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- The Bushman - 3/51 -

As I shall have occasion hereafter to allude to them incidentally, I may mention that my two brothers accompanied me on this distant voyage.

The elder, a disciple of Aesculapius, was not only anxious to gratify his fraternal solicitude and his professional tastes by watching my case, but was desirous of realizing the pleasures of rural life in Australia.

My younger brother (whose pursuits entitle him to be called Meliboeus) was a youth not eighteen, originally designed for the Church, and intended to cut a figure at Oxford; but modestly conceiving that the figure he was likely to cut would not tend to the advancement of his worldly interests, and moreover, having no admiration for Virgil beyond the Bucolics, he fitted himself out with a Lowland plaid and a set of Pandaean pipes, and solemnly dedicated himself to the duties of a shepherd.

Thus it was that we were all embarked in the same boat; or rather, we found ourselves in the month of April, 1841, on board of a certain ill-appointed barque bound for Western Australia.

We had with us a couple of servants, four rams with curling horns -- a purchase from the late Lord Western; a noble blood-hound, the gift of a noble Lord famous for the breed; a real old English mastiff-bitch, from the stock at Lyme Park; and a handsome spaniel cocker. Besides this collection of quadrupeds, we had a vast assortment of useless lumber, which had cost us many hundred pounds. Being most darkly ignorant of every thing relating to the country to which we were going, but having a notion that it was very much of the same character with that so long inhabited by Robinson Crusoe, we had prudently provided ourselves with all the necessaries and even non-necessaries of life in such a region. Our tool chests would have suited an army of pioneers; several distinguished ironmongers of the city of London had cleared their warehouses in our favour of all the rubbish which had lain on hand during the last quarter of a century; we had hinges, bolts, screws, door-latches, staples, nails of all dimensions -- from the tenpenny, downwards -- and every other requisite to have completely built a modern village of reasonable extent. We had tents, Macintosh bags, swimming-belts, several sets of sauce-pans in graduated scale, (we had here a distant eye to kangaroo and cockatoo stews,) cleavers, meat-saws, iron skewers, and a general apparatus of kitchen utensils that would have satisfied the desires of Monsieur Soyer himself. Then we had double and single-barrelled guns, rifles, pistols, six barrels of Pigou and Wilkes' gunpowder; an immense assortment of shot, and two hundred weight of lead for bullets.

Besides the several articles already enumerated, we had provided ourselves with eighteen months' provisions, in pork and flour, calculating that by the time this quantity was consumed, we should have raised enough to support our establishment out of the soil by the sweat of our brows. And thus from sheer ignorance of colonial life, we had laid out a considerable portion of our capital in the purchase of useless articles, and of things which might have been procured more cheaply in the colony itself. Nor were we the only green-horns that have gone out as colonists: on the contrary, nine-tenths of those who emigrate, do so in perfect ignorance of the country they are about to visit and the life they are destined to lead. The fact is, Englishmen, as a body know nothing and care nothing about colonies. My own was merely the national ignorance. An Englishman's idea of a colony (he classes them altogether) is, that it is some miserable place -- the Black-hole of the British empire -- where no one would live if he were allowed a choice; and where the exiled spirits of the nation are incessantly sighing for a glimpse of the white cliffs of Albion, and a taste of the old familiar green-and-yellow fog of the capital of the world. Experience alone can convince him that there are in other regions of the world climes as delightful, suns as beneficent, and creditors as confiding, as those of Old England.

The voyage, of course, was tedious enough; but some portion of it was spent very pleasantly in calculating the annual profits which our flocks were likely to produce.

The four noble rams, with their curly horns, grew daily more valuable in our estimation. By the sailors, no doubt, they were rated no higher than the miserable tenants of the long-boat, that formed part of the cuddy provisions. But with us it was very different. As we looked, every bright and balmy morning, into the pen which they occupied, we were enabled to picture more vividly those Arcadian prospects which seemed now brought almost within reach. In these grave and respectable animals we recognised the patriarchs of a vast and invaluable progeny; and it was impossible to help feeling a kind of veneration for the sires of that fleecy multitude which was to prove the means of justifying our modest expectations of happiness and wealth.

Our dogs also afforded us the most pleasing subjects for speculation. With the blood-hound we were to track the footsteps of the midnight marauder, who should invade the sanctity of our fold. The spaniel was to aid in procuring a supply of game for the table; and I bestowed so much pains upon his education during the voyage, that before we landed he was perfectly au fait in the article of "down-charge!" and used to flush the cat in the steward's pantry with the greatest certainty and satisfaction.

Jezebel, the mastiff-birch, was expected to assist in guarding our castle, -- an honourable duty which her courage and fidelity amply warranted us in confiding to her. Of the former quality, I shall mention an instance that occurred during the voyage. We had one day caught a shark, twelve feet long; and no sooner was he hauled on deck than Jezebel, wild with fury, rushed through the circle of eager sailors and spectators, and flew directly at the nose of the struggling monster. It was with difficulty that she was dragged away by the admiring seamen, who were compelled to admit that there was a creature on board more reckless and daring than themselves.

We were now approaching the Cape Verd Islands. I daresay it has been frequently mentioned, that there is in these latitudes a vast bed of loose sea-weed, floating about, which has existed there from time immemorial, and which is only found in this one spot of the ocean; as though it were here compelled to remain under the influence of some magic spell. Some navigators are of opinion that it grows on the rocks at the bottom of the sea, beneath the surface on which it floats. Others maintain that it has been drifted across the Atlantic, having issued from the Gulf of Mexico. Here, however, it is doomed to drift about hopelessly, for ever lost in the wilderness of waters; on the surface of which it now vegetates, affording shelter to small crabs, and many curious kinds of fishes.

One of the latter which we caught, about an inch in length, had a spike on his back, and four legs, with which he crawled about the sea-weed.

We approached the Island of St. Jago, sailing unconsciously close to a sunken rock, on which (as we afterwards learnt) the "Charlotte" had struck about six weeks before whilst under full sail, and had gone down in a few minutes, barely allowing time for the crew to escape in their boat.

Notwithstanding we had been five weeks at sea when we dropped anchor in Porto Praya roads, the appearance of the land was by no means inviting to the eyes. A high and extremely barren hill, or large heap of dry earth, with a good many stones about it, seemed to compose the Island. Close to us was the town, a collection of white houses that looked very dazzling in the summer sun. Beside, and running behind it, was a greenish valley, containing a clump of cocoa-nut trees. This was the spot we longed to visit; so, getting into the captain's boat, we approached the shore, where a number of nearly naked negroes rushing into the sea (there being no pier or jetty) presented their slimy backs at the gun-wale, and carried us in triumph to the beach. The town boasted of one hotel, in the only sitting-room of which we found some Portuguese officers smoking pipes as dirty as themselves, and drinking a beverage which had much the appearance of rum and water. There was no one who could speak a word of English; but at length a French waiter appeared, who seemed ravished with delight at the jargon with which we feebly reminded him of his own lively language "when at home." Having ordered dinner, we wandered off in search of the coca-nut valley, and purchased bananas for the first time in our lives, and oranges, the finest in the world.

Those who have been long at sea know how pleasant it is to walk once more upon the land. It is one of the brightest of the Everlasting flowers in the garland of Memory.

We walked along the sea-beach, as people so circumstanced must ever do, full of gladsome fancies. There was delight for us in the varied shells at our feet; in the curious skeletons of small fishes, untimely deceased; in the fantastic forms of the drifted sea-weed; in the gentle ripple of the companionable waves by our side. And little Fig, the spaniel, was no less pleased then ourselves. He ran before us rejoicing in his fleetness; and he ran back again in a moment to tell us how glad he was. Then as a wave more incursive than its predecessor unexpectedly wetted his feet, he would droop his tail and run faster with alarm, until the sight of some bush or bough, left high and dry by the last tide, awakened his nervous suspicions, and dreading an ambuscade, he would stop suddenly and bark at the dreadful object, until we arrived at his side, when, wagging his tail and looking slyly up with his joyous eyes, he would scamper away again as though he would have us believe he had been all the time only in fun.

What profound satisfaction is there in the freedom of land after so long a confinement! The sunshine that makes joyous every object around us finds its way into the deeps of the heart.

And now we determined to bathe. So we crossed over a jutting rock, on the other side of which was a beautiful and secluded little bay, so sheltered that the waves scarcely rippled as they came to kiss the shell-covered beach. Here we soon unrobed; and I was the first to rush at full speed into the inviting waters. Before I got up to my middle, however, I saw something before me that looked like a dark rock just below the surface. I made towards it, intending to get upon it, and dive off on the other side; but lo! as I approached, it stirred; then it darted like a flash of lightning towards one side of the bay, whilst I, after standing motionless for a moment, retreated with the utmost expedition.

It was a ground-shark, of which there are numbers on that coast.

We lost no time in putting on our clothes again, and returned in rather a fluttered state to the inn.



The Bushman - 3/51

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