirts, white breeches, and helmets; two carts, driven tandem, and an officer in a blue cloak, page 148 all of her majesty's 12th regiment; fifty or sixty clogs, who sit perfectly quiet till we start, and then come at us pell-mell, and gnaw our wheels in their wrath; then darkness again, and the forest.

Forest, and a smooth turnpike road. Sleep and dreams. Dreams of the forest getting scanter as we go; of long-drawn gullies running up into the hills, with all the bottom of them turned up in heaps of yellow clay, as though one were laying on the gas in the New forest. Of tents; sometimes one alone, sometimes twenty together, with men and women standing outside, looking at the coach. Of a stoppage at a store, supposed to be the post-office, where was a drunken man who disparaged us, and, like Shimei, went on his way, cursing. Of another bit of forest. Of more tents, and then of waking up and looking over a magnificent amphitheatre among the hills, with ten thousand lights on hill and bottom, and a hundred busy steam-engines fuming and grinding away in the darkness. Of a long street of canvas stores and tents; of a better street of stone and wood; of handsome shops, and then of pulling up opposite a handsome hotel Ballarat.

We had an excellent supper in a handsome room, and, smoking our pipes after it, were joined by a gentleman in yellow clay-stained moleskin trousers, a blue shirt, and a white cap. This gentleman had not been invited to join our little party, but he did so with the greatest condescension. We soon found that he was a gentleman with a grievance, and that his grievance was Bath's-hole.

I give you my word of honour, that, although he bored us with Bath's hole, and his relations therewith, for an hour and a half, I have not the slightest idea what his grievance was. His strong point was this, that although Bath (the excellent landlord of the hotel in which we were staying) had hit gold, it wasn't the gravel-pits. We, knowing something about the matter, were unfortunately of opinion that it was the gravel-pits, and no other lead so the discussion was indefinitely prolonged, until we went out to look at the hole itself, just in front of the hotel—an erection like a bankrupt windmill, with a steam-engine inside, standing over a shaft of three hundred feet deep; and then we went to bed.

But not to sleep—oh dear, no! I was in bed at a quarter before eleven. At eleven, two dogs had a difference of opinion under my window; they walked up and down, growling, till, as near as I can guess, a quarter past eleven; when they departed without fighting, at which I was sorry. At half-past eleven (I merely give you approximation as to time; I did not look at my watch), a drunken man fell into the gutter, and, on being helped out by another man, pitched into him savagely. They fought three rounds, and exeunt. At twelve, the bar was cleared, and a gentleman, of the name of Bob, was found to be unequal to the occasion, and lay down in the mud, pulling a wheelbarrow over him, under the impression that it was the bed-clothes. Bob's mates fell out as to a score at the blacksmith's for sharpening gads. Fight, and grand tableau—exeunt. At half-past twelve, a drunken Irishwoman was conducted home by two policemen; on reaching my window, she declined to proceed on any terms whatever, and committed a series of savage assaults on the constabulary. At one, a gentleman from over the way came out of his house, and, without notice or apparent reason, discharged a six-barrelled revolver; which reminded another neighbour that he might as well let off a two-barrelled fowling-piece; which caused a third neighbour to come out and swear at the other two like a trooper.

And so the night wore on. We got to sleep somewhere in the small hours, and then were awakened by the "night-shift" from that abominable "Bath's hole" aforementioned, who arrived at the surface of the earth at four a.m. in a preternatural state of liveliness, and murdered sleep. A difference of opinion seemed to exist as to whether a gentleman of the name of Arry was, or was page 149 not, an etcetera fool. It was decided against Arry, by acclamation, and they went to bed.

In the grey light of the morning a vindictive waiter brought me my boots, and announced, in a tone of savage, implacable ferocity, that the coach would be ready in half an hour. So I again found myself opposite my old friend the Chinaman, plunging headlong through one of the worst roads in the world, north-west for Mount Ararat.

Mount Ararat, I must tell you here, at the risk of boring you, was the place at which all men in that year (1857) who cared to win gold were congregated. Eight "leads" of gold were being worked, and the population was close on 60,000.

There was breakfast in an hotel beside a broad desolate-looking lake, with a lofty volcanic down—a "bald hill," as they call them here—rolling up on the right; then "Fiery Creek," an immense deserted diggings among romantic gullies at the foot of a mountain; then we began to pass some very beautiful scenery indeed—flat plains, interspersed with belts of timber, and two fine isolated mountains, four thousand feet or so in height, rising abruptly on the left, the nearest of which rejoiced in the hideous name of "Tuckerimbid" (Mount Cole), and the farthest one in the exceedingly pretty one of Laningeryn. This latter mountain had two sharp peaks like Snowdon; but, like all other high mountains in Australia (except the Alps), was wooded with dense timber from base to summit—a circumstance which considerably mars the beauty of mountain scenery in those parts.

What I am going to tell you now is nothing more than the truth, whatever you may be inclined to think. We were going down a steep hill towards a creek, when the Chinaman, who sat opposite, suddenly, without notice or provocation, levelled his head, and brought it full against what Mr. Sayers would call my bread-basket with such astonishing force that I had no breath left to cry for assistance. I made a wild clutch at his pigtail, with the intention of holding on by that while I punched his head. That intention was never fulfilled; for, ere my hand reached his head, the whole orbis terrarum, the entire cosmos, utterly disappeared, and was replaced by a summer sky with floating clouds. The end of all things had come, and I was floating through space alone with a lunatic Chinaman.

But we did not float long. We came back to earth again with a crash enough to break every bone in our bodies, one would think; and I am happy to say that the Chinaman fell under me. Uprising, we saw that the coach had been upset, and rolled completely over. Our friend the French baker was wiping the blood from a terrible cut in the forehead; the Yankee driver lay on his back, as I thought dead; and two of the party were cautiously approaching the four mad struggling horses.

In time the traces were cut; in time the driver came to himself, and swore profane oaths; in time the Frenchman got his head plastered, and was merry over our mishap, and, in time, we got to Ararat.

A great dusty main street of canvas stores, hotels, bagatelle-rooms, and bowling-alleys, outside of which on each side were vast mounds of snow-white pipe-clay, each one of which was surmounted by a windlass attended by two men. Due west, well in sight, rose Mount William, the highest mountain in Portland bay, rising 4,500 feet above the table-land, 6,000 feet above the sea. The main street in which we stop was primeval forest two months ago; and we may remark that the country round lies between the bald volcanic plains and the great ranges, consisting of a poor scrubby heath (more brilliant with flowers in spring than a duke's garden), over which was a sparse forest of stunted gum-trees.

Our coach journey is over, and we are put down at our hotel. Then we wander forth among the "holes" and converse with the miners, while supper is getting ready. A hole is pointed out to us as being remarkable. The men who are working it expect to raise about page 150 sixty load, and are certain of washing out eleven ounces to the load, which will give them somewhere about 600l. a man for three weeks' work. We go and look at the hole. It is a pyramid of white pipe-clay, about twenty feet high, with a windlass atop, and two handsome young Norfolk men working at it. We hear that their shaft is ninety feet deep, and several other particulars. But what takes our attention more than anything is this. At the foot of the great mound of pipe-clay, in the very centre of this roaring mass of advancing civilization, there sit three native black fellows. Naked save for a dirty Government blanket, pinned over their shoulders with a wooden skewer, there they sit, stupid and stunned. On the very place where a short year ago they had been hunting their wallaby and brush kangaroo, the billiard balls are clicking and the fiddles are playing. A rush of sixty thousand Europeans has come into their quiet forest, after that curious yellow metal, of whose existence they had never known; and they sit there stunned and puzzléd. The eldest among them can remember the happy old times, when kangaroos were plenty and white men had not been heard of; the youngest can remember the quiet rule of the squatters, when all their work consisted in supplying the settler's table with game. And now! Their time is come, and they know it; there is no place left for them in the land. These white men have brought drink with them, and that will make them forget their troubles for a time. Let them cringe and whine, and prostitute their wives for it, and then die for it; that is all left for them. Alas! poor black fellows, I have left a little bit of my heart among you, and that is the truth.

Five hundred black fellows in full corroborry would have had a sedative tendency compared to what I had to suffer in the way of aggravating noises after I got to bed that night. Our hotel was built of calico; so, as you may suppose, one gathered a tolerable idea of what was going on around one. I got into bed with great confidence at eleven, and then discovered that I was within three statute feet of a bowling-alley. I listened for one hour to the "trundle, trundle, clink, clink," of that exciting game; and then the proprietor of the place put the candle out, and cleared the alley, and I composed myself to sleep.

Then I became painfully conscious that there was a bagatelle-board in my immediate neighbourhood, and that two men were playing on it, and, what was worse, that a dozen or so of other men were looking on, and discussing every stroke. A gentleman of the name of "Nipper," obviously disguised in liquor, was betting on one of the players, called "Sam." I was rather glad when Nipper and Sam fell out, and Sam hit Nipper over the head with the cue; but I was not glad when they came out with the intention of fighting, and wrangled for near upon three-quarters of an hour against my bed.

Then a drunken man came, and fell down on the other side of the calico, within two feet of me, and, being under the impression that he was lost in the bush, began singing out, "Coo'ee," as loud as he could. I suggested to him that he shouldn't make such a noise against a man's tent, whereat he cursed me, demanding what I meant by putting my tent in his way, and, receiving no answer, said that I was always at it.

And on the morrow we were on horseback once more, and, leaving all the dust and turmoil behind, were holding our way across the breezy plains towards the peaceful sunny stations of the west.