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- AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 5/32 -


Tinline boarded with her till his marriage. The nephews, and especially the nieces, of the old lady interested me--Lucy, the eldest, a handsome girl, was about two years younger than myself; Arabella, about the age of my sister Mary; Elizabeth, the baby Beare, who was the first white person to set foot on South Australian soil after the foundation of the province, died from a burning accident when quite young. The only survivor of that first family now is William L. Beare (84), held in honour as one of our earliest pioneers. By a second marriage there were nine more children. Several died young, but some still survive.

It was not till 1843 that I went as a daily governess at the rate of 6d. an hour, and gave two hours five days a week to the families of the Postmaster-General, the Surveyor-General, and the Private Secretary. Thus I earned three guineas a month. I don't recollect taking holidays, except a week at Christmas. I enjoyed the work, and I was proud of the payment. My mother said she never felt the bitterness of poverty after I began to earn money, and the shyness which, in spite of all her instructions and encouragement, I had felt with all strangers, disappeared when I felt independent. When a girl is very poor, and feels herself badly dressed, she cannot help being shy, especially if she has a good deal of Scotch pride. I think mother felt more sorry for me in those early days than for the others, because I was so ambitious, and took religious difficulties so hard. How old I felt at 17. Indeed, at 14 I felt quite grown up. In 1843 I felt I had begun the career in Australia that I had anticipated in Scotland. I was trusted to teach little girls, and they interested me, each individual with a difference. I had seen things I had written in print. If I was one of the oldest in feeling of the young folk in South Australia in my teens, I am the youngest woman in feeling in my eighties; so I have had abundant compensation.

CHAPTER IV.

LOVERS AND FRIENDS.

It is always supposed that thoughts of love and marriage are the chief concerns in a girl's life, but it was not the case with me. I had only two offers of marriage in my life, and I refused both. The first might have been accepted if it had not been for the Calvinistic creed that made me shrink from the possibility of bringing children into the world with so little chance of eternal salvation, so I said. "No" to a very clever young man, with whom I had argued on many points, and with whom, if I had married him, I should have argued till one of us died! I was 17, and had just begun to earn money. I told him why I had refused him, and that it was final. In six weeks he was engaged to another woman. My second offer was made to me when I was 23 by a man aged 55, with three children. He was an artist, whose second wife and several children had been murdered by the Maoris near Wanganui during the Maori insurrection of the forties, and he had come to Adelaide with the three survivors. The massacre of that family was only one of the terrible tragedies of that time, but it was not the less shocking. The Maoris had never been known to kill a woman, and when the house was attacked, Mr. Gilfillan got out of a back window to call the soldiers to their help. Though struck on the back of the head and the neck and scarred for life--owing to which he was always compelled to wear his hair long--he succeeded in his mission. His wife put her own two children through the window, and they toddled off hand in hand until they met their father returning with the soldiers. The eldest daughter, a girl of 13, escaped with a neighbour's child, a baby in arms. She was seen by the Maoris, struck on the forehead with a stone axe, and left unconscious. The crying of the baby roused her, and she went to the cowyard and milked a cow to get milk for the hungry child, and there she was found by the soldiers. She was queer in her ways and thoughts afterwards, and, it was said, always remained 13 years old. She died in November last, aged 74. Her stepmother and the baby and her own brother and sister were murdered one by one as they tried to escape by the same window that had led the rest of the family to safety. One of the toddling survivors still lives in New Zealand. Now, these are all the chances of marriage I have had in my life. Dickens, in "David Copperfield," speaks of an old maid who keeps the remembrance of some one who might have made her an offer, the shadowy Pidger, in her heart until her death. I cannot forget these two men. I am constantly meeting with the children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of the first. As for the other, Andrew Murray gave me a fine landscape painted by John A. Gilfillan as a slight acknowledgment of services rendered to his newspaper when he left it to go to Melbourne, and it hangs up in my sitting room for all to see. Mr. Gilfillan had a commission to paint "The Landing of Capt. Cook" with the help of Portraits and miniatures of the principal personages, and some sketches of his of Adelaide in 1849 are in the Adelaide Art Gallery. If the number of lovers has been few, no woman in Australia has been richer in friends. This narrative will show what good friends--men as well as women--have helped me and sympathized in my work and my aims. I believe that if I had been in love, especially if I had been disappointed in love, my novels would have been stronger and more interesting; but I kept a watch over myself, which I felt I knew I needed, for I was both imaginative and affectionate. I did not want to give my heart away. I did not desire a love disappointment, even for the sake of experience. I was 30 years old before the dark veil of religious despondency was completely lifted from my soul, and by that time I felt myself booked for a single life. People married young if they married at all in those days. The single aunts put on caps at 30 as a sort of signal that they accepted their fate; and, although I did not do so, I felt a good deal the same.

I went on with daily teaching for some years, during which my father's health declined, but before his death two things had happened to cheer him. My brother John left Myponga and came to town, and obtained a clerkship in the South Australian Bank at 100 pounds a year. It was whilst occupying a position in the bank that he had some slight connection with the notorious Capt. Starlight, afterwards the hero of "Robbery Under Arms," for through his hands much of the stolen money passed. In 1900, when Mrs. Young and I were leaving Melbourne on our visit to Sydney, we were introduced to "Rolf Boldrewood," the author of that well-known story. His grave face lit up with a smile when my friend referred to the author of her son's hero. "Ah!" and he shook his head slowly. "I'm not quite sure about the wisdom of making heroes of such sorry stuff," he replied. I thought I could do better with a school. I was 20, and my sister Mary nearly 16, and my mother could help. My school opened in May, 1846, a month before my father's death, and he thought that our difficulties were over. My younger brother, David Wauchope, had been left behind for his education with the three maiden aunts, but he came out about the end of that year, and began life in the office of the Burra Mine at a small salary. My eldest brother William, was not successful in the country, and went to Western Australia for some years, and later to New Zealand, where he died in his eightieth year, soon after the death of my brother John in his seventy-ninth, leaving me the only survivor of eight born and of six who grew to full age. My eldest sister Agnes died of consumption at the age of 16; and, as my father's mother and four of his brothers and sisters had died of this malady, it was supposed to be in the family. The only time I was kept out of school during the nine years at Miss Phin's was when I was 12 when I had a cough and suppuration of the glands of the neck. As this was the way in which Agnes's illness had begun, my parents were alarmed, though I had no idea of it. I was leeched and blistered and drugged; I was put into flannel for the only time in my life; I was sent away for change of air; but no one could discover that the cough was from the lungs. It passed away with the cold weather, and I cannot say that I have had any illness since. My father died of decline, but, if he had been more fortunate, I think he would have lived much longer. Probably my mother's life was prolonged beyond that of a long-lived family by her coming to Australia in middle life; and if I ever had any tendency to consumption, the climate must have helped me. There were no special precautions against infection in those days: but no other member of the family took it. and the alarm about me was three years after Agnes's death.

But to go on to those early days of the forties. There were two families with whom we were intimate. Mr. George Tinline (who had been clerk to my fathers' old friend, Williarn Rutherford, of Jedburgh), who was in the bank of South Australia when in 1839, my father went to put our small funds in safety, introduced us to a beautiful young widow, Mrs. Sharpe, and her sisters Eliza and Harriet, and her brother, John Taylor. Harriet afterwards married Edward Stirling, a close friend of my brother-in-law, Andrew Murray, and I was a great deal interested in the Stirlings and their eight children. Mr. William Bakewell, of Bartley & Bakewell, solicitors, married Jane Warren of Springfield, Barossa, and I was a familiar friend of their five children. In one house I was "Miss Spence, the storyteller," in the other "Miss Spence, the teller of tales!" Some of the tales appeared long after as Christmas stories in The Adelaide Observer, but my young hearers preferred the oral narrative, with appropriate gestures and emphasis, and had no scruple about making faces, to anything printed in books. I took great liberties with what I had read and sometimes invented all. It was a part of their education, probably--certainly, it was a part of mine, and it gave me a command of language which helped me when I became a public speaker. My brother-in-law's newspaper furnished an occasional opportunity to me, though no doubt he considered that he could fill his twice-a-week journal without my help. He was, however, helpful in other ways. He was one of the subscribers to a Reading Club, and through him I had access to newspapers and magazines. The South Australian Institute was a treasure to the family. I recollect a newcomer being astonished at my sister Mary having read Macaulay's History. "Why, it was only just out when I left England," said he. "Well, it did not take longer to come out than you did," was her reply. We were all omnivorous readers, and the old-fashioned accomplishment of reading aloud was cultivated by both brothers and sisters. I was the only one who could translate French at sight, thanks to Miss Phin's giving me so much of Racine and Moliere and other good French authors in my school days.

But more important than all this was the fact that we took hold of the growth and development of South Australia, and identified ourselves with it. Nothing is insignificant in the history of a young community, and--above all--nothing seems impossible. I had learned what wealth was, and a great deal about production and exchange for myself in the early history of South Australia--of the value of machinery, of roads and bridges, and of ports for transport and export. I had seen the 4-lb. loaf at 4/ and at 4d. I had seen Adelaide the dearest and the cheapest place to live in. I had seen money orders for 2/6, and even for 6d., current when gold and silver were very scarce. Even before the discovery of copper South Australia had turned the corner. We had gone on the land and become primary producers, and before the gold discoveries in Victoria revolutionized Australia and attracted our male population across the border, the Central State was the only one which had a large surplus of wheat and hay to send to the goldfields.

Edward Wilson of The Argus, riding overland to Adelaide about 1848, was amazed to see from Willunga onward fenced and cultivated farms, with decent homesteads and machinery up to date. The Ridley stripper enabled our people to reap and thresh the corn when hands were all too few for the sickle. He said he felt as if the garden of Paradise must have been in King William street and that the earliest difference in the world--that between Cain and Abel--was about the advantages of the 80-acre system. Australia generally had already to realize the fact that the


AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - 5/32

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