Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Our Australian Cousins
Chapter XVII

An Easter outing in the Antipodes—Arrangements for the party— Our comrades and their appearance—The start —We steam round to Port Hacking—Our camp—A damper—A bad night—Dawn in Australia—After Uallaby—A gem in the forest—A pull up the river—Splendid scenery—The lyre bird—A camp feast— Hooked through the hand—Disembarkation.

I have said enough, I think, to show folk at home that their cousins in the Antipodes have not degenerated so far as manly sports are concerned. Nor $re field-sports ignored. On the contrary, limited as have been the winged and four-footed quarry hitherto for the votaries of St. Hubert and Nimrod, the capacities of Australia for field-sports are even now on the increase.

I have mentioned hares as being now commonly met with in the great Western Plains, and coursing is becoming quite a popular pastime. In some parts of Australia, happily not yet in New South Wales, rabbits have so increased as to be an unmitigated pest to farmers and graziers. Marsupials of all kinds abound. Bush turkeys, emus, pigeons, wild ducks, wild geese, cockatoos, black swans, quail, lyre birds, and numerous other winged beasts, afford ample practice for the gun of the enthusiastic sportsman, and both river and sea, as I will further show in another chapter, afford infinite means of diversion for disciples of the gentle Isaac Walton. "When a holiday comes round, therefore, it is customary for several young fellows of kindred tastes in Sydney, to club together, and, hiring a launch, or borrowing a boat, they betake them to one of the many lovely spots in the vicinity of the metropolis, where fishing and shooting can both be indulged in to their hearts' content. The shooting is not so abundant and excellent as the fishing, but enough game can generally be found, to tempt the enthusiastic possessor of a gun, to carry it with him on his annual excursion.

Easter in Australia generally falls about the time of the year when the days are long, and the nights are cool. I was fortunate enough on one occasion to form one of a very jovial party, the counterpart of hundreds of similar little combinations, to spend the Easter holidays, and I cannot do better, I think, than transcribe for the home reader my experiences as I detailed them for some friendly readers in Calcutta. It will give friends at home a pretty fair idea of how the young sportsmen of Australia spend a holiday.

Some days before the holidays a trusty friend hinted to me that I should be welcome if I would consent to join himself and a party of friends. I asked him where they were going.

"Oh!" said he, "we're going to have a regular camp; we've got a steam-launch and a boat, and intend going to Port Hacking to have some shooting, fishing, and general diversion."

Now, I had camped out a good deal in my time. I knew what it involved; and, remembering my corpulent frame and rheumatic joints, I was rather averse to the idea of roughing it, as I knew many enthusiastic young Australians were in the habit of doing, when they went out on an expedition of the nature proposed by my friend. I am just as fond of sport as most men, and, perhaps, have had as large an experience as the majority of my Australian acquaintance. Grouse shooting, partridge shooting, black-cock shooting, I have had. Salmon fishing in the bonny Scottish rivers, in the lovely voes of Shetland, and in the deep blue waters of the "Western Islands, I have enjoyed with a delicious zest; but I never found warm dry clothing, comfortable quarters, and good cookery detract from, but rather intensify the sport, whatever it may have been. In New Zealand I have been out shooting wild cattle on the back ranges, spearing eels with the Maories, and potting Paradise ducks, and other winged and web-footed birds on the flax-fringed tarns of Canterbury. But I never found a nice tent and warm blue blankets to be at all a bad accessory to one's sport. After a weary day's waiting in the thick sal jungle of India, when each rustle made my heart beat high with excitement, as I looked for the expected leopard or lordly stag; or at the end of a long beat through tangled bamboo or elephant grass, as the stately line of elephants bore majestically down on the slouching tiger, the savage rhinoceros, or the ponderous buffalo; a refresher in the shape of an iced hock and seltzer, a sparkling draught of champagne or claret cup, or a long pull at refreshing brandy and soda, has never detracted from the enjoyment of the sport pure and simple, and, therefore, I asked my friend what sort of a camp they were going to have.

Now he was the sort of man who cares not a button so long as there's plenty of wallaby to be shot or sclmapper to be liooked, and even when he said that everything was to be quite on a scale of oriental magnificence in fact, I still felt rather dubious, and I said," Well, we can go and see G.!" "All right," said A., and off we went. My first impressions of G. were decidedly flattering to that excellent fellow, and when we had visited his .well-stocked cellar, discussed a flagon of delicious Australian wine, and G. had told me he was to take a tent and I might have a share of it, I began to think it might not be a bad thing after all to have an outing at Easter.

In addition to the steam-launch there were to be two or three tents, two aborigines to assist the chef de cuisine, and the party was to be limited to twenty. For their sustenance and delectation a quarter of an ox, a live sheep, a colossal ham, three barrels of beer, flour, potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages, parsnips, carrots, cheese, bread, condiments, mushrooms, butter, and all the "materials" for punch, not forgetting even the lemons, and last, but not least, an enormous plum-pudding, were to be provided. Ere he had half finished his tempting category my last remaining scruple had vanished, and even for a time, I must ^confess with a blush, I forgot all about the wallaby and the fishing. However, .we discussed another flagon, and then arranged for a muster, and talked over every requisite detail. Our luggage was to be sent down from G.'s, and it was finally decided that the party should meet at Botany, at the Sir Joseph Bank's Hotel, on the Thursday night.

Thursday evening saw A. and self stowed on the box seat of the Botany 'bus. We had a pleasant ride, a comfortable tea-dinner with our hostess and one fair ruddy damsel, several smokes and shandygaffs, a stroll through the garden, and a meeting with several old friends, until the approach of ten o'clock. About that time the company began to roll up; but, heavens, what a change! In place of the shining beavers and natty habiliments of every-day city life, we had now the most incongruous assemblage of head-pieces that ever survived a life of adventure and years of wear. There were slouching sombreros, dilapidated wideawakes, moth-eaten fur caps, cricket caps, and even red night-caps. The clothes would have shamed rag fair. Some wore jumpers, guernseys, and tatterdemalion jackets. The continuations were shabby to a degree, and the shoes would have been spurned by a Parisian chiffonier. Our captain introduced us to each other, drew us up in line, called the roll, made us a speech, and then we adjourned to the bar and underwent the agony of tambaroora for drinks.

A rich Milesian brogue betrayed the presence of one hardy son of Erin, while a polished enunciation and rather formal manner evidenced that we had another pedagogue in our midst, who, however, turned out to be a king of a fellow, and a mighty trencherman. Judging from his revolver practice subsequently he was well qualified to "teach the young idea how to shoot." Representing the banking interest we had old Father Christmas, who fully sustained the jolly associations connected with his name, and of the others I may speak anon.

A. and I had been fortunate enough to secure a bed, but the others were relegated to the dim obscurity of the long-room, where a few venturesome but enthusiastic votaries of the noble game of whist essayed a rubber amid a Babel of sound, and a perfect avalanche of practical jokes ; while the piano, under the nimble fingers of a musical member of the party, emitted strains of a decidedly Bacchanalian  character; and, under the combined distraction, the whist-players had to succumb. Very few that night slept the sleep of the just, and the noisy clamour of the geese in the court-yard was welcomed as a glad heralding of the advent of day.

It was a dull, gloomy morning; but by ten o'clock we had accomplished a safe embarkation. The whistle emitted a shrill scream as Davey (the engineer) turned on steam; and with the angular, dusky figure of Black Bob, a half-caste and our captain for the nonce, standing tall, erect, and stern, at the wheel, we steamed rapidly off in the direction of Botany Heads, bearing the Heads the scene was a striking one. Over all the land brooded a dark sombre mass of watery-charged cloud, while far out to sea the sun was brightly shining, tipping with a silvery sheen the long rolling undulations that came majestically on to break in fleecy heaps upon the frowning rocks that guard the coast. Shadows chased each other over the bounding billows, and in the nooks and crevices of the shore there rested a thin filmy haze, through which one could see delicate ferns and clustering shrubs nodding to the toying breeze, and sparkling with pearly dew, as ever and anon an inquisitive sunbeam darted through the haze.

The sporting ardour of K. was no longer to be controlled. Producing an ancient revolver, with a huge box of cartridges, and another of percussion caps, he loaded his weapon in solemn silence; then espying a sea-gull several furlongs off, he blazed off six barrels in rapid succession, and seemed astonished that the sea bird still sailed on in unruffled serenity. Failing to bring down the distant gull, he kept up an incossfi*t bombardment on* the rocks, close to which we were now steaming, and seemed as happy in hearing the continuous pop pop of his miserable fire-arm as the proverbial tinker's dog. The muzzle pointed at each of our heads with most just impartiality, until some beneficent individual, pro bono publico, quietly abstracted the cartridges, in an unguarded moment on K.'s part, whose pistol was thenceforth dumb, and the disappointed artillerist took to drowiiing his sorrows in the flowing bowl.

The hardy Norseman and a few others now began to exhibit symptoms of malde mer. Their jokes grew milder as their complexions more and more assimilated to the colour of the deep green sea. Those of us who resisted had a double reward.

The rock scenery we were now passing was lovely in the extreme. There Currunulla beach stretched out its glistening bars of gold, on which the white breakers broke with a booming roar; and in front we could see Port Hacking opening out before us; a small, low, mangrove-covered island in the foreground; to the right a bold headland with two snowy tents close to the beach, dark masses of verdure picked out, with white "lillie-pillie" blossom; and far away to' the south the undulations of the coast gradually fading in the dim haze of the distance. The sail up the river was truly beautiful. We had to pursue a tortuous track to keep the channel, and ever and anon a deep sequestered bay, or winding inlet, would open up, disclosing little picture gems in a setting of grey rock, glistening sand, and melancholy sombre bush. About noon we drew up at our point of disembarkation. There was a rude little wharf, with a deep overhanging rook crowned by I gnarled, twisted, old fig-tree, and under its shade we set up our kitchen and unpacked our goods. We were moored in the bight of a lovely amphitheatre of verdure-clad hills, with here and there a rugged rock showing his weather-beaten scarred face from among the surrounding foliage. In one corner a silvery cascade danced merrily from a cleft ravine and glittered gaily in the sunshine, while all round the shore was an encircling belt of oysters, forming a living chevaux de frise to resist the landing of any incautious bather. It was a spot of rare sylvan beauty; a fairy picture of forest, rock, and limpid wave; and so far as .evidences of man's intrusions went, save our own noisy party, we might have been countless leagues from the busy hum of the thronged metropolis.

The day was very warm, close, and sultry, but ominous clouds hung about, threatening rain. While some proceeded to set the tents, others scaled the heights, and hurled down withered branches and dead logs for the camp fire, and, under the energetic action of our caterer and captain, we were soon all squatted on improvised seats of rock and log, enjoying our first meal in camp. After breakfast, several betook them to the piscatory art, while six or seven of us got into the boat and pulled over for the farther shore, intending to beat for wallaby, or, at the very least, secure a stray parrot or wonga pigeon for the pot. Alas ! we had not proceeded half-way ere a perfect torrent came down on us from a passing thunder-cloud. Sacrebleu! how it pumped on us! We got hastily ashore and cowered under an o'er-beetling rock, while the rain came down mercilessly. I thought of my beautiful gun getting horribly wet; I conjured up a vision of wet clothes, wet blankets, and wet feet, remembered my rhenmatics, and shuddered. However, there was no help for it. It did not look like clearing, so we buckled our belts, set our "stout hearts to a very stey brae," and sturdily stumped it up the hill amid rocks, ferns, lovely wild flowers, prickly shrubs, embracing creepers, and over all the pelting, persistent rain. Long ere we reached the summit of the craggy steep, we were squeezing "water from our saturated boots at every step. The rain now abated somewhat, and finally ceased, but soon a new affliction we were doomed to experience. We seemed to have got into the very nursery and head-quarters of the sand-fly family. They swarmed about • us in clouds, and the vicious little black brutes attacked us fiercely, and without a moment's pause. In vain we smoked, swore, lashed ourselves with branches of trees; but, like the self-torture of the priests of Baal, " all was of no avail." As for wallaby, there was "nary one;" not even a sign of one. We felt inclined to give up in disgust. We voted camping-out a mistake, holidays a delusion, and wallaby-shooting a snare. We were wet, weary, and worried to death by those demoniacal insects. I got one magnificent view far up the river, from the top of a mighty wall of rocks that dipped down abruptly at my feet, a sheer depth of several hundred feet. At my back was the gloomy bush, every tree bearing bold evidences of the "baptism of fire" which at no distant date must have swept over the forest. Far to the left, and in front, rounded hills, with heathy-looking moorlands, bosky dells, and shaded ravines, lay spread out in a panorama of weird, sombre beauty. At my feet, far below, the river ran. Every inch of bottom was discernible from where I stood—the yellow sand, the sunken rock, tlie deep dark pool, and dancing ripple on the shingly bars.

We descended, moody and sullen; we growled at each other; we cursed the dirty boat, the weather, the arrangements, and things generally. Arrived in camp, we were laughed at; we made a mighty onslaught on the beer barrel, and were comforted. The boys in camp had caught some fine bream. We got on dry clothes, and felt better. That night was a fearful night. In the first place, everything was more or less wet. I had to sleep with my lower extremities grizzling against the heated cylinder of the engine, my head and elbows out in the rain, and the coaming of an infernal hatchway catching me right in the small of my back. To add to my troubles, I got toothache and cramp. Over against the waterfall was another camp, whence issued the sounds of a corroboree, with an occasional howl from a pack of miscellaneous hounds, and altogether I was having a very vivid experience of what it was to rough it in Australia.

Just as we were about settling down for a good snooze, the sound of approaching oars was heard. This turned out to be L-and the two sable hunters, Bob and Jimmie, from the other camp, where they had been partaking of hospitality, "not wisely, but too well." Bob was helpless, speechless, utterly incapable. Jimmie bundled him ashore on his shoulders, tumbled him down like a sack, and then, like a good true comrade as he was, gave him his own blanket and left him alone in his glory. Now Jimmie proved a horrible nuisance that night, for the visits he paid to the beer-barrel were as the sands of the sea for multitude. Thus passed our first night. My soul was bitter within me, and I yearned for the flesh-pots of Egypt—the delights and comforts of tent-life in India —as I writhed upon my bed of torture. "I had but little sleep, and towards dawn I got up and paced the narrow deck of the launch. A full moon flooded the wooded" amphitheatre with a pale pure light; every twig and leaf stood out in bold relief against the pallid light of our Lady Luna, and the silent river ran a very stream of glittering silver. The camp-fire smouldered, with a canopy of light curling smoke, hanging midway between the river and the cliff. Not a sound disturbed the stillness save the murmur of the cascade, the twitter of an early bird, the flop of some sportive fish in training for an aquatic race, or the deep boom of L-'s nasal organ, which caused the deck to quiver with a tremor as the prolonged bass snore rumbled in the calm morning air. Now the harbingers of day—the tiny, twittering birds—began to hop about, ruffling their feathers, chirping and whistling; and ere long the moonlight waned before the approaching sun-god, and the world was once more awake.

We were soon dispersed over the camp, some fishing for black bream, of which there were quantities, while others assisted the cooks in getting breakfast. It was a glorious morning. We were joined now by the valiant Captain W-, the rotund G- and his friend, and they courteously invited the gunners of our party to join them in a hunt. Those who liked were to try deep-sea fishing; and, after an ample breakfast, we started on our several ways, leaving Old Mull and his man Friday, whose cognomen, by the way, was Monday, to look after preparations for dinner.

Our way lay by the cascade, and in a sheltered nook we came on the captain's camp. A noisy and demonstrative pack of canine creatures came founding forth to meet us, and through the smoke loomed large the swarthy features of the celebrated Bundong arid his mate Joey. These were to be our shikarrees, masters of the hounds, and directors-general of the beat. Both were "characters." Their eccentricities were unbounded. Bundong had a weakness for liquids, Joey was a Good Templar, but both were -ardent sportsmen, and, if the freedom of their criticism'and plainness of their speech gave any clue to their politics, they might have been put down as ultra-democrats both.

Our party mustered nine guns in all, and we had a tremendous climb up the almost sheer acclivity, threading our way amid boulders, heaped-up rocks, fallen logs, and mounds of brushwood. We were now on a fine open heath, with an extensive swamp lying in the hollow—the feeder to the rivulet below. Wild flowers of rare beauty, delicate shape, and exquisite colouring, peered up at us from every nook among the ferns and grass-palms. Here the native fuchsia, with its wax-like petals of the loveliest pink, tipped with a pale creamy yellow, trembled on its tiny pedestal. There the Australian honeysuckle, with a deep crimson blossom, imparted a bright air of gaiety and life to the heathy shrubs of dull green with which the upland was clothed. As we marched along in Indian file, Bundong rated his dogs, swore and bellowed, till he was nearly hoarse. When we reached the crest of the ridge, we saw a magnificent panorama stretched out beneath us. At our back lay a bare, rugged brae, studded with stunted shrubs and rugged rocks, jumbled together in picturesque confusion. To our right, the living carpet of rushes and grasses in the basin-like morass. In front a steep declivity, closed with densely-matted brushwood, here and there a tree of snow-white bloom, stowing where the lillipillies scattered their profusion of flowers. On the opposite steep a frowning wall of rock, with caves and crags showing gloomy and dark, or standing boldly confronting us, while the rich sunlight showed every scar and crevice in their weather-beaten recesses. . Deep in the dell below a miniature lake lay placid and still, while far out lay spread before us the majestic ocean, with scarcely a ripple breaking the calm expanse of blue, save where a lining of fleecy white gleamed like silver as the mighty swell dashed its foaming volume on the jagged rocks that guarded the coast. The river wound about, and in and out, with a bar of yellow sand gleaming like gold half-way to the sea. But all was still, oppressively still, and the whole scene was one of weird wild beauty, such as I have rarely seen surpassed for grandeur and diversity. We now took our stations along the crest of the hill, I taking the first post behind a hoary old boulder, while the others planted themselves at intervals along the face of the hill right down to the water's edge. Taking the dogs with them, the black fellows took now a wide detour to reach the head of the bush-fringed gully, and we soon heard their wild hallooing and ringing cooee as they urged the dogs into the cover. This is technically termed " wall-bunging; " that is, beating up the game to the concealed sportsmen. D- was with me, acting as gillie, and for a long time we stirred not hand or foot, and the dogs were getting quite close to our post of observation.

Just then I heard the peculiar bump, bump, which once heard can never be mistaken for aught else but the bounding of a marsupial. The noise came from behind, and looking back, I saw a fine fat wallaby, all unconscious of my proximity, hopping among the rocks behind me. For a moment it got into hollow, and the sound ceased. I beckoned D-to go up the hill and try to drive the quarry in my direction. This he satisfactorily accomplished. I got a good long shot, and had the satisfaction of seeing our bounding brigand topple over. She, for it proved to be a female, with a minute picanniny in her pouch, got up again, however, and was making off, when a second shot brought her to bag. D- returned, and we shortly afterwards rejoined our disappointed comrades, mine having been the only piece discharged during the beat. A halt for refreshments, and on we went again for a fresh beat. This time L-, G--, and another lucky one got each a wallaby, and having doubled back round the hill, the cravings of the inner man made us look at our watches. It was long past dinner-time. Wallabys were scarce, dogs and men were tired, so we resolved to return. This we did, carrying the slain along with us.

Reaching the stream, we paused to admire one of the rarest little nooks of sylvan beauty that perhaps could be found in the colony. The streamlet in its descent had scooped out a basin in the rock. A deep still pool, with flashes of amber and gold and pale green, where the struggling sunbeams peered through the thick shade of the gum-trees. A huge prostrate monarch of the forest spanned the upper part of the hollow like an arch, and stag ferns and others of surpassing loveliness formed a drooping fringe of living green from every projecting buttress and shady cranny. The water flashed with a pleasant gurgling murmur, and the whole ensemble breathed an air of the deepest serenity and peace. It was a gem of a picture. The whole thiug was perfect. Every stone, rock, leaf, frond, dripping spray, and moss-grown trunk were so hai*< moniously blended, so beautifully proportioned, so perfectly fitted, that we could not resist an involuntary exclamation of delight and admiration. However, appetite jogged us, and we again descended the steep, abrupt decline. What a glorious dinner we had! How can I describe the toothsome fare, Toohey's beer not being forgotten. The fishing party had been successful, having caught forty-five magnificent schnapper and tailor, rain-bow, parrot, and other fish of many sorts.

That night we had a grand corroboree at the captain's camp, and I quite won the hearts of the dusky "wall-bungers" by a Hindostanee song, given with the true nasal drawl, high-pitched treble, and the long-drawn quavers and semi-quavers of the bronzed beauties of dear old India, Sunday morning broke fair and beautiful — both camps had by this time thoroughly fraternized, and we breakfasted together. I could linger lovingly over the remembrance of the delicious schnapper for breakfast. Poor old H-, always somehow managing to get into trouble, slipped down the bank among the sharp oyster shells and got badly cut about the hands and legs. He bore it all, however, with the most imperturbable good-humour. We spent the day bathing and wandering through the lovely bush.

Next day Father Christmas, A-, and one or two others proposed a pull up the river, and as the tide was
running up strong we started. G-, Charley, L-, and myself took our guns, as there was a chance of securing Wonga pigeons.. These may be considered as the delicacy par excellence of an Australian sportsman's bag. They are fine big plump birds, and almost approach in flavour,. I think, to a florican. Our pull up the river was the treat of the outing. The scenery was exquisitely beautiful.

Leaving the busy camp behind us we quickly entered into a narrow gorge, with massy buttresses of rock guarding the defile. Gnarled roots wound their sinewy arms like huge snakes among the crevices, and gaunt, distorted, weather-beaten trunks sprang from the solid rock, in places where it seemed almost impossible for vegetation to exist. The cliffs towered high above on either bank, and an arch of living green met overhead as the trees swayed to and fro with the wind, shaking hands together across the clear stream, which ran silently far below. Some of the dells looked like pictures of fairy-land; palms, tree-ferns, mosses, wild flowers, and a wondrous^wealth of rare vegetable forms of surpassing beauty clothed each dell in a living carpet of emerald; and many of the caves showed wonderful studies of light and shade as the scattered sunbeams darted through the umbrageous canopy, and played- in a thousand sparkling colours on rock and stream and fern-fringed shore. In some places huge trees lay half submerged in the water. Here the river narrowed, as a deep gorge pent up the tide; there it rippled over shingly or sandy bars, and we coul'd see the mullet ray-fish and whiting dart about in shoals. Occasionally a crane would get up with slow, heavy flight, an eagle-hawk would soar majestically with full expanded wings over-head, or a kingfisher, resplendent in emerald, crimson, and gold, would flash past like a mimic rainbow. In our quest for game we were disappointed; but the loveliness and still beauty of the scene harmonized well with the calm sunny day, and we emphatically enjoyed the soft silent gliding along, amid the rare charms of scenery so beautifully displayed on every hand. We went with the tide as far as we could go, until our progress was barred by a perfect barricade of fallen trees. Higher up, the scenery is still more lovely; but if we were not to be left high and dry on one of the numerous bars, we must retrace our passage.

Dropping down with the tide, several of us, divested of our habiliments, floated with the boat, pushed her over the shallow parts, dived under in the deep cool pools, and looked like an attendant convoy of Tritons round the car of Neptune. Albeit, several of the Tritons bore more resemblance to the proverbial grampus than to the graceful dolphin.

Reaching camp, we found one of our number had been lucky enough to shoot a very handsome male lyre-bird. This was the more fortunate for him, as these birds are notoriously shy, and difficult to stalk. A friend who is conversant with the subject tells me in reference to the lyre-bird, that the female makes her nest either on a shelving rock or a convenient hollow of a large tree. It consists of a great quantity of sticks and pieces of bark, and is lined with dry grass and feathers. The nest is so small that the wonder is how the bird gets in. The nest, usually, if not always, contains but an only young one, which is a very helpless and featherless creation for a long time. If the nest is discovered, the mother, usually so timid, seems to lose all shyness in her anxiety for her young, and, when the intruder is about the locality of the nest, she will keep scratching and chirping about as if she were alone. No amount of interference with the nest and young will scare her-off. If the young one be taken from the nest it is almost impossible to rear it, and it is equally difficult to domesticate the old bird. A gentleman, well acquainted with the haunts and habits of the lyre-bird, recently informed me that the only successful attempt ever made to bring the birds to friendly terras was by a Mr. Mahan, at Wood's Point, a settlement in the Gipps Land ranges in Yictoria. They are very abundant thereabout, and, by a system of what is known as figure 4 traps, he could easily get hold of as many as he required. At great labour he used to find white grubs, which sustained them till they would pick particles of lean beef, but some would die of sulk, and some of dysentery. Mr. Mahan had a very commodious outhouse, in a corner of which he had a large frame cage, in which he kept his captives for some days till they began to feed, when he let them out. He always kept large heaps of mould on the floor, and the birds had free access to the crossbeams and rafters, on which they delighted to hop and dance about. He had some birds for over four years in fine health and quite tame, and was in hopes of some day making a valuable contribution to the zoological collection in Melbourne, when all his efforts were frustrated by a virago of a neighbour, who, for some paltry grievance, poisoned them all. This is the more unfortunate as it is very unlikely that a similar effort will be made for many a day by him or any one else, as the patience required is seldom possessed by anybody, not to speak of the labour and expense, both of which are very considerable items. All the plumage of the lyre-bird is dark and soft, not a single interesting feather in it except the harp-shaped tail of the male bird. But this is very beautiful, and when the bird is scratching the little mould heaps and soft banks for grubs, he keeps all the time whistling with most extraordinary and varied melody, having the tail expanded to the fullest extent. It is generally asserted that the lyre-bird is a mocker, but it is more likely that his notes are his own. The range of his notes is so extensive, and their continuity so prolonged and beautiful, that whoever will have the ability and means to renew Mr. Mahan's effort, and be successful in domesticating a male bird that will whistle in captivity, will have accomplished a task that ought to reward him well, and bring the thanks of all enthusiastic naturalists.

After this digression anent the lyre-bird, we adjourned to dinner. Shades of Apicius, Lucullus, Dr. Kitchener, Meg Dods, and all giants of gastronomy, what a feast that was. The succulence, flavour, tenderness, odour, and all sorts of good qualities possessed by the viands beggar description, and when the huge plum-pudding, flaming in its brandy sauce, scenting the wild bush with odours of Ambrosia and Arcady, was solemnly placed upon the board, we simultaneously leapt to our feet to cheer the cooks, and, if truth must be told, to shake down a little of the cargo previously stowed.

In the evening we went over to the captain's camp. Bundong and Joey sang us several corroborees : I gave a Persian guzzul and several Hindoostanee operatic selections; while with song, jest, and anecdote we passed a glorious time till the crescent moon waxed and waned again, and then we sought our couches. Several of the boys went 'possum shooting, but met with little success.. Several of us were- decidedly Bacchanalian, and music had her votaries. Her soothing charms failed signally on this occasion, however, to reconcile G—to the harmony.. After an unusually excruciating burst of song, he was observed to arouse him, mutter a few disjointed observations, bless all liis musical children, and dash wildly from the hut with a 'possum rug in the one hand and somebody else's boots in the other.

The sun shone fair on Tuesday morning, and there was a general hunt for ferns and specimens of plants.

After another sumptuous breakfast, at which curry was a feature, we broke up our camp. The whistle shrieked, we bore slowly off, leaving behind us such evidences of our stay as might have fitted out a local rag fair, equal in wealth of incongruities to any collection in any metropolis.

How shall I tell of the fishing, the juicy ham—the unfailing barrel of beer, a very widow's cruse in its inexhaustibleness, the speeches, and the songs? We fairly over-flowed with melody. Poor F- had an ugly and acutely painful accident. A huge schnapper hook buried itself deeply in the back of his hand, reaching to the bone, and wedged fast, barb and all, anions the muscles. Fortunately I had a case of taxidermist instruments with me, and managed a very neat and successful surgical operation with the aid of a slender scalpel. Poor F-bore the pain like a man. Then there was the disembarkation. It was dark. The pier consisted of a single plank, stretching far out over the flat, mud-covered shore. It was at some altitude above the mud. It was piled up with swags, gun-cases, ferns, boxes, bundles, barrels, all the impedimenta and camp-baggage of the expedition. My readers can imagine the consequence when our gay sportsmen landed and commenced to wend-their weary way ashore. Flop went one—splash went another. One demented youth was intercepted by Bob as he was trying to plough his way through to the middle of the bay.

At length we all got safely ashore. Two vans were waiting for us. To the very last the admirable arrangement, management, and forethought of the projectors and directors of the party were manifest. We had a most musical procession up to Sydney, and parted at the railway station, after one of the jolliest excursions I have ever enjoyed.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus