Following the Equator, Part 2
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
A JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS
It is your human environment that makes climate.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Sept. 15--Night. Close to Australia now. Sydney 50 miles distant.
That note recalls an experience. The passengers were sent for, to come
up in the bow and see a fine sight. It was very dark. One could not
follow with the eye the surface of the sea more than fifty yards in any
direction it dimmed away and became lost to sight at about that distance
from us. But if you patiently gazed into the darkness a little while,
there was a sure reward for you. Presently, a quarter of a mile away you
would see a blinding splash or explosion of light on the water--a flash
so sudden and so astonishingly brilliant that it would make you catch
your breath; then that blotch of light would instantly extend itself and
take the corkscrew shape and imposing length of the fabled sea-serpent,
with every curve of its body and the "break" spreading away from its
head, and the wake following behind its tail clothed in a fierce splendor
of living fire. And my, but it was coming at a lightning gait! Almost
before you could think, this monster of light, fifty feet long, would go
flaming and storming by, and suddenly disappear. And out in the distance
whence he came you would see another flash; and another and another and
another, and see them turn into sea-serpents on the instant; and once
sixteen flashed up at the same time and came tearing towards us, a swarm
of wiggling curves, a moving conflagration, a vision of bewildering
beauty, a spectacle of fire and energy whose equal the most of those
people will not see again until after they are dead.
It was porpoises--porpoises aglow with phosphorescent light. They
presently collected in a wild and magnificent jumble under the bows, and
there they played for an hour, leaping and frollicking and carrying on,
turning summersaults in front of the stem or across it and never getting
hit, never making a miscalculation, though the stem missed them only
about an inch, as a rule. They were porpoises of the ordinary length
--eight or ten feet--but every twist of their bodies sent a long
procession of united and glowing curves astern. That fiery jumble was
an enchanting thing to look at, and we stayed out the performance; one
cannot have such a show as that twice in a lifetime. The porpoise is the
kitten of the sea; he never has a serious thought, he cares for nothing
but fun and play. But I think I never saw him at his winsomest until
that night. It was near a center of civilization, and he could have been
By and by, when we had approached to somewhere within thirty miles of
Sydney Heads the great electric light that is posted on one of those
lofty ramparts began to show, and in time the little spark grew to a
great sun and pierced the firmament of darkness with a far-reaching sword
Sydney Harbor is shut in behind a precipice that extends some miles like
a wall, and exhibits no break to the ignorant stranger. It has a break
in the middle, but it makes so little show that even Captain Cook sailed
by it without seeing it. Near by that break is a false break which
resembles it, and which used to make trouble for the mariner at night, in
the early days before the place was lighted. It caused the memorable
disaster to the Duncan Dunbar, one of the most pathetic tragedies in the
history of that pitiless ruffian, the sea. The ship was a sailing
vessel; a fine and favorite passenger packet, commanded by a popular
captain of high reputation. She was due from England, and Sydney was
waiting, and counting the hours; counting the hours, and making ready to
give her a heart-stirring welcome; for she was bringing back a great
company of mothers and daughters, the long-missed light and bloom of life
of Sydney homes; daughters that had been years absent at school, and
mothers that had been with them all that time watching over them. Of all
the world only India and Australasia have by custom freighted ships and
fleets with their hearts, and know the tremendous meaning of that phrase;
only they know what the waiting is like when this freightage is entrusted
to the fickle winds, not steam, and what the joy is like when the ship
that is returning this treasure comes safe to port and the long dread is
On board the Duncan Dunbar, flying toward Sydney Heads in the waning
afternoon, the happy home-comers made busy preparation, for it was not
doubted that they would be in the arms of their friends before the day
was done; they put away their sea-going clothes and put on clothes meeter
for the meeting, their richest and their loveliest, these poor brides of
the grave. But the wind lost force, or there was a miscalculation, and
before the Heads were sighted the darkness came on. It was said that
ordinarily the captain would have made a safe offing and waited for the
morning; but this was no ordinary occasion; all about him were appealing
faces, faces pathetic with disappointment. So his sympathy moved him to
try the dangerous passage in the dark. He had entered the Heads
seventeen times, and believed he knew the ground. So he steered straight
for the false opening, mistaking it for the true one. He did not find
out that he was wrong until it was too late. There was no saving the
ship. The great seas swept her in and crushed her to splinters and
rubbish upon the rock tushes at the base of the precipice. Not one of
all that fair and gracious company was ever seen again alive. The tale
is told to every stranger that passes the spot, and it will continue to
be told to all that come, for generations; but it will never grow old,
custom cannot stale it, the heart-break that is in it can never perish
out of it.
There were two hundred persons in the ship, and but one survived the
disaster. He was a sailor. A huge sea flung him up the face of the
precipice and stretched him on a narrow shelf of rock midway between the
top and the bottom, and there he lay all night. At any other time he
would have lain there for the rest of his life, without chance of
discovery; but the next morning the ghastly news swept through Sydney
that the Duncan Dunbar had gone down in sight of home, and straightway
the walls of the Heads were black with mourners; and one of these,
stretching himself out over the precipice to spy out what might be seen
below, discovered this miraculously preserved relic of the wreck. Ropes
were brought and the nearly impossible feat of rescuing the man was
accomplished. He was a person with a practical turn of mind, and he
hired a hall in Sydney and exhibited himself at sixpence a head till he
exhausted the output of the gold fields for that year.
We entered and cast anchor, and in the morning went oh-ing and ah-ing in
admiration up through the crooks and turns of the spacious and beautiful
harbor--a harbor which is the darling of Sydney and the wonder of the
world. It is not surprising that the people are proud of it, nor that
they put their enthusiasm into eloquent words. A returning citizen asked
me what I thought of it, and I testified with a cordiality which I judged
would be up to the market rate. I said it was beautiful--superbly
beautiful. Then by a natural impulse I gave God the praise. The citizen
did not seem altogether satisfied. He said:
"It is beautiful, of course it's beautiful--the Harbor; but that isn't
all of it, it's only half of it; Sydney's the other half, and it takes
both of them together to ring the supremacy-bell. God made the Harbor,
and that's all right; but Satan made Sydney."
Of course I made an apology; and asked him to convey it to his friend.
He was right about Sydney being half of it. It would be beautiful
without Sydney, but not above half as beautiful as it is now, with Sydney
added. It is shaped somewhat like an oak-leaf-a roomy sheet of lovely
blue water, with narrow off-shoots of water running up into the country
on both sides between long fingers of land, high wooden ridges with sides
sloped like graves. Handsome villas are perched here and there on these
ridges, snuggling amongst the foliage, and one catches alluring glimpses
of them as the ship swims by toward the city. The city clothes a cluster
of hills and a ruffle of neighboring ridges with its undulating masses of
masonry, and out of these masses spring towers and spires and other
architectural dignities and grandeurs that break the flowing lines and
give picturesqueness to the general effect.
The narrow inlets which I have mentioned go wandering out into the land
everywhere and hiding themselves in it, and pleasure-launches are always
exploring them with picnic parties on board. It is said by trustworthy
people that if you explore them all you will find that you have covered
700 miles of water passage. But there are liars everywhere this year,
and they will double that when their works are in good going order.
October was close at hand, spring was come. It was really spring
--everybody said so; but you could have sold it for summer in Canada, and
nobody would have suspected. It was the very weather that makes our home
summers the perfection of climatic luxury; I mean, when you are out in
the wood or by the sea. But these people said it was cool, now--a person
ought to see Sydney in the summer time if he wanted to know what warm
weather is; and he ought to go north ten or fifteen hundred miles if he
wanted to know what hot weather is. They said that away up there toward
the equator the hens laid fried eggs. Sydney is the place to go to get
information about other people's climates. It seems to me that the
occupation of Unbiased Traveler Seeking Information is the pleasantest
and most irresponsible trade there is. The traveler can always find out
anything he wants to, merely by asking. He can get at all the facts, and
more. Everybody helps him, nobody hinders him. Anybody who has an old
fact in stock that is no longer negotiable in the domestic market will
let him have it at his own price. An accumulation of such goods is
easily and quickly made. They cost almost nothing and they bring par in
the foreign market. Travelers who come to America always freight up with
the same old nursery tales that their predecessors selected, and they
carry them back and always work them off without any trouble in the home
If the climates of the world were determined by parallels of latitude,
then we could know a place's climate by its position on the map; and so
we should know that the climate of Sydney was the counterpart of the
climate of Columbia, S. C., and of Little Rock, Arkansas, since Sydney is
about the same distance south of the equator that those other towns are
north of-it-thirty-four degrees. But no, climate disregards the
parallels of latitude. In Arkansas they have a winter; in Sydney they
have the name of it, but not the thing itself. I have seen the ice in
the Mississippi floating past the mouth of the Arkansas river; and at
Memphis, but a little way above, the Mississippi has been frozen over,
from bank to bank. But they have never had a cold spell in Sydney which
brought the mercury down to freezing point. Once in a mid-winter day
there, in the month of July, the mercury went down to 36 deg., and that
remains the memorable "cold day" in the history of the town. No doubt
Little Rock has seen it below zero. Once, in Sydney, in mid-summer,
about New Year's Day, the mercury went up to 106 deg. in the shade, and
that is Sydney's memorable hot day. That would about tally with Little
Rock's hottest day also, I imagine. My Sydney figures are taken from a
government report, and are trustworthy. In the matter of summer weather
Arkansas has no advantage over Sydney, perhaps, but when it comes to
winter weather, that is another affair. You could cut up an Arkansas
winter into a hundred Sydney winters and have enough left for Arkansas
and the poor.
The whole narrow, hilly belt of the Pacific side of New South Wales has
the climate of its capital--a mean winter temperature of 54 deg. and a
mean summer one of 71 deg. It is a climate which cannot be improved upon
for healthfulness. But the experts say that 90 deg. in New South Wales
is harder to bear than 112 deg. in the neighboring colony of Victoria,
because the atmosphere of the former is humid, and of the latter dry.
The mean temperature of the southernmost point of New South Wales is the
same as that of Nice--60 deg.--yet Nice is further from the equator by
460 miles than is the former.
But Nature is always stingy of perfect climates; stingier in the case of
Australia than usual. Apparently this vast continent has a really good
climate nowhere but around the edges.
If we look at a map of the world we are surprised to see how big
Australia is. It is about two-thirds as large as the United States was
before we added Alaska.
But where as one finds a sufficiently good climate and fertile land
almost everywhere in the United States, it seems settled that inside of
the Australian border-belt one finds many deserts and in spots a climate
which nothing can stand except a few of the hardier kinds of rocks. In
effect, Australia is as yet unoccupied. If you take a map of the United
States and leave the Atlantic sea-board States in their places; also the
fringe of Southern States from Florida west to the Mouth of the
Mississippi; also a narrow, inhabited streak up the Mississippi half-way
to its head waters; also a narrow, inhabited border along the Pacific
coast: then take a brushful of paint and obliterate the whole remaining
mighty stretch of country that lies between the Atlantic States and the
Pacific-coast strip, your map will look like the latest map of Australia.
This stupendous blank is hot, not to say torrid; a part of it is fertile,
the rest is desert; it is not liberally watered; it has no towns. One
has only to cross the mountains of New South Wales and descend into the
westward-lying regions to find that he has left the choice climate behind
him, and found a new one of a quite different character. In fact, he
would not know by the thermometer that he was not in the blistering
Plains of India. Captain Sturt, the great explorer, gives us a sample of
"The wind, which had been blowing all the morning from the N.E.,
increased to a heavy gale, and I shall never forget its withering
effect. I sought shelter behind a large gum-tree, but the blasts of
heat were so terrific that I wondered the very grass did not take
fire. This really was nothing ideal: everything both animate and
inanimate gave way before it; the horses stood with their backs to
the wind and their noses to the ground, without the muscular
strength to raise their heads; the birds were mute, and the leaves
of the trees under which we were sitting fell like a snow shower
around us. At noon I took a thermometer graded to 127 deg., out of
my box, and observed that the mercury was up to 125. Thinking that
it had been unduly influenced, I put it in the fork of a tree close
to me, sheltered alike from the wind and the sun. I went to examine
it about an hour afterwards, when I found the mercury had risen to
the-top of the instrument and had burst the bulb, a circumstance
that I believe no traveler has ever before had to record. I cannot
find language to convey to the reader's mind an idea of the intense
and oppressive nature of the heat that prevailed."
That hot wind sweeps over Sydney sometimes, and brings with it what is
called a "dust-storm." It is said that most Australian towns are
acquainted with the dust-storm. I think I know what it is like, for the
following description by Mr. Gape tallies very well with the alkali
duststorm of Nevada, if you leave out the "shovel" part. Still the
shovel part is a pretty important part, and seems to indicate that my
Nevada storm is but a poor thing, after all.
"As we proceeded the altitude became less, and the heat
proportionately greater until we reached Dubbo, which is only 600
feet above sea-level. It is a pretty town, built on an extensive
plain . . . . After the effects of a shower of rain have passed
away the surface of the ground crumbles into a thick layer of dust,
and occasionally, when the wind is in a particular quarter, it is
lifted bodily from the ground in one long opaque cloud. In the
midst of such a storm nothing can be seen a few yards ahead, and the
unlucky person who happens to be out at the time is compelled to
seek the nearest retreat at hand. When the thrifty housewife sees
in the distance the dark column advancing in a steady whirl towards
her house, she closes the doors and windows with all expedition. A
drawing-room, the window of which has been carelessly left open
during a dust-storm, is indeed an extraordinary sight. A lady who
has resided in Dubbo for some years says that the dust lies so thick
on the carpet that it is necessary to use a shovel to remove it."
And probably a wagon. I was mistaken; I have not seen a proper
duststorm. To my mind the exterior aspects and character of Australia
are fascinating things to look at and think about, they are so strange,
so weird, so new, so uncommonplace, such a startling and interesting
contrast to the other sections of the planet, the sections that are known
to us all, familiar to us all. In the matter of particulars--a detail
here, a detail there--we have had the choice climate of New South Wales'
seacoast; we have had the Australian heat as furnished by Captain Sturt;
we have had the wonderful dust-storm; and we have considered the
phenomenon of an almost empty hot wilderness half as big as the United
States, with a narrow belt of civilization, population, and good climate
Everything human is pathetic. The secret source of Humor itself is not
joy but sorrow. There is no humor in heaven.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Captain Cook found Australia in 1770, and eighteen years later the
British Government began to transport convicts to it. Altogether, New
South Wales received 83,000 in 53 years. The convicts wore heavy chains;
they were ill-fed and badly treated by the officers set over them; they
were heavily punished for even slight infractions of the rules; "the
cruelest discipline ever known" is one historian's description of their
life.--[The Story of Australasia. J. S. Laurie.]
English law was hard-hearted in those days. For trifling offenses which
in our day would be punished by a small fine or a few days' confinement,
men, women, and boys were sent to this other end of the earth to serve
terms of seven and fourteen years; and for serious crimes they were
transported for life. Children were sent to the penal colonies for seven
years for stealing a rabbit!
When I was in London twenty-three years ago there was a new penalty in
force for diminishing garroting and wife-beating--25 lashes on the bare
back with the cat-o'-nine-tails. It was said that this terrible
punishment was able to bring the stubbornest ruffians to terms; and that
no man had been found with grit enough to keep his emotions to himself
beyond the ninth blow; as a rule the man shrieked earlier. That penalty
had a great and wholesome effect upon the garroters and wife-beaters; but
humane modern London could not endure it; it got its law rescinded. Many
a bruised and battered English wife has since had occasion to deplore
that cruel achievement of sentimental "humanity."
Twenty-five lashes! In Australia and Tasmania they gave a convict fifty
for almost any little offense; and sometimes a brutal officer would add
fifty, and then another fifty, and so on, as long as the sufferer could
endure the torture and live. In Tasmania I read the entry, in an old
manuscript official record, of a case where a convict was given three
hundred lashes--for stealing some silver spoons. And men got more than
that, sometimes. Who handled the cat? Often it was another convict;
sometimes it was the culprit's dearest comrade; and he had to lay on with
all his might; otherwise he would get a flogging himself for his mercy
--for he was under watch--and yet not do his friend any good: the friend
would be attended to by another hand and suffer no lack in the matter of
The convict life in Tasmania was so unendurable, and suicide so difficult
to accomplish that once or twice despairing men got together and drew
straws to determine which of them should kill another of the group--this
murder to secure death to the perpetrator and to the witnesses of it by
the hand of the hangman!
The incidents quoted above are mere hints, mere suggestions of what
convict life was like--they are but a couple of details tossed into view
out of a shoreless sea of such; or, to change the figure, they are but a
pair of flaming steeples photographed from a point which hides from sight
the burning city which stretches away from their bases on every hand.
Some of the convicts--indeed, a good many of them--were very bad people,
even for that day; but the most of them were probably not noticeably
worse than the average of the people they left behind them at home. We
must believe this; we cannot avoid it. We are obliged to believe that a
nation that could look on, unmoved, and see starving or freezing women
hanged for stealing twenty-six cents' worth of bacon or rags, and boys
snatched from their mothers, and men from their families, and sent to the
other side of the world for long terms of years for similar trifling
offenses, was a nation to whom the term "civilized" could not in any
large way be applied. And we must also believe that a nation that knew,
during more than forty years, what was happening to those exiles and was
still content with it, was not advancing in any showy way toward a higher
grade of civilization.
If we look into the characters and conduct of the officers and gentlemen
who had charge of the convicts and attended to their backs and stomachs,
we must grant again that as between the convict and his masters, and
between both and the nation at home, there was a quite noticeable
monotony of sameness.
Four years had gone by, and many convicts had come. Respectable settlers
were beginning to arrive. These two classes of colonists had to be
protected, in case of trouble among themselves or with the natives. It
is proper to mention the natives, though they could hardly count they
were so scarce. At a time when they had not as yet begun to be much
disturbed--not as yet being in the way--it was estimated that in New
South Wales there was but one native to 45,000 acres of territory.
People had to be protected. Officers of the regular army did not want
this service--away off there where neither honor nor distinction was to
be gained. So England recruited and officered a kind of militia force of
1,000 uniformed civilians called the "New South Wales Corps" and shipped
This was the worst blow of all. The colony fairly staggered under it.
The Corps was an object-lesson of the moral condition of England outside
of the jails. The colonists trembled. It was feared that next there
would be an importation of the nobility.
In those early days the colony was non-supporting. All the necessaries
of life--food, clothing, and all--were sent out from England, and kept in
great government store-houses, and given to the convicts and sold to the
settlers--sold at a trifling advance upon cost. The Corps saw its
opportunity. Its officers went into commerce, and in a most lawless way.
They went to importing rum, and also to manufacturing it in private
stills, in defiance of the government's commands and protests. They
leagued themselves together and ruled the market; they boycotted the
government and the other dealers; they established a close monopoly and
kept it strictly in their own hands. When a vessel arrived with spirits,
they allowed nobody to buy but themselves, and they forced the owner to
sell to them at a price named by themselves--and it was always low
enough. They bought rum at an average of two dollars a gallon and sold
it at an average of ten. They made rum the currency of the country--for
there was little or no money--and they maintained their devastating hold
and kept the colony under their heel for eighteen or twenty years before
they were finally conquered and routed by the government.
Meantime, they had spread intemperance everywhere. And they had squeezed
farm after farm out of the settlers hands for rum, and thus had
bountifully enriched themselves. When a farmer was caught in the last
agonies of thirst they took advantage of him and sweated him for a drink.
In one instance they sold a man a gallon of rum worth two dollars for a
piece of property which was sold some years later for $100,000.
When the colony was about eighteen or twenty years old it was discovered
that the land was specially fitted for the wool-culture. Prosperity
followed, commerce with the world began, by and by rich mines of the
noble metals were opened, immigrants flowed in, capital likewise. The
result is the great and wealthy and enlightened commonwealth of New South
It is a country that is rich in mines, wool ranches, trams, railways,
steamship lines, schools, newspapers, botanical gardens, art galleries,
libraries, museums, hospitals, learned societies; it is the hospitable
home of every species of culture and of every species of material
enterprise, and there is a, church at every man's door, and a race-track
over the way.
We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is
in it--and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot
stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again--and that is
well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
All English-speaking colonies are made up of lavishly hospitable people,
and New South Wales and its capital are like the rest in this. The
English-speaking colony of the United States of America is always
called lavishly hospitable by the English traveler. As to the other
English-speaking colonies throughout the world from Canada all around, I
know by experience that the description fits them. I will not go more
particularly into this matter, for I find that when writers try to
distribute their gratitude here and there and yonder by detail they run
across difficulties and do some ungraceful stumbling.
Mr. Gane ("New South Wales and Victoria in 1885 "), tried to distribute
his gratitude, and was not lucky:
"The inhabitants of Sydney are renowned for their hospitality. The
treatment which we experienced at the hands of this generous-hearted
people will help more than anything else to make us recollect with
pleasure our stay amongst them. In the character of hosts and
hostesses they excel. The 'new chum' needs only the
acquaintanceship of one of their number, and he becomes at once the
happy recipient of numerous complimentary invitations and thoughtful
kindnesses. Of the towns it has been our good fortune to visit,
none have portrayed home so faithfully as Sydney."
Nobody could say it finer than that. If he had put in his cork then, and
stayed away from Dubbo----but no; heedless man, he pulled it again.
Pulled it when he was away along in his book, and his memory of what he
had said about Sydney had grown dim:
"We cannot quit the promising town of Dubbo without testifying, in
warm praise, to the kind-hearted and hospitable usages of its
inhabitants. Sydney, though well deserving the character it bears
of its kindly treatment of strangers, possesses a little formality
and reserve. In Dubbo, on the contrary, though the same congenial
manners prevail, there is a pleasing degree of respectful
familiarity which gives the town a homely comfort not often met with
elsewhere. In laying on one side our pen we feel contented in
having been able, though so late in this work, to bestow a
panegyric, however unpretentious, on a town which, though possessing
no picturesque natural surroundings, nor interesting architectural
productions, has yet a body of citizens whose hearts cannot but
obtain for their town a reputation for benevolence and
I wonder what soured him on Sydney. It seems strange that a pleasing
degree of three or four fingers of respectful familiarity should fill a
man up and give him the panegyrics so bad. For he has them, the worst
way--any one can see that. A man who is perfectly at himself does not
throw cold detraction at people's architectural productions and
picturesque surroundings, and let on that what he prefers is a Dubbonese
dust-storm and a pleasing degree of respectful familiarity, No, these are
old, old symptoms; and when they appear we know that the man has got the
Sydney has a population of 400,000. When a stranger from America steps
ashore there, the first thing that strikes him is that the place is eight
or nine times as large as he was expecting it to be; and the next thing
that strikes him is that it is an English city with American trimmings.
Later on, in Melbourne, he will find the American trimmings still more in
evidence; there, even the architecture will often suggest America; a
photograph of its stateliest business street might be passed upon him for
a picture of the finest street in a large American city. I was told that
the most of the fine residences were the city residences of squatters.
The name seemed out of focus somehow. When the explanation came, it
offered a new instance of the curious changes which words, as well as
animals, undergo through change of habitat and climate. With us, when
you speak of a squatter you are always supposed to be speaking of a poor
man, but in Australia when you speak of a squatter you are supposed to be
speaking of a millionaire; in America the word indicates the possessor of
a few acres and a doubtful title, in Australia it indicates a man whose
landfront is as long as a railroad, and whose title has been perfected in
one way or another; in America the word indicates a man who owns a dozen
head of live stock, in Australia a man who owns anywhere from fifty
thousand up to half a million head; in America the word indicates a man
who is obscure and not important, in Australia a man who is prominent and
of the first importance; in America you take off your hat to no squatter,
in Australia you do; in America if your uncle is a squatter you keep it
dark, in Australia you advertise it; in America if your friend is a
squatter nothing comes of it, but with a squatter for your friend in
Australia you may sup with kings if there are any around.
In Australia it takes about two acres and a half of pastureland (some
people say twice as many), to support a sheep; and when the squatter has
half a million sheep his private domain is about as large as Rhode
Island, to speak in general terms. His annual wool crop may be worth a
quarter or a half million dollars.
He will live in a palace in Melbourne or Sydney or some other of the
large cities, and make occasional trips to his sheep-kingdom several
hundred miles away in the great plains to look after his battalions of
riders and shepherds and other hands. He has a commodious dwelling out
there, and if he approve of you he will invite you to spend a week in it,
and will make you at home and comfortable, and let you see the great
industry in all its details, and feed you and slake you and smoke you
with the best that money can buy.
On at least one of these vast estates there is a considerable town, with
all the various businesses and occupations that go to make an important
town; and the town and the land it stands upon are the property of the
squatters. I have seen that town, and it is not unlikely that there are
other squatter-owned towns in Australia.
Australia supplies the world not only with fine wool, but with mutton
also. The modern invention of cold storage and its application in ships
has created this great trade. In Sydney I visited a huge establishment
where they kill and clean and solidly freeze a thousand sheep a day, for
shipment to England.
The Australians did not seem to me to differ noticeably from Americans,
either in dress, carriage, ways, pronunciation, inflections, or general
appearance. There were fleeting and subtle suggestions of their English
origin, but these were not pronounced enough, as a rule, to catch one's
attention. The people have easy and cordial manners from the beginning
--from the moment that the introduction is completed. This is American.
To put it in another way, it is English friendliness with the English
shyness and self-consciousness left out.
Now and then--but this is rare--one hears such words as piper for paper,
lydy for lady, and tyble for table fall from lips whence one would not
expect such pronunciations to come. There is a superstition prevalent in
Sydney that this pronunciation is an Australianism, but people who have
been "home"--as the native reverently and lovingly calls England--know
better. It is "costermonger." All over Australasia this pronunciation
is nearly as common among servants as it is in London among the
uneducated and the partially educated of all sorts and conditions of
people. That mislaid 'y' is rather striking when a person gets enough of
it into a short sentence to enable it to show up. In the hotel in Sydney
the chambermaid said, one morning:
"The tyble is set, and here is the piper; and if the lydy is ready I'll
tell the wyter to bring up the breakfast."
I have made passing mention, a moment ago, of the native Australasian's
custom of speaking of England as "home." It was always pretty to hear
it, and often it was said in an unconsciously caressing way that made it
touching; in a way which transmuted a sentiment into an embodiment, and
made one seem to see Australasia as a young girl stroking mother
England's old gray head.
In the Australasian home the table-talk is vivacious and unembarrassed;
it is without stiffness or restraint. This does not remind one of
England so much as it does of America. But Australasia is strictly
democratic, and reserves and restraints are things that are bred by
differences of rank.
English and colonial audiences are phenomenally alert and responsive.
Where masses of people are gathered together in England, caste is
submerged, and with it the English reserve; equality exists for the
moment, and every individual is free; so free from any consciousness of
fetters, indeed, that the Englishman's habit of watching himself and
guarding himself against any injudicious exposure of his feelings is
forgotten, and falls into abeyance--and to such a degree indeed, that he
will bravely applaud all by himself if he wants to--an exhibition of
daring which is unusual elsewhere in the world.
But it is hard to move a new English acquaintance when he is by himself,
or when the company present is small and new to him. He is on his guard
then, and his natural reserve is to the fore. This has given him the
false reputation of being without humor and without the appreciation of
Americans are not Englishmen, and American humor is not English humor;
but both the American and his humor had their origin in England, and have
merely undergone changes brought about by changed conditions and a new
environment. About the best humorous speeches I have yet heard were a
couple that were made in Australia at club suppers--one of them by an
Englishman, the other by an Australian.
There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and
shallow: Yet it was the schoolboy who said "Faith is believing what you
know ain't so."
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
In Sydney I had a large dream, and in the course of talk I told it to a
missionary from India who was on his way to visit some relatives in New
Zealand. I dreamed that the visible universe is the physical person of
God; that the vast worlds that we see twinkling millions of miles apart
in the fields of space are the blood corpuscles in His veins; and that we
and the other creatures are the microbes that charge with multitudinous
life the corpuscles.
Mr. X., the missionary, considered the dream awhile, then said:
"It is not surpassable for magnitude, since its metes and bounds are
the metes and bounds of the universe itself; and it seems to me that
it almost accounts for a thing which is otherwise nearly
unaccountable--the origin of the sacred legends of the Hindoos.
Perhaps they dream them, and then honestly believe them to be divine
revelations of fact. It looks like that, for the legends are built
on so vast a scale that it does not seem reasonable that plodding
priests would happen upon such colossal fancies when awake."
He told some of the legends, and said that they were implicitly believed
by all classes of Hindoos, including those of high social position and
intelligence; and he said that this universal credulity was a great
hindrance to the missionary in his work. Then he said something like
"At home, people wonder why Christianity does not make faster
progress in India. They hear that the Indians believe easily, and
that they have a natural trust in miracles and give them a
hospitable reception. Then they argue like this: since the Indian
believes easily, place Christianity before them and they must
believe; confirm its truths by the biblical miracles, and they will
no longer doubt, The natural deduction is, that as Christianity
makes but indifferent progress in India, the fault is with us: we
are not fortunate in presenting the doctrines and the miracles.
"But the truth is, we are not by any means so well equipped as they
think. We have not the easy task that they imagine. To use a
military figure, we are sent against the enemy with good powder in
our guns, but only wads for bullets; that is to say, our miracles
are not effective; the Hindoos do not care for them; they have more
extraordinary ones of their own. All the details of their own
religion are proven and established by miracles; the details of ours
must be proven in the same way. When I first began my work in India
I greatly underestimated the difficulties thus put upon my task. A
correction was not long in coming. I thought as our friends think
at home--that to prepare my childlike wonder-lovers to listen with
favor to my grave message I only needed to charm the way to it with
wonders, marvels, miracles. With full confidence I told the wonders
performed by Samson, the strongest man that had ever lived--for so I
"At first I saw lively anticipation and strong interest in the faces
of my people, but as I moved along from incident to incident of the
great story, I was distressed to see that I was steadily losing the
sympathy of my audience. I could not understand it. It was a
surprise to me, and a disappointment. Before I was through, the
fading sympathy had paled to indifference. Thence to the end the
indifference remained; I was not able to make any impression upon
"A good old Hindoo gentleman told me where my trouble lay. He said
'We Hindoos recognize a god by the work of his hands--we accept no
other testimony. Apparently, this is also the rule with you
Christians. And we know when a man has his power from a god by the
fact that he does things which he could not do, as a man, with the
mere powers of a man. Plainly, this is the Christian's way also, of
knowing when a man is working by a god's power and not by his own.
You saw that there was a supernatural property in the hair of
Samson; for you perceived that when his hair was gone he was as
other men. It is our way, as I have said. There are many nations
in the world, and each group of nations has its own gods, and will
pay no worship to the gods of the others. Each group believes its
own gods to be strongest, and it will not exchange them except for
gods that shall be proven to be their superiors in power. Man is
but a weak creature, and needs the help of gods--he cannot do
without it. Shall he place his fate in the hands of weak gods when
there may be stronger ones to be found? That would be foolish. No,
if he hear of gods that are stronger than his own, he should not
turn a deaf ear, for it is not a light matter that is at stake. How
then shall he determine which gods are the stronger, his own or
those that preside over the concerns of other nations? By comparing
the known works of his own gods with the works of those others;
there is no other way. Now, when we make this comparison, we are
not drawn towards the gods of any other nation. Our gods are shown
by their works to be the strongest, the most powerful. The
Christians have but few gods, and they are new--new, and not strong;
as it seems to us. They will increase in number, it is true, for
this has happened with all gods, but that time is far away, many
ages and decades of ages away, for gods multiply slowly, as is meet
for beings to whom a thousand years is but a single moment. Our own
gods have been born millions of years apart. The process is slow,
the gathering of strength and power is similarly slow. In the slow
lapse of the ages the steadily accumulating power of our gods has at
last become prodigious. We have a thousand proofs of this in the
colossal character of their personal acts and the acts of ordinary
men to whom they have given supernatural qualities. To your Samson
was given supernatural power, and when he broke the withes, and slew
the thousands with the jawbone of an ass, and carried away the
gate's of the city upon his shoulders, you were amazed--and also
awed, for you recognized the divine source of his strength. But it
could not profit to place these things before your Hindoo
congregation and invite their wonder; for they would compare them
with the deed done by Hanuman, when our gods infused their divine
strength into his muscles; and they would be indifferent to them--as
you saw. In the old, old times, ages and ages gone by, when our god
Rama was warring with the demon god of Ceylon, Rama bethought him to
bridge the sea and connect Ceylon with India, so that his armies
might pass easily over; and he sent his general, Hanuman, inspired
like your own Samson with divine strength, to bring the materials
for the bridge. In two days Hanuman strode fifteen hundred miles,
to the Himalayas, and took upon his shoulder a range of those lofty
mountains two hundred miles long, and started with it toward Ceylon.
It was in the night; and, as he passed along the plain, the people
of Govardhun heard the thunder of his tread and felt the earth
rocking under it, and they ran out, and there, with their snowy
summits piled to heaven, they saw the Himalayas passing by. And as
this huge continent swept along overshadowing the earth, upon its
slopes they discerned the twinkling lights of a thousand sleeping
villages, and it was as if the constellations were filing in
procession through the sky. While they were looking, Hanuman
stumbled, and a small ridge of red sandstone twenty miles long was
jolted loose and fell. Half of its length has wasted away in the
course of the ages, but the other ten miles of it remain in the
plain by Govardhun to this day as proof of the might of the
inspiration of our gods. You must know, yourself, that Hanuman
could not have carried those mountains to Ceylon except by the
strength of the gods. You know that it was not done by his own
strength, therefore, you know that it was done by the strength of
the gods, just as you know that Samson carried the gates by the
divine strength and not by his own. I think you must concede two
things: First, That in carrying the gates of the city upon his
shoulders, Samson did not establish the superiority of his gods over
ours; secondly, That his feat is not supported by any but verbal
evidence, while Hanuman's is not only supported by verbal evidence,
but this evidence is confirmed, established, proven, by visible,
tangible evidence, which is the strongest of all testimony. We have
the sandstone ridge, and while it remains we cannot doubt, and shall
not. Have you the gates?'"
The timid man yearns for full value and asks a tenth. The bold man
strikes for double value and compromises on par.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
One is sure to be struck by the liberal way in which Australasia spends
money upon public works--such as legislative buildings, town halls,
hospitals, asylums, parks, and botanical gardens. I should say that
where minor towns in America spend a hundred dollars on the town hall and
on public parks and gardens, the like towns in Australasia spend a
thousand. And I think that this ratio will hold good in the matter of
hospitals, also. I have seen a costly and well-equipped, and
architecturally handsome hospital in an Australian village of fifteen
hundred inhabitants. It was built by private funds furnished by the
villagers and the neighboring planters, and its running expenses were
drawn from the same sources. I suppose it would be hard to match this in
any country. This village was about to close a contract for lighting its
streets with the electric light, when I was there. That is ahead of
London. London is still obscured by gas--gas pretty widely scattered,
too, in some of the districts; so widely indeed, that except on moonlight
nights it is difficult to find the gas lamps.
The botanical garden of Sydney covers thirty-eight acres, beautifully
laid out and rich with the spoil of all the lands and all the climes of
the world. The garden is on high ground in the middle of the town,
overlooking the great harbor, and it adjoins the spacious grounds of
Government House--fifty-six acres; and at hand also, is a recreation
ground containing eighty-two acres. In addition, there are the
zoological gardens, the race-course, and the great cricket-grounds where
the international matches are played. Therefore there is plenty of room
for reposeful lazying and lounging, and for exercise too, for such as
like that kind of work.
There are four specialties attainable in the way of social pleasure. If
you enter your name on the Visitor's Book at Government House you will
receive an invitation to the next ball that takes place there, if nothing
can be proven against you. And it will be very pleasant; for you will
see everybody except the Governor, and add a number of acquaintances and
several friends to your list. The Governor will be in England. He
always is. The continent has four or five governors, and I do not know
how many it takes to govern the outlying archipelago; but anyway you will
not see them. When they are appointed they come out from England and get
inaugurated, and give a ball, and help pray for rain, and get aboard ship
and go back home. And so the Lieutenant-Governor has to do all the work.
I was in Australasia three months and a half, and saw only one Governor.
The others were at home.
The Australasian Governor would not be so restless, perhaps, if he had a
war, or a veto, or something like that to call for his reserve-energies,
but he hasn't. There isn't any war, and there isn't any veto in his
hands. And so there is really little or nothing doing in his line. The
country governs itself, and prefers to do it; and is so strenuous about
it and so jealous of its independence that it grows restive if even the
Imperial Government at home proposes to help; and so the Imperial veto,
while a fact, is yet mainly a name.
Thus the Governor's functions are much more limited than are a Governor's
functions with us. And therefore more fatiguing. He is the apparent
head of the State, he is the real head of Society. He represents
culture, refinement, elevated sentiment, polite life, religion; and by
his example he propagates these, and they spread and flourish and bear
good fruit. He creates the fashion, and leads it. His ball is the ball
of balls, and his countenance makes the horse-race thrive.
He is usually a lord, and this is well; for his position compels him to
lead an expensive life, and an English lord is generally well equipped
Another of Sydney's social pleasures is the visit to the Admiralty House;
which is nobly situated on high ground overlooking the water. The trim
boats of the service convey the guests thither; and there, or on board
the flag-ship, they have the duplicate of the hospitalities of Government
House. The Admiral commanding a station in British waters is a magnate
of the first degree, and he is sumptuously housed, as becomes the dignity
of his office.
Third in the list of special pleasures is the tour of the harbor in a
fine steam pleasure-launch. Your richer friends own boats of this kind,
and they will invite you, and the joys of the trip will make a long day
And finally comes the shark-fishing. Sydney Harbor is populous with the
finest breeds of man-eating sharks in the world. Some people make their
living catching them; for the Government pays a cash bounty on them. The
larger the shark the larger the bounty, and some of the sharks are twenty
feet long. You not only get the bounty, but everything that is in the
shark belongs to you. Sometimes the contents are quite valuable.
The shark is the swiftest fish that swims. The speed of the fastest
steamer afloat is poor compared to his. And he is a great gad-about, and
roams far and wide in the oceans, and visits the shores of all of them,
ultimately, in the course of his restless excursions. I have a tale to
tell now, which has not as yet been in print. In 1870 a young stranger
arrived in Sydney, and set about finding something to do; but he knew no
one, and brought no recommendations, and the result was that he got no
employment. He had aimed high, at first, but as time and his money
wasted away he grew less and less exacting, until at last he was willing
to serve in the humblest capacities if so he might get bread and shelter.
But luck was still against him; he could find no opening of any sort.
Finally his money was all gone. He walked the streets all day, thinking;
he walked them all night, thinking, thinking, and growing hungrier and
hungrier. At dawn he found himself well away from the town and drifting
aimlessly along the harbor shore. As he was passing by a nodding
shark-fisher the man looked up and said----
"Say, young fellow, take my line a spell, and change my luck for me."
"How do you know I won't make it worse?"
"Because you can't. It has been at its worst all night. If you can't
change it, no harm's done; if you do change it, it's for the better,
of course. Come."
"All right, what will you give?"
"I'll give you the shark, if you catch one."
"And I will eat it, bones and all. Give me the line."
"Here you are. I will get away, now, for awhile, so that my luck won't
spoil yours; for many and many a time I've noticed that if----there, pull
in, pull in, man, you've got a bite! I knew how it would be. Why, I
knew you for a born son of luck the minute I saw you. All right--he's
It was an unusually large shark--"a full nineteen-footer," the fisherman
said, as he laid the creature open with his knife.
"Now you rob him, young man, while I step to my hamper for a fresh bait.
There's generally something in them worth going for. You've changed my
luck, you see. But my goodness, I hope you haven't changed your own."
"Oh, it wouldn't matter; don't worry about that. Get your bait. I'll
When the fisherman got back the young man had just finished washing his
hands in the bay, and was starting away.
"What, you are not going?"
"But what about your shark?"
"The shark? Why, what use is he to me?"
"What use is he? I like that. Don't you know that we can go and report
him to Government, and you'll get a clean solid eighty shillings bounty?
Hard cash, you know. What do you think about it now?"
"Oh, well, you can collect it."
"And keep it? Is that what you mean?"
"Well, this is odd. You're one of those sort they call eccentrics, I
judge. The saying is, you mustn't judge a man by his clothes, and I'm
believing it now. Why yours are looking just ratty, don't you know; and
yet you must be rich."
The young man walked slowly back to the town, deeply musing as he went.
He halted a moment in front of the best restaurant, then glanced at his
clothes and passed on, and got his breakfast at a "stand-up." There was
a good deal of it, and it cost five shillings. He tendered a sovereign,
got his change, glanced at his silver, muttered to himself, "There isn't
enough to buy clothes with," and went his way.
At half-past nine the richest wool-broker in Sydney was sitting in his
morning-room at home, settling his breakfast with the morning paper. A
servant put his head in and said:
"There's a sundowner at the door wants to see you, sir."
"What do you bring that kind of a message here for? Send him about his
"He won't go, sir. I've tried."
"He won't go? That's--why, that's unusual. He's one of two things,
then: he's a remarkable person, or he's crazy. Is he crazy?"
"No, sir. He don't look it."
"Then he's remarkable. What does he say he wants?"
"He won't tell, sir; only says it's very important."
"And won't go. Does he say he won't go?"
"Says he'll stand there till he sees you, sir, if it's all day."
"And yet isn't crazy. Show him up."
The sundowner was shown in. The broker said to himself, "No, he's not
crazy; that is easy to see; so he must be the other thing."
Then aloud, "Well, my good fellow, be quick about it; don't waste any
words; what is it you want?"
"I want to borrow a hundred thousand pounds."
"Scott! (It's a mistake; he is crazy . . . . No--he can't be--not
with that eye.) Why, you take my breath away. Come, who are you?"
"Nobody that you know."
"What is your name?"
"No, I don't remember hearing the name before. Now then--just for
curiosity's sake--what has sent you to me on this extraordinary errand?"
"The intention to make a hundred thousand pounds for you and as much for
myself within the next sixty days."
"Well, well, well. It is the most extraordinary idea that--sit down--you
interest me. And somehow you--well, you fascinate me; I think that that
is about the word. And it isn't your proposition--no, that doesn't
fascinate me; it's something else, I don't quite know what; something
that's born in you and oozes out of you, I suppose. Now then just for
curiosity's sake again, nothing more: as I understand it, it is your
desire to bor----"
"I said intention."
"Pardon, so you did. I thought it was an unheedful use of the word--an
unheedful valuing of its strength, you know."
"I knew its strength."
"Well, I must say--but look here, let me walk the floor a little, my mind
is getting into a sort of whirl, though you don't seem disturbed any.
(Plainly this young fellow isn't crazy; but as to his being remarkable
--well, really he amounts to that, and something over.) Now then, I
believe I am beyond the reach of further astonishment. Strike, and spare
not. What is your scheme?"
"To buy the wool crop--deliverable in sixty days."
"What, the whole of it?"
"The whole of it."
"No, I was not quite out of the reach of surprises, after all. Why, how
you talk! Do you know what our crop is going to foot up?"
"Two and a half million sterling--maybe a little more."
"Well, you've got your statistics right, any way. Now, then, do you know
what the margins would foot up, to buy it at sixty days?"
"The hundred thousand pounds I came here to get."
"Right, once more. Well, dear me, just to see what would happen, I wish
you had the money. And if you had it, what would you do with it?"
"I shall make two hundred thousand pounds out of it in sixty days."
"You mean, of course, that you might make it if----"
"I said 'shall'."
"Yes, by George, you did say 'shall'! You are the most definite devil I
ever saw, in the matter of language. Dear, dear, dear, look here!
Definite speech means clarity of mind. Upon my word I believe you've got
what you believe to be a rational reason, for venturing into this house,
an entire stranger, on this wild scheme of buying the wool crop of an
entire colony on speculation. Bring it out--I am prepared--acclimatized,
if I may use the word. Why would you buy the crop, and why would you
make that sum out of it? That is to say, what makes you think you----"
"I don't think--I know."
"Definite again. How do you know?"
"Because France has declared war against Germany, and wool has gone up
fourteen per cent. in London and is still rising."
"Oh, in-deed? Now then, I've got you! Such a thunderbolt as you have
just let fly ought to have made me jump out of my chair, but it didn't
stir me the least little bit, you see. And for a very simple reason: I
have read the morning paper. You can look at it if you want to. The
fastest ship in the service arrived at eleven o'clock last night, fifty
days out from London. All her news is printed here. There are no
war-clouds anywhere; and as for wool, why, it is the low-spiritedest
commodity in the English market. It is your turn to jump, now . . . .
Well, why, don't you jump? Why do you sit there in that placid fashion,
"Because I have later news."
"Later news? Oh, come--later news than fifty days, brought steaming hot
from London by the----"
"My news is only ten days old."
"Oh, Mun-chausen, hear the maniac talk! Where did you get it?"
"Got it out of a shark."
"Oh, oh, oh, this is too much! Front! call the police bring the gun
--raise the town! All the asylums in Christendom have broken loose in the
single person of----"
"Sit down! And collect yourself. Where is the use in getting excited?
Am I excited? There is nothing to get excited about. When I make a
statement which I cannot prove, it will be time enough for you to begin
to offer hospitality to damaging fancies about me and my sanity."
"Oh, a thousand, thousand pardons! I ought to be ashamed of myself, and
I am ashamed of myself for thinking that a little bit of a circumstance
like sending a shark to England to fetch back a market report----"
"What does your middle initial stand for, sir?"
"Andrew. What are you writing?"
"Wait a moment. Proof about the shark--and another matter. Only ten
lines. There--now it is done. Sign it."
"Many thanks--many. Let me see; it says--it says oh, come, this is
interesting! Why--why--look here! prove what you say here, and I'll put
up the money, and double as much, if necessary, and divide the winnings
with you, half and half. There, now--I've signed; make your promise good
if you can. Show me a copy of the London Times only ten days old."
"Here it is--and with it these buttons and a memorandum book that
belonged to the man the shark swallowed. Swallowed him in the Thames,
without a doubt; for you will notice that the last entry in the book is
dated 'London,' and is of the same date as the Times, and says, 'Ber
confequentz der Kreigeseflarun, reife ich heute nach Deutchland ab, aur
bak ich mein leben auf dem Ultar meines Landes legen mag'----, as clean
native German as anybody can put upon paper, and means that in
consequence of the declaration of war, this loyal soul is leaving for
home to-day, to fight. And he did leave, too, but the shark had him
before the day was done, poor fellow."
"And a pity, too. But there are times for mourning, and we will attend
to this case further on; other matters are pressing, now. I will go down
and set the machinery in motion in a quiet way and buy the crop. It will
cheer the drooping spirits of the boys, in a transitory way. Everything
is transitory in this world. Sixty days hence, when they are called to
deliver the goods, they will think they've been struck by lightning. But
there is a time for mourning, and we will attend to that case along with
the other one. Come along, I'll take you to my tailor. What did you say
your name is?"
"It is hard to remember. However, I think you will make it easier by and
by, if you live. There are three kinds of people--Commonplace Men,
Remarkable Men, and Lunatics. I'll classify you with the Remarkables,
and take the chances."
The deal went through, and secured to the young stranger the first
fortune he ever pocketed.
The people of Sydney ought to be afraid of the sharks, but for some
reason they do not seem to be. On Saturdays the young men go out in
their boats, and sometimes the water is fairly covered with the little
sails. A boat upsets now and then, by accident, a result of tumultuous
skylarking; sometimes the boys upset their boat for fun--such as it is
with sharks visibly waiting around for just such an occurrence. The
young fellows scramble aboard whole--sometimes--not always. Tragedies
have happened more than once. While I was in Sydney it was reported that
a boy fell out of a boat in the mouth of the Paramatta river and screamed
for help and a boy jumped overboard from another boat to save him from
the assembling sharks; but the sharks made swift work with the lives of
The government pays a bounty for the shark; to get the bounty the
fishermen bait the hook or the seine with agreeable mutton; the news
spreads and the sharks come from all over the Pacific Ocean to get the
free board. In time the shark culture will be one of the most successful
things in the colony.
We can secure other people's approval, if we do right and try hard; but
our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
My health had broken down in New York in May; it had remained in a
doubtful but fairish condition during a succeeding period of 82 days; it
broke again on the Pacific. It broke again in Sydney, but not until
after I had had a good outing, and had also filled my lecture
engagements. This latest break lost me the chance of seeing Queensland.
In the circumstances, to go north toward hotter weather was not
So we moved south with a westward slant, 17 hours by rail to the capital
of the colony of Victoria, Melbourne--that juvenile city of sixty years,
and half a million inhabitants. On the map the distance looked small;
but that is a trouble with all divisions of distance in such a vast
country as Australia. The colony of Victoria itself looks small on the
map--looks like a county, in fact--yet it is about as large as England,
Scotland, and Wales combined. Or, to get another focus upon it, it is
just 80 times as large as the state of Rhode Island, and one-third as
large as the State of Texas.
Outside of Melbourne, Victoria seems to be owned by a handful of
squatters, each with a Rhode Island for a sheep farm. That is the
impression which one gathers from common talk, yet the wool industry of
Victoria is by no means so great as that of New South Wales. The climate
of Victoria is favorable to other great industries--among others,
wheat-growing and the making of wine.
We took the train at Sydney at about four in the afternoon. It was
American in one way, for we had a most rational sleeping car; also the
car was clean and fine and new--nothing about it to suggest the rolling
stock of the continent of Europe. But our baggage was weighed, and extra
weight charged for. That was continental. Continental and troublesome.
Any detail of railroading that is not troublesome cannot honorably be
described as continental.
The tickets were round-trip ones--to Melbourne, and clear to Adelaide in
South Australia, and then all the way back to Sydney. Twelve hundred
more miles than we really expected to make; but then as the round trip
wouldn't cost much more than the single trip, it seemed well enough to
buy as many miles as one could afford, even if one was not likely to need
them. A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing
than he needs.
Now comes a singular thing: the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the
most baffling and unaccountable marvel that Australasia can show. At the
frontier between New South Wales and Victoria our multitude of passengers
were routed out of their snug beds by lantern-light in the morning in the
biting-cold of a high altitude to change cars on a road that has no break
in it from Sydney to Melbourne! Think of the paralysis of intellect that
gave that idea birth; imagine the boulder it emerged from on some
petrified legislator's shoulders.
It is a narrow-gage road to the frontier, and a broader gauge thence to
Melbourne. The two governments were the builders of the road and are the
owners of it. One or two reasons are given for this curious state of
things. One is, that it represents the jealousy existing between the
colonies--the two most important colonies of Australasia. What the other
one is, I have forgotten. But it is of no consequence. It could be but
another effort to explain the inexplicable.
All passengers fret at the double-gauge; all shippers of freight must of
course fret at it; unnecessary expense, delay, and annoyance are imposed
upon everybody concerned, and no one is benefitted.
Each Australian colony fences itself off from its neighbor with a
custom-house. Personally, I have no objection, but it must be a good
deal of inconvenience to the people. We have something resembling it
here and there in America, but it goes by another name. The large empire
of the Pacific coast requires a world of iron machinery, and could
manufacture it economically on the spot if the imposts on foreign iron
were removed. But they are not. Protection to Pennsylvania and Alabama
forbids it. The result to the Pacific coast is the same as if there were
several rows of custom-fences between the coast and the East. Iron
carted across the American continent at luxurious railway rates would be
valuable enough to be coined when it arrived.
We changed cars. This was at Albury. And it was there, I think, that
the growing day and the early sun exposed the distant range called the
Blue Mountains. Accurately named. "My word!" as the Australians say,
but it was a stunning color, that blue. Deep, strong, rich, exquisite;
towering and majestic masses of blue--a softly luminous blue, a
smouldering blue, as if vaguely lit by fires within. It extinguished the
blue of the sky--made it pallid and unwholesome, whitey and washed-out.
A wonderful color--just divine.
A resident told me that those were not mountains; he said they were
rabbit-piles. And explained that long exposure and the over-ripe
condition of the rabbits was what made them look so blue. This man may
have been right, but much reading of books of travel has made me
distrustful of gratis information furnished by unofficial residents of a
country. The facts which such people give to travelers are usually
erroneous, and often intemperately so. The rabbit-plague has indeed been
very bad in Australia, and it could account for one mountain, but not for
a mountain range, it seems to me. It is too large an order.
We breakfasted at the station. A good breakfast, except the coffee; and
cheap. The Government establishes the prices and placards them. The
waiters were men, I think; but that is not usual in Australasia. The
usual thing is to have girls. No, not girls, young ladies--generally
duchesses. Dress? They would attract attention at any royal levee in
Europe. Even empresses and queens do not dress as they do. Not that
they could not afford it, perhaps, but they would not know how.
All the pleasant morning we slid smoothly along over the plains, through
thin--not thick--forests of great melancholy gum trees, with trunks
rugged with curled sheets of flaking bark--erysipelas convalescents, so
to speak, shedding their dead skins. And all along were tiny cabins,
built sometimes of wood, sometimes of gray-blue corrugated iron; and
the doorsteps and fences were clogged with children--rugged little
simply-clad chaps that looked as if they had been imported from the
banks of the Mississippi without breaking bulk.
And there were little villages, with neat stations well placarded with
showy advertisements--mainly of almost too self-righteous brands of
"sheepdip." If that is the name--and I think it is. It is a stuff like
tar, and is dabbed on to places where the shearer clips a piece out of
the sheep. It bars out the flies, and has healing properties, and a nip
to it which makes the sheep skip like the cattle on a thousand hills. It
is not good to eat. That is, it is not good to eat except when mixed
with railroad coffee. It improves railroad coffee. Without it railroad
coffee is too vague. But with it, it is quite assertive and
enthusiastic. By itself, railroad coffee is too passive; but sheep-dip
makes it wake up and get down to business. I wonder where they get
We saw birds, but not a kangaroo, not an emu, not an ornithorhynchus, not
a lecturer, not a native. Indeed, the land seemed quite destitute of
game. But I have misused the word native. In Australia it is applied to
Australian-born whites only. I should have said that we saw no
Aboriginals--no "blackfellows." And to this day I have never seen one.
In the great museums you will find all the other curiosities, but in the
curio of chiefest interest to the stranger all of them are lacking. We
have at home an abundance of museums, and not an American Indian in them.
It is clearly an absurdity, but it never struck me before.
Truth is stranger than fiction--to some people, but I am measurably
familiar with it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to
stick to possibilities; Truth isn't.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The air was balmy and delicious, the sunshine radiant; it was a charming
excursion. In the course of it we came to a town whose odd name was
famous all over the world a quarter of a century ago--Wagga-Wagga. This
was because the Tichborne Claimant had kept a butcher-shop there. It was
out of the midst of his humble collection of sausages and tripe that he
soared up into the zenith of notoriety and hung there in the wastes of
space a time, with the telescopes of all nations leveled at him in
unappeasable curiosity--curiosity as to which of the two long-missing
persons he was: Arthur Orton, the mislaid roustabout of Wapping, or Sir
Roger Tichborne, the lost heir of a name and estates as old as English
history. We all know now, but not a dozen people knew then; and the
dozen kept the mystery to themselves and allowed the most intricate and
fascinating and marvelous real-life romance that has ever been played
upon the world's stage to unfold itself serenely, act by act, in a
British court by the long and laborious processes of judicial
When we recall the details of that great romance we marvel to see what
daring chances truth may freely take in constructing a tale, as compared
with the poor little conservative risks permitted to fiction. The
fiction-artist could achieve no success with the materials of this
splendid Tichborne romance.
He would have to drop out the chief characters; the public would say such
people are impossible. He would have to drop out a number of the most
picturesque incidents; the public would say such things could never
happen. And yet the chief characters did exist, and the incidents did
It cost the Tichborne estates $400,000 to unmask the Claimant and drive
him out; and even after the exposure multitudes of Englishmen still
believed in him. It cost the British Government another $400,000 to
convict him of perjury; and after the conviction the same old multitudes
still believed in him; and among these believers were many educated and
intelligent men; and some of them had personally known the real Sir
Roger. The Claimant was sentenced to 14 years' imprisonment. When he
got out of prison he went to New York and kept a whisky saloon in the
Bowery for a time, then disappeared from view.
He always claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne until death called for him.
This was but a few months ago--not very much short of a generation since
he left Wagga-Wagga to go and possess himself of his estates. On his
death-bed he yielded up his secret, and confessed in writing that he was
only Arthur Orton of Wapping, able seaman and butcher--that and nothing
more. But it is scarcely to be doubted that there are people whom even
his dying confession will not convince. The old habit of assimilating
incredibilities must have made strong food a necessity in their case; a
weaker article would probably disagree with them.
I was in London when the Claimant stood his trial for perjury. I
attended one of his showy evenings in the sumptuous quarters provided for
him from the purses of his adherents and well-wishers. He was in evening
dress, and I thought him a rather fine and stately creature. There were
about twenty-five gentlemen present; educated men, men moving in good
society, none of them commonplace; some of them were men of distinction,
none of them were obscurities. They were his cordial friends and
admirers. It was "Sir Roger," always "Sir Roger," on all hands; no one
withheld the title, all turned it from the tongue with unction, and as if
it tasted good.
For many years I had had a mystery in stock. Melbourne, and only
Melbourne, could unriddle it for me. In 1873 I arrived in London with my
wife and young child, and presently received a note from Naples signed by
a name not familiar to me. It was not Bascom, and it was not Henry; but
I will call it Henry Bascom for convenience's sake. This note, of about
six lines, was written on a strip of white paper whose end-edges were
ragged. I came to be familiar with those strips in later years. Their
size and pattern were always the same. Their contents were usually to
the same effect: would I and mine come to the writer's country-place in
England on such and such a date, by such and such a train, and stay
twelve days and depart by such and such a train at the end of the
specified time? A carriage would meet us at the station.
These invitations were always for a long time ahead; if we were in
Europe, three months ahead; if we were in America, six to twelve months
ahead. They always named the exact date and train for the beginning and
also for the end of the visit.
This first note invited us for a date three months in the future. It
asked us to arrive by the 4.10 p.m. train from London, August 6th. The
carriage would be waiting. The carriage would take us away seven days
later-train specified. And there were these words: "Speak to Tom
I showed the note to the author of "Tom Brown at Rugby," and be said:
"Accept, and be thankful."
He described Mr. Bascom as being a man of genius, a man of fine
attainments, a choice man in every way, a rare and beautiful character.
He said that Bascom Hall was a particularly fine example of the stately
manorial mansion of Elizabeth's days, and that it was a house worth going
a long way to see--like Knowle; that Mr. B. was of a social disposition;
liked the company of agreeable people, and always had samples of the sort
coming and going.
We paid the visit. We paid others, in later years--the last one in 1879.
Soon after that Mr. Bascom started on a voyage around the world in a
steam yacht--a long and leisurely trip, for he was making collections, in
all lands, of birds, butterflies, and such things.
The day that President Garfield was shot by the assassin Guiteau, we were
at a little watering place on Long Island Sound; and in the mail matter
of that day came a letter with the Melbourne post-mark on it. It was for
my wife, but I recognized Mr. Bascom's handwriting on the envelope, and
opened it. It was the usual note--as to paucity of lines--and was
written on the customary strip of paper; but there was nothing usual
about the contents. The note informed my wife that if it would be any
assuagement of her grief to know that her husband's lecture-tour in
Australia was a satisfactory venture from the beginning to the end, he,
the writer, could testify that such was the case; also, that her
husband's untimely death had been mourned by all classes, as she would
already know by the press telegrams, long before the reception of this
note; that the funeral was attended by the officials of the colonial and
city governments; and that while he, the writer, her friend and mine, had
not reached Melbourne in time to see the body, he had at least had the
sad privilege of acting as one of the pall-bearers. Signed, "Henry
My first thought was, why didn't he have the coffin opened? He would
have seen that the corpse was an imposter, and he could have gone right
ahead and dried up the most of those tears, and comforted those sorrowing
governments, and sold the remains and sent me the money.
I did nothing about the matter. I had set the law after living lecture
doubles of mine a couple of times in America, and the law had not been
able to catch them; others in my trade had tried to catch their
impostor-doubles and had failed. Then where was the use in harrying a
ghost? None--and so I did not disturb it. I had a curiosity to know
about that man's lecture-tour and last moments, but that could wait.
When I should see Mr. Bascom he would tell me all about it. But he
passed from life, and I never saw him again.. My curiosity faded away.
However, when I found that I was going to Australia it revived. And
naturally: for if the people should say that I was a dull, poor thing
compared to what I was before I died, it would have a bad effect on
business. Well, to my surprise the Sydney journalists had never heard of
that impostor! I pressed them, but they were firm--they had never heard
of him, and didn't believe in him.
I could not understand it; still, I thought it would all come right in
Melbourne. The government would remember; and the other mourners. At
the supper of the Institute of Journalists I should find out all about
the matter. But no--it turned out that they had never heard of it.
So my mystery was a mystery still. It was a great disappointment. I
believed it would never be cleared up--in this life--so I dropped it out
of my mind.
But at last! just when I was least expecting it----
However, this is not the place for the rest of it; I shall come to the
matter again, in a far-distant chapter.
There is a Moral sense, and there is an Immoral Sense. History shows us
that the Moral Sense enables us to perceive morality and how to avoid it,
and that the Immoral Sense enables us to perceive immorality and how to
-Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Melbourne spreads around over an immense area of ground. It is a stately
city architecturally as well as in magnitude. It has an elaborate system
of cable-car service; it has museums, and colleges, and schools, and
public gardens, and electricity, and gas, and libraries, and theaters,
and mining centers, and wool centers, and centers of the arts and
sciences, and boards of trade, and ships, and railroads, and a harbor,
and social clubs, and journalistic clubs, and racing clubs, and a
squatter club sumptuously housed and appointed, and as many churches and
banks as can make a living. In a word, it is equipped with everything
that goes to make the modern great city. It is the largest city of
Australasia, and fills the post with honor and credit. It has one
specialty; this must not be jumbled in with those other things. It is
the mitred Metropolitan of the Horse-Racing Cult. Its race-ground is the
Mecca of Australasia. On the great annual day of sacrifice--the 5th of
November, Guy Fawkes's Day--business is suspended over a stretch of land
and sea as wide as from New York to San Francisco, and deeper than from
the northern lakes to the Gulf of Mexico; and every man and woman, of
high degree or low, who can afford the expense, put away their other
duties and come. They begin to swarm in by ship and rail a fortnight
before the day, and they swarm thicker and thicker day after day, until
all the vehicles of transportation are taxed to their uttermost to meet
the demands of the occasion, and all hotels and lodgings are bulging
outward because of the pressure from within. They come a hundred
thousand strong, as all the best authorities say, and they pack the
spacious grounds and grandstands and make a spectacle such as is never to
be seen in Australasia elsewhere.
It is the "Melbourne Cup" that brings this multitude together. Their
clothes have been ordered long ago, at unlimited cost, and without bounds
as to beauty and magnificence, and have been kept in concealment until
now, for unto this day are they consecrate. I am speaking of the ladies'
clothes; but one might know that.
And so the grand-stands make a brilliant and wonderful spectacle, a
delirium of color, a vision of beauty. The champagne flows, everybody is
vivacious, excited, happy; everybody bets, and gloves and fortunes change
hands right along, all the time. Day after day the races go on, and the
fun and the excitement are kept at white heat; and when each day is done,
the people dance all night so as to be fresh for the race in the morning.
And at the end of the great week the swarms secure lodgings and
transportation for next year, then flock away to their remote homes and
count their gains and losses, and order next year's Cup-clothes, and then
lie down and sleep two weeks, and get up sorry to reflect that a whole
year must be put in somehow or other before they can be wholly happy
The Melbourne Cup is the Australasian National Day. It would be
difficult to overstate its importance. It overshadows all other holidays
and specialized days of whatever sort in that congeries of colonies.
Overshadows them? I might almost say it blots them out. Each of them
gets attention, but not everybody's; each of them evokes interest, but
not everybody's; each of them rouses enthusiasm, but not everybody's; in
each case a part of the attention, interest, and enthusiasm is a matter
of habit and custom, and another part of it is official and perfunctory.
Cup Day, and Cup Day only, commands an attention, an interest, and an
enthusiasm which are universal--and spontaneous, not perfunctory. Cup
Day is supreme it has no rival. I can call to mind no specialized annual
day, in any country, which can be named by that large name--Supreme. I
can call to mind no specialized annual day, in any country, whose
approach fires the whole land with a conflagration of conversation and
preparation and anticipation and jubilation. No day save this one; but
this one does it.
In America we have no annual supreme day; no day whose approach makes the
whole nation glad. We have the Fourth of July, and Christmas, and
Thanksgiving. Neither of them can claim the primacy; neither of them can
arouse an enthusiasm which comes near to being universal. Eight grown
Americans out of ten dread the coming of the Fourth, with its pandemonium
and its perils, and they rejoice when it is gone--if still alive. The
approach of Christmas brings harassment and dread to many excellent
people. They have to buy a cart-load of presents, and they never know
what to buy to hit the various tastes; they put in three weeks of hard
and anxious work, and when Christmas morning comes they are so
dissatisfied with the result, and so disappointed that they want to sit
down and cry. Then they give thanks that Christmas comes but once a
year. The observance of Thanksgiving Day--as a function--has become
general of late years. The Thankfulness is not so general. This is
natural. Two-thirds of the nation have always had hard luck and a hard
time during the year, and this has a calming effect upon their
We have a supreme day--a sweeping and tremendous and tumultuous day, a
day which commands an absolute universality of interest and excitement;
but it is not annual. It comes but once in four years; therefore it
cannot count as a rival of the Melbourne Cup.
In Great Britain and Ireland they have two great days--Christmas and the
Queen's birthday. But they are equally popular; there is no supremacy.
I think it must be conceded that the position of the Australasian Day is
unique, solitary, unfellowed; and likely to hold that high place a long
The next things which interest us when we travel are, first, the people;
next, the novelties; and finally the history of the places and countries
visited. Novelties are rare in cities which represent the most advanced
civilization of the modern day. When one is familiar with such cities in
the other parts of the world he is in effect familiar with the cities of
Australasia. The outside aspects will furnish little that is new. There
will be new names, but the things which they represent will sometimes be
found to be less new than their names. There may be shades of
difference, but these can easily be too fine for detection by the
incompetent eye of the passing stranger. In the larrikin he will not be
able to discover a new species, but only an old one met elsewhere, and
variously called loafer, rough, tough, bummer, or blatherskite, according
to his geographical distribution. The larrikin differs by a shade from
those others, in that he is more sociable toward the stranger than they,
more kindly disposed, more hospitable, more hearty, more friendly. At
least it seemed so to me, and I had opportunity to observe. In Sydney,
at least. In Melbourne I had to drive to and from the lecture-theater,
but in Sydney I was able to walk both ways, and did it. Every night, on
my way home at ten, or a quarter past, I found the larrikin grouped in
considerable force at several of the street corners, and he always gave
me this pleasant salutation:
"Here's to you, old chap!
"Say--Mark!--is he dead?"--a reference to a passage in some book of mine,
though I did not detect, at that time, that that was its source. And I
didn't detect it afterward in Melbourne, when I came on the stage for the
first time, and the same question was dropped down upon me from the dizzy
height of the gallery. It is always difficult to answer a sudden inquiry
like that, when you have come unprepared and don't know what it means.
I will remark here--if it is not an indecorum--that the welcome which an
American lecturer gets from a British colonial audience is a thing which
will move him to his deepest deeps, and veil his sight and break his
voice. And from Winnipeg to Africa, experience will teach him nothing;
he will never learn to expect it, it will catch him as a surprise each
time. The war-cloud hanging black over England and America made no
trouble for me. I was a prospective prisoner of war, but at dinners,
suppers, on the platform, and elsewhere, there was never anything to
remind me of it. This was hospitality of the right metal, and would have
been prominently lacking in some countries, in the circumstances.
And speaking of the war-flurry, it seemed to me to bring to light the
unexpected, in a detail or two. It seemed to relegate the war-talk to
the politicians on both sides of the water; whereas whenever a
prospective war between two nations had been in the air theretofore, the
public had done most of the talking and the bitterest. The attitude of
the newspapers was new also. I speak of those of Australasia and India,
for I had access to those only. They treated the subject argumentatively
and with dignity, not with spite and anger. That was a new spirit, too,
and not learned of the French and German press, either before Sedan or
since. I heard many public speeches, and they reflected the moderation
of the journals. The outlook is that the English-speaking race will
dominate the earth a hundred years from now, if its sections do not get
to fighting each other. It would be a pity to spoil that prospect by
baffling and retarding wars when arbitration would settle their
differences so much better and also so much more definitely.
No, as I have suggested, novelties are rare in the great capitals of
modern times. Even the wool exchange in Melbourne could not be told from
the familiar stock exchange of other countries. Wool brokers are just
like stockbrokers; they all bounce from their seats and put up their
hands and yell in unison--no stranger can tell what--and the president
calmly says "Sold to Smith & Co., threpence farthing--next!"--when
probably nothing of the kind happened; for how should he know?
In the museums you will find acres of the most strange and fascinating
things; but all museums are fascinating, and they do so tire your eyes,
and break your back, and burn out your vitalities with their consuming
interest. You always say you will never go again, but you do go. The
palaces of the rich, in Melbourne, are much like the palaces of the rich
in America, and the life in them is the same; but there the resemblance
ends. The grounds surrounding the American palace are not often large,
and not often beautiful, but in the Melbourne case the grounds are often
ducally spacious, and the climate and the gardeners together make them as
beautiful as a dream. It is said that some of the country seats have
grounds--domains--about them which rival in charm and magnitude those
which surround the country mansion of an English lord; but I was not out
in the country; I had my hands full in town.
And what was the origin of this majestic city and its efflorescence of
palatial town houses and country seats? Its first brick was laid and
its first house built by a passing convict. Australian history is almost
always picturesque; indeed, it is so curious and strange, that it is
itself the chiefest novelty the country has to offer, and so it pushes
the other novelties into second and third place. It does not read like
history, but like the most beautiful lies. And all of a fresh new sort,
no mouldy old stale ones. It is full of surprises, and adventures, and
incongruities, and contradictions, and incredibilities; but they are all
true, they all happened.
The English are mentioned in the Bible: Blessed are the meek, for they
shall inherit the earth.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
When we consider the immensity of the British Empire in territory,
population, and trade, it requires a stern exercise of faith to believe
in the figures which represent Australasia's contribution to the Empire's
commercial grandeur. As compared with the landed estate of the British
Empire, the landed estate dominated by any other Power except one
--Russia--is not very impressive for size. My authorities make the British
Empire not much short of a fourth larger than the Russian Empire.
Roughly proportioned, if you will allow your entire hand to represent the
British Empire, you may then cut off the fingers a trifle above the
middle joint of the middle finger, and what is left of the hand will
represent Russia. The populations ruled by Great Britain and China are
about the same--400,000,000 each. No other Power approaches these
figures. Even Russia is left far behind.
The population of Australasia--4,000,000--sinks into nothingness, and is
lost from sight in that British ocean of 400,000,000. Yet the statistics
indicate that it rises again and shows up very conspicuously when its
share of the Empire's commerce is the matter under consideration. The
value of England's annual exports and imports is stated at three billions
of dollars,--[New South Wales Blue Book.]--and it is claimed that more
than one-tenth of this great aggregate is represented by Australasia's
exports to England and imports from England. In addition to this,
Australasia does a trade with countries other than England, amounting to
a hundred million dollars a year, and a domestic intercolonial trade
amounting to a hundred and fifty millions.
In round numbers the 4,000,000 buy and sell about $600,000,000 worth of
goods a year. It is claimed that about half of this represents
commodities of Australasian production. The products exported annually
by India are worth a trifle over $500,000,000. Now, here are some
Indian production (300,000,000 population), $500,000,000.
Australasian production (4,000,000 population), $300,000,000.
That is to say, the product of the individual Indian, annually (for
export some whither), is worth $1.15; that of the individual
Australasian (for export some whither), $75! Or, to put it in another
way, the Indian family of man and wife and three children sends away an
annual result worth $8.75, while the Australasian family sends away $375
There are trustworthy statistics furnished by Sir Richard Temple and
others, which show that the individual Indian's whole annual product,
both for export and home use, is worth in gold only $7.50; or, $37.50
for the family-aggregate. Ciphered out on a like ratio of
multiplication, the Australasian family's aggregate production would be
nearly $1,600. Truly, nothing is so astonishing as figures, if they once
We left Melbourne by rail for Adelaide, the capital of the vast Province
of South Australia--a seventeen-hour excursion. On the train we found
several Sydney friends; among them a Judge who was going out on circuit,
and was going to hold court at Broken Hill, where the celebrated silver
mine is. It seemed a curious road to take to get to that region. Broken
Hill is close to the western border of New South Wales, and Sydney is on
the eastern border. A fairly straight line, 700 miles long, drawn
westward from Sydney, would strike Broken Hill, just as a somewhat
shorter one drawn west from Boston would strike Buffalo. The way the
Judge was traveling would carry him over 2,000 miles by rail, he said;
southwest from Sydney down to Melbourne, then northward up to Adelaide,
then a cant back northeastward and over the border into New South Wales
once more--to Broken Hill. It was like going from Boston southwest to
Richmond, Virginia, then northwest up to Erie, Pennsylvania, then a cant
back northeast and over the border--to Buffalo, New York.
But the explanation was simple. Years ago the fabulously rich silver
discovery at Broken Hill burst suddenly upon an unexpectant world. Its
stocks started at shillings, and went by leaps and bounds to the most
fanciful figures. It was one of those cases where the cook puts a
month's wages into shares, and comes next mouth and buys your house at
your own price, and moves into it herself; where the coachman takes a few
shares, and next month sets up a bank; and where the common sailor
invests the price of a spree, and next month buys out the steamship
company and goes into business on his own hook. In a word, it was one of
those excitements which bring multitudes of people to a common center
with a rush, and whose needs must be supplied, and at once. Adelaide was
close by, Sydney was far away. Adelaide threw a short railway across the
border before Sydney had time to arrange for a long one; it was not worth
while for Sydney to arrange at all. The whole vast trade-profit of
Broken Hill fell into Adelaide's hands, irrevocably. New South Wales
furnishes for Broken Hill and sends her Judges 2,000 miles--mainly
through alien countries--to administer it, but Adelaide takes the
dividends and makes no moan.
We started at 4.20 in the afternoon, and moved across level until night.
In the morning we had a stretch of "scrub" country--the kind of thing
which is so useful to the Australian novelist. In the scrub the hostile
aboriginal lurks, and flits mysteriously about, slipping out from time to
time to surprise and slaughter the settler; then slipping back again, and
leaving no track that the white man can follow. In the scrub the
novelist's heroine gets lost, search fails of result; she wanders here
and there, and finally sinks down exhausted and unconscious, and the
searchers pass within a yard or two of her, not suspecting that she is
near, and by and by some rambler finds her bones and the pathetic diary
which she had scribbled with her failing hand and left behind. Nobody
can find a lost heroine in the scrub but the aboriginal "tracker," and he
will not lend himself to the scheme if it will interfere with the
novelist's plot. The scrub stretches miles and miles in all directions,
and looks like a level roof of bush-tops without a break or a crack in it
--as seamless as a blanket, to all appearance. One might as well walk
under water and hope to guess out a route and stick to it, I should
think. Yet it is claimed that the aboriginal "tracker" was able to hunt
out people lost in the scrub. Also in the "bush"; also in the desert;
and even follow them over patches of bare rocks and over alluvial ground
which had to all appearance been washed clear of footprints.
From reading Australian books and talking with the people, I became
convinced that the aboriginal tracker's performances evince a craft, a
penetration, a luminous sagacity, and a minuteness and accuracy of
observation in the matter of detective-work not found in nearly so
remarkable a degree in any other people, white or colored. In an
official account of the blacks of Australia published by the government
of Victoria, one reads that the aboriginal not only notices the faint
marks left on the bark of a tree by the claws of a climbing opossum, but
knows in some way or other whether the marks were made to-day or
And there is the case, on records where A., a settler, makes a bet with
B., that B. may lose a cow as effectually as he can, and A. will produce
an aboriginal who will find her. B. selects a cow and lets the tracker
see the cow's footprint, then be put under guard. B. then drives the cow
a few miles over a course which drifts in all directions, and frequently
doubles back upon itself; and he selects difficult ground all the time,
and once or twice even drives the cow through herds of other cows, and
mingles her tracks in the wide confusion of theirs. He finally brings
his cow home; the aboriginal is set at liberty, and at once moves around
in a great circle, examining all cow-tracks until he finds the one he is
after; then sets off and follows it throughout its erratic course, and
ultimately tracks it to the stable where B. has hidden the cow. Now
wherein does one cow-track differ from another? There must be a
difference, or the tracker could not have performed the feat; a
difference minute, shadowy, and not detectible by you or me, or by the
late Sherlock Holmes, and yet discernible by a member of a race charged
by some people with occupying the bottom place in the gradations of human
It is easier to stay out than get out.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The train was now exploring a beautiful hill country, and went twisting
in and out through lovely little green valleys. There were several
varieties of gum trees; among them many giants. Some of them were bodied
and barked like the sycamore; some were of fantastic aspect, and reminded
one of the quaint apple trees in Japanese pictures. And there was one
peculiarly beautiful tree whose name and breed I did not know. The
foliage seemed to consist of big bunches of pine-spines, the lower half
of each bunch a rich brown or old-gold color, the upper half a most vivid
and strenuous and shouting green. The effect was altogether bewitching.
The tree was apparently rare. I should say that the first and last
samples of it seen by us were not more than half an hour apart. There
was another tree of striking aspect, a kind of pine, we were told. Its
foliage was as fine as hair, apparently, and its mass sphered itself
above the naked straight stem like an explosion of misty smoke. It was
not a sociable sort; it did not gather in groups or couples, but each
individual stood far away from its nearest neighbor. It scattered itself
in this spacious and exclusive fashion about the slopes of swelling
grassy great knolls, and stood in the full flood of the wonderful
sunshine; and as far as you could see the tree itself you could also see
the ink-black blot of its shadow on the shining green carpet at its feet.
On some part of this railway journey we saw gorse and broom--importations
from England--and a gentleman who came into our compartment on a visit
tried to tell me which--was which; but as he didn't know, he had
difficulty. He said he was ashamed of his ignorance, but that he had
never been confronted with the question before during the fifty years and
more that he had spent in Australia, and so he had never happened to get
interested in the matter. But there was no need to be ashamed. The most
of us have his defect. We take a natural interest in novelties, but it
is against nature to take an interest in familiar things. The gorse and
the broom were a fine accent in the landscape. Here and there they burst
out in sudden conflagrations of vivid yellow against a background of
sober or sombre color, with a so startling effect as to make a body catch
his breath with the happy surprise of it. And then there was the wattle,
a native bush or tree, an inspiring cloud of sumptuous yellow bloom. It
is a favorite with the Australians, and has a fine fragrance, a quality
usually wanting in Australian blossoms.
The gentleman who enriched me with the poverty of his formation about the
gorse and the broom told me that he came out from England a youth of
twenty and entered the Province of South Australia with thirty-six
shillings in his pocket--an adventurer without trade, profession, or
friends, but with a clearly-defined purpose in his head: he would stay
until he was worth L200, then go back home. He would allow himself five
years for the accumulation of this fortune.
"That was more than fifty years ago," said he. "And here I am, yet."
As he went out at the door he met a friend, and turned and introduced him
to me, and the friend and I had a talk and a smoke. I spoke of the
previous conversation and said there something very pathetic about this
half century of exile, and that I wished the L200 scheme had succeeded.
"With him? Oh, it did. It's not so sad a case. He is modest, and he
left out some of the particulars. The lad reached South Australia just
in time to help discover the Burra-Burra copper mines. They turned out
L700,000 in the first three years. Up to now they have yielded
L120,000,000. He has had his share. Before that boy had been in the
country two years he could have gone home and bought a village; he could
go now and buy a city, I think. No, there is nothing very pathetic about
his case. He and his copper arrived at just a handy time to save South
Australia. It had got mashed pretty flat under the collapse of a land
boom a while before." There it is again; picturesque history
--Australia's specialty. In 1829 South Australia hadn't a white man in it.
In 1836 the British Parliament erected it--still a solitude--into a
Province, and gave it a governor and other governmental machinery.
Speculators took hold, now, and inaugurated a vast land scheme, and
invited immigration, encouraging it with lurid promises of sudden wealth.
It was well worked in London; and bishops, statesmen, and all ports of
people made a rush for the land company's shares. Immigrants soon began
to pour into the region of Adelaide and select town lots and farms in the
sand and the mangrove swamps by the sea. The crowds continued to come,
prices of land rose high, then higher and still higher, everybody was
prosperous and happy, the boom swelled into gigantic proportions. A
village of sheet iron huts and clapboard sheds sprang up in the sand, and
in these wigwams fashion made display; richly-dressed ladies played on
costly pianos, London swells in evening dress and patent-leather boots
were abundant, and this fine society drank champagne, and in other ways
conducted itself in this capital of humble sheds as it had been
accustomed to do in the aristocratic quarters of the metropolis of the
world. The provincial government put up expensive buildings for its own
use, and a palace with gardens for the use of its governor. The governor
had a guard, and maintained a court. Roads, wharves, and hospitals were
built. All this on credit, on paper, on wind, on inflated and fictitious
values--on the boom's moonshine, in fact. This went on handsomely during
four or five years. Then of a sudden came a smash. Bills for a huge
amount drawn the governor upon the Treasury were dishonored, the land
company's credit went up in smoke, a panic followed, values fell with a
rush, the frightened immigrants seized their grips and fled to other
lands, leaving behind them a good imitation of a solitude, where lately
had been a buzzing and populous hive of men.
Adelaide was indeed almost empty; its population had fallen to 3,000.
During two years or more the death-trance continued. Prospect of revival
there was none; hope of it ceased. Then, as suddenly as the paralysis
had come, came the resurrection from it. Those astonishingly rich copper
mines were discovered, and the corpse got up and danced.
The wool production began to grow; grain-raising followed--followed so
vigorously, too, that four or five years after the copper discovery, this
little colony, which had had to import its breadstuffs formerly, and pay
hard prices for them--once $50 a barrel for flour--had become an exporter
The prosperities continued. After many years Providence, desiring to
show especial regard for New South Wales and exhibit loving interest in
its welfare which should certify to all nations the recognition of that
colony's conspicuous righteousness and distinguished well-deserving,
conferred upon it that treasury of inconceivable riches, Broken Hill; and
South Australia went over the border and took it, giving thanks.
Among our passengers was an American with a unique vocation. Unique is a
strong word, but I use it justifiably if I did not misconceive what the
American told me; for I understood him to say that in the world there was
not another man engaged in the business which he was following. He was
buying the kangaroo-skin crop; buying all of it, both the Australian crop
and the Tasmanian; and buying it for an American house in New York. The
prices were not high, as there was no competition, but the year's
aggregate of skins would cost him L30,000. I had had the idea that the
kangaroo was about extinct in Tasmania and well thinned out on the
continent. In America the skins are tanned and made into shoes. After
the tanning, the leather takes a new name--which I have forgotten--I only
remember that the new name does not indicate that the kangaroo furnishes
the leather. There was a German competition for a while, some years ago,
but that has ceased. The Germans failed to arrive at the secret of
tanning the skins successfully, and they withdrew from the business. Now
then, I suppose that I have seen a man whose occupation is really
entitled to bear that high epithet--unique. And I suppose that there is
not another occupation in the world that is restricted to the hands of a
sole person. I can think of no instance of it. There is more than one
Pope, there is more than one Emperor, there is even more than one living
god, walking upon the earth and worshiped in all sincerity by large
populations of men. I have seen and talked with two of these Beings
myself in India, and I have the autograph of one of them. It can come
good, by and by, I reckon, if I attach it to a "permit."
Approaching Adelaide we dismounted from the train, as the French say, and
were driven in an open carriage over the hills and along their slopes to
the city. It was an excursion of an hour or two, and the charm of it
could not be overstated, I think. The road wound around gaps and gorges,
and offered all varieties of scenery and prospect--mountains, crags,
country homes, gardens, forests--color, color, color everywhere, and the
air fine and fresh, the skies blue, and not a shred of cloud to mar the
downpour of the brilliant sunshine. And finally the mountain gateway
opened, and the immense plain lay spread out below and stretching away
into dim distances on every hand, soft and delicate and dainty and
beautiful. On its near edge reposed the city.
We descended and entered. There was nothing to remind one of the humble
capital, of buts and sheds of the long-vanished day of the land-boom.
No, this was a modern city, with wide streets, compactly built; with fine
homes everywhere, embowered in foliage and flowers, and with imposing
masses of public buildings nobly grouped and architecturally beautiful.
There was prosperity, in the air; for another boom was on. Providence,
desiring to show especial regard for the neighboring colony on the west
called Western Australia--and exhibit a loving interest in its welfare
which should certify to all nations the recognition of that colony's
conspicuous righteousness and distinguished well-deserving, had recently
conferred upon it that majestic treasury of golden riches, Coolgardie;
and now South Australia had gone around the corner and taken it, giving
thanks. Everything comes to him who is patient and good, and waits.
But South Australia deserves much, for apparently she is a hospitable
home for every alien who chooses to come; and for his religion, too.
She has a population, as per the latest census, of only 320,000-odd, and
yet her varieties of religion indicate the presence within her borders of
samples of people from pretty nearly every part of the globe you can
think of. Tabulated, these varieties of religion make a remarkable show.
One would have to go far to find its match. I copy here this
cosmopolitan curiosity, and it comes from the published census:
Church of England,........... 89,271
Roman Catholic,.............. 47,179
Bible Christian,............. 15,762
Primitive Methodist,......... 11,654
Christian Brethren,.......... 465
Methodist New Connexion,..... 39
Church of Christ,............ 3,367
Society of Friends,.......... 100
Salvation Army,.............. 4,356
New Jerusalem Church,........ 168
Protestants (undefined),..... 6,532
Confucians, etc.,............ 3,884
Other religions,............. 1,719
Not stated,.................. 8,046
The item in the above list "Other religions" includes the following as
Believers in Christ,
Church of God,
Followers of Christ,
Town (City) Mission,
About 64 roads to the other world. You see how healthy the religious
atmosphere is. Anything can live in it. Agnostics, Atheists,
Freethinkers, Infidels, Mormons, Pagans, Indefinites they are all there.
And all the big sects of the world can do more than merely live in it:
they can spread, flourish, prosper. All except the Spiritualists and the
Theosophists. That is the most curious feature of this curious table.
What is the matter with the specter? Why do they puff him away? He is a
welcome toy everywhere else in the world.
Pity is for the living, Envy is for the dead.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The successor of the sheet-iron hamlet of the mangrove marshes has that
other Australian specialty, the Botanical Gardens. We cannot have these
paradises. The best we could do would be to cover a vast acreage under
glass and apply steam heat. But it would be inadequate, the lacks would
still be so great: the confined sense, the sense of suffocation, the
atmospheric dimness, the sweaty heat--these would all be there, in place
of the Australian openness to the sky, the sunshine and the breeze.
Whatever will grow under glass with us will flourish rampantly out of
doors in Australia.--[The greatest heat in Victoria, that there is an
authoritative record of, was at Sandhurst, in January, 1862. The
thermometer then registered 117 degrees in the shade. In January, 1880,
the heat at Adelaide, South Australia, was 172 degrees in the sun.]
When the white man came the continent was nearly as poor, in variety of
vegetation, as the desert of Sahara; now it has everything that grows on
the earth. In fact, not Australia only, but all Australasia has levied
tribute upon the flora of the rest of the world; and wherever one goes
the results appear, in gardens private and public, in the woodsy walls of
the highways, and in even the forests. If you see a curious or beautiful
tree or bush or flower, and ask about it, the people, answering, usually
name a foreign country as the place of its origin--India, Africa, Japan,
China, England, America, Java, Sumatra, New Guinea, Polynesia, and so on.
In the Zoological Gardens of Adelaide I saw the only laughing jackass
that ever showed any disposition to be courteous to me. This one opened
his head wide and laughed like a demon; or like a maniac who was consumed
with humorous scorn over a cheap and degraded pun. It was a very human
laugh. If he had been out of sight I could have believed that the
laughter came from a man. It is an odd-looking bird, with a head and
beak that are much too large for its body. In time man will exterminate
the rest of the wild creatures of Australia, but this one will probably
survive, for man is his friend and lets him alone. Man always has a good
reason for his charities towards wild things, human or animal when he has
any. In this case the bird is spared because he kills snakes. If L. J.
he will not kill all of them.
In that garden I also saw the wild Australian dog--the dingo. He was a
beautiful creature--shapely, graceful, a little wolfish in some of his
aspects, but with a most friendly eye and sociable disposition. The
dingo is not an importation; he was present in great force when the
whites first came to the continent. It may be that he is the oldest dog
in the universe; his origin, his descent, the place where his ancestors
first appeared, are as unknown and as untraceable as are the camel's.
He is the most precious dog in the world, for he does not bark. But in
an evil hour he got to raiding the sheep-runs to appease his hunger, and
that sealed his doom. He is hunted, now, just as if he were a wolf.
He has been sentenced to extermination, and the sentence will be carried
out. This is all right, and not objectionable. The world was made for
man--the white man.
South Australia is confusingly named. All of the colonies have a
southern exposure except one--Queensland. Properly speaking, South
Australia is middle Australia. It extends straight up through the center
of the continent like the middle board in a center-table. It is 2,000
miles high, from south to north, and about a third as wide. A wee little
spot down in its southeastern corner contains eight or nine-tenths of its
population; the other one or two-tenths are elsewhere--as elsewhere as
they could be in the United States with all the country between Denver
and Chicago, and Canada and the Gulf of Mexico to scatter over. There is
plenty of room.
A telegraph line stretches straight up north through that 2,000 miles of
wilderness and desert from Adelaide to Port Darwin on the edge of the
upper ocean. South Australia built the line; and did it in 1871-2 when
her population numbered only 185,000. It was a great work; for there
were no roads, no paths; 1,300 miles of the route had been traversed but
once before by white men; provisions, wire, and poles had to be carried
over immense stretches of desert; wells had to be dug along the route to
supply the men and cattle with water.
A cable had been previously laid from Port Darwin to Java and thence to
India, and there was telegraphic communication with England from India.
And so, if Adelaide could make connection with Port Darwin it meant
connection with the whole world. The enterprise succeeded. One could
watch the London markets daily, now; the profit to the wool-growers of
Australia was instant and enormous.
A telegram from Melbourne to San Francisco covers approximately 20,000
miles--the equivalent of five-sixths of the way around the globe. It has
to halt along the way a good many times and be repeated; still, but
little time is lost. These halts, and the distances between them, are
here tabulated.--[From "Round the Empire." (George R. Parkin), all but
the last two.]
Port Augusta-Alice Springs...1,036
Alice Springs-Port Darwin,.....898
Port Darwin-Banjoewangie,... 1,150
New York-San Francisco,......3,500
I was in Adelaide again, some months later, and saw the multitudes gather
in the neighboring city of Glenelg to commemorate the Reading of the
Proclamation--in 1836--which founded the Province. If I have at any time
called it a Colony, I withdraw the discourtesy. It is not a Colony, it
is a Province; and officially so. Moreover, it is the only one so named
in Australasia. There was great enthusiasm; it was the Province's
national holiday, its Fourth of July, so to speak. It is the pre-eminent
holiday; and that is saying much, in a country where they seem to have a
most un-English mania for holidays. Mainly they are workingmen's
holidays; for in South Australia the workingman is sovereign; his vote is
the desire of the politician--indeed, it is the very breath of the
politician's being; the parliament exists to deliver the will of the
workingman, and the government exists to execute it. The workingman is a
great power everywhere in Australia, but South Australia is his paradise.
He has had a hard time in this world, and has earned a paradise. I am
glad he has found it. The holidays there are frequent enough to be
bewildering to the stranger. I tried to get the hang of the system, but
was not able to do it.
You have seen that the Province is tolerant, religious-wise. It is so
politically, also. One of the speakers at the Commemoration banquet--the
Minister of Public Works-was an American, born and reared in New England.
There is nothing narrow about the Province, politically, or in any other
way that I know of. Sixty-four religions and a Yankee cabinet minister.
No amount of horse-racing can damn this community.
The mean temperature of the Province is 62 deg. The death-rate is 13 in
the 1,000--about half what it is in the city of New York, I should think,
and New York is a healthy city. Thirteen is the death-rate for the
average citizen of the Province, but there seems to be no death-rate for
the old people. There were people at the Commemoration banquet who could
remember Cromwell. There were six of them. These Old Settlers had all
been present at the original Reading of the Proclamation, in 1536. They
showed signs of the blightings and blastings of time, in their outward
aspect, but they were young within; young and cheerful, and ready to
talk; ready to talk, and talk all you wanted; in their turn, and out of
it. They were down for six speeches, and they made 42. The governor and
the cabinet and the mayor were down for 42 speeches, and they made 6.
They have splendid grit, the Old Settlers, splendid staying power. But
they do not hear well, and when they see the mayor going through motions
which they recognize as the introducing of a speaker, they think they are
the one, and they all get up together, and begin to respond, in the most
animated way; and the more the mayor gesticulates, and shouts "Sit down!
Sit down!" the more they take it for applause, and the more excited and
reminiscent and enthusiastic they get; and next, when they see the whole
house laughing and crying, three of them think it is about the bitter
old-time hardships they are describing, and the other three think the
laughter is caused by the jokes they have been uncorking--jokes of the
vintage of 1836--and then the way they do go on! And finally when ushers
come and plead, and beg, and gently and reverently crowd them down into
their seats, they say, "Oh, I'm not tired--I could bang along a week!"
and they sit there looking simple and childlike, and gentle, and proud of
their oratory, and wholly unconscious of what is going on at the other
end of the room. And so one of the great dignitaries gets a chance, and
begins his carefully prepared speech, impressively and with solemnity--
"When we, now great and prosperous and powerful, bow our heads in
reverent wonder in the contemplation of those sublimities of energy,
of wisdom, of forethought, of----"
Up come the immortal six again, in a body, with a joyous "Hey, I've
thought of another one!" and at it they go, with might and main, hearing
not a whisper of the pandemonium that salutes them, but taking all the
visible violences for applause, as before, and hammering joyously away
till the imploring ushers pray them into their seats again. And a pity,
too; for those lovely old boys did so enjoy living their heroic youth
over, in these days of their honored antiquity; and certainly the things
they had to tell were usually worth the telling and the hearing.
It was a stirring spectacle; stirring in more ways than one, for it was
amazingly funny, and at the same time deeply pathetic; for they had seen
so much, these time-worn veterans, end had suffered so much; and had
built so strongly and well, and laid the foundations of their
commonwealth so deep, in liberty and tolerance; and had lived to see the
structure rise to such state and dignity and hear themselves so praised
for honorable work.
One of these old gentlemen told me some things of interest afterward;
things about the aboriginals, mainly. He thought them intelligent
--remarkably so in some directions--and he said that along with their
unpleasant qualities they had some exceedingly good ones; and he
considered it a great pity that the race had died out. He instanced
their invention of the boomerang and the "weet-weet" as evidences of
their brightness; and as another evidence of it he said he had never seen
a white man who had cleverness enough to learn to do the miracles with
those two toys that the aboriginals achieved. He said that even the
smartest whites had been obliged to confess that they could not learn the
trick of the boomerang in perfection; that it had possibilities which
they could not master. The white man could not control its motions,
could not make it obey him; but the aboriginal could. He told me some
wonderful things--some almost incredible things--which he had seen the
blacks do with the boomerang and the weet-weet. They have been confirmed
to me since by other early settlers and by trustworthy books.
It is contended--and may be said to be conceded--that the boomerang was
known to certain savage tribes in Europe in Roman times. In support of
this, Virgil and two other Roman poets are quoted. It is also contended
that it was known to the ancient Egyptians.
One of two things either some one with is then apparent: a boomerang
arrived in Australia in the days of antiquity before European knowledge
of the thing had been lost, or the Australian aboriginal reinvented it.
It will take some time to find out which of these two propositions is the
fact. But there is no hurry.
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