Following the Equator, Part 3
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
A JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD
SAMUEL L. CLEMENS
It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three
unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience,
and the prudence never to practice either of them.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Mr. G. called. I had not seen him since Nauheim, Germany--several years
ago; the time that the cholera broke out at Hamburg. We talked of the
people we had known there, or had casually met; and G. said:
"Do you remember my introducing you to an earl--the Earl of C.?"
"Yes. That was the last time I saw you. You and he were in a carriage,
just starting--belated--for the train. I remember it."
"I remember it too, because of a thing which happened then which I was
not looking for. He had told me a while before, about a remarkable and
interesting Californian whom he had met and who was a friend of yours,
and said that if he should ever meet you he would ask you for some
particulars about that Californian. The subject was not mentioned that
day at Nauheim, for we were hurrying away, and there was no time; but the
thing that surprised me was this: when I induced you, you said, 'I am
glad to meet your lordship gain.' The I again' was the surprise. He is
a little hard of hearing, and didn't catch that word, and I thought you
hadn't intended that he should. As we drove off I had only time to say,
'Why, what do you know about him?' and I understood you to say, 'Oh,
nothing, except that he is the quickest judge of----' Then we were gone,
and I didn't get the rest. I wondered what it was that he was such a
quick judge of. I have thought of it many times since, and still
wondered what it could be. He and I talked it over, but could not guess
it out. He thought it must be fox-hounds or horses, for he is a good
judge of those--no one is a better. But you couldn't know that, because
you didn't know him; you had mistaken him for some one else; it must be
that, he said, because he knew you had never met him before. And of
course you hadn't had you?"
"Yes, I had."
"Is that so? Where?"
"At a fox-hunt, in England."
"How curious that is. Why, he hadn't the least recollection of it. Had
you any conversation with him?"
"Well, it left not the least impression upon him. What did you talk
"About the fox. I think that was all."
"Why, that would interest him; that ought to have left an impression.
What did he talk about?"
It's very curious. I don't understand it. Did what he said leave an
impression upon you?"
"Yes. It showed me that he was a quick judge of--however, I will tell
you all about it, then you will understand. It was a quarter of a
century ago 1873 or '74. I had an American friend in London named F.,
who was fond of hunting, and his friends the Blanks invited him and me to
come out to a hunt and be their guests at their country place. In the
morning the mounts were provided, but when I saw the horses I changed my
mind and asked permission to walk. I had never seen an English hunter
before, and it seemed to me that I could hunt a fox safer on the ground.
I had always been diffident about horses, anyway, even those of the
common altitudes, and I did not feel competent to hunt on a horse that
went on stilts. So then Mrs. Blank came to my help and said I could go
with her in the dog-cart and we would drive to a place she knew of, and
there we should have a good glimpse of the hunt as it went by.
"When we got to that place I got out and went and leaned my elbows on a
low stone wall which enclosed a turfy and beautiful great field with
heavy wood on all its sides except ours. Mrs. Blank sat in the dog-cart
fifty yards away, which was as near as she could get with the vehicle.
I was full of interest, for I had never seen a fox-hunt. I waited,
dreaming and imagining, in the deep stillness and impressive tranquility
which reigned in that retired spot. Presently, from away off in the
forest on the left, a mellow bugle-note came floating; then all of a
sudden a multitude of dogs burst out of that forest and went tearing by
and disappeared in the forest on the right; there was a pause, and then
a cloud of horsemen in black caps and crimson coats plunged out of the
left-hand forest and went flaming across the field like a prairie-fire,
a stirring sight to see. There was one man ahead of the rest, and he
came spurring straight at me. He was fiercely excited. It was fine to
see him ride; he was a master horseman. He came like, a storm till he
was within seven feet of me, where I was leaning on the wall, then he
stood his horse straight up in the air on his hind toe-nails, and shouted
like a demon:
"'Which way'd the fox go?'
"I didn't much like the tone, but I did not let on; for he was excited,
you know. But I was calm; so I said softly, and without acrimony:
"It seemed to anger him. I don't know why; and he thundered out:
"'WHICH fox? Why, THE fox? Which way did the FOX go?'
"I said, with great gentleness--even argumentatively:
"'If you could be a little more definite--a little less vague--because I
am a stranger, and there are many foxes, as you will know even better
than I, and unless I know which one it is that you desire to identify,
"'You're certainly the damdest idiot that has escaped in a thousand
years!' and he snatched his great horse around as easily as I would
snatch a cat, and was away like a hurricane. A very excitable man.
"I went back to Mrs. Blank, and she was excited, too--oh, all alive. She
"'He spoke to you!--didn't he?'
"'Yes, it is what happened.'
"'I knew it! I couldn't hear what he said, but I knew be spoke to you! Do
you know who it was? It was Lord C., and he is Master of the Buckhounds!
Tell me--what do you think of him?'
"'Him? Well, for sizing-up a stranger, he's got the most sudden and
accurate judgment of any man I ever saw.'
"It pleased her. I thought it would."
G. got away from Nauheim just in time to escape being shut in by the
quarantine-bars on the frontiers; and so did we, for we left the next
day. But G. had a great deal of trouble in getting by the Italian
custom-house, and we should have fared likewise but for the
thoughtfulness of our consul-general in Frankfort. He introduced me to
the Italian consul-general, and I brought away from that consulate a
letter which made our way smooth. It was a dozen lines merely commending
me in a general way to the courtesies of servants in his Italian
Majesty's service, but it was more powerful than it looked. In addition
to a raft of ordinary baggage, we had six or eight trunks which were
filled exclusively with dutiable stuff--household goods purchased in
Frankfort for use in Florence, where we had taken a house. I was going
to ship these through by express; but at the last moment an order went
throughout Germany forbidding the moving of any parcels by train unless
the owner went with them. This was a bad outlook. We must take these
things along, and the delay sure to be caused by the examination of them
in the custom-house might lose us our train. I imagined all sorts of
terrors, and enlarged them steadily as we approached the Italian
frontier. We were six in number, clogged with all that baggage, and I
was courier for the party the most incapable one they ever employed.
We arrived, and pressed with the crowd into the immense custom-house, and
the usual worries began; everybody crowding to the counter and begging to
have his baggage examined first, and all hands clattering and chattering
at once. It seemed to me that I could do nothing; it would be better to
give it all up and go away and leave the baggage. I couldn't speak the
language; I should never accomplish anything. Just then a tall handsome
man in a fine uniform was passing by and I knew he must be the
station-master--and that reminded me of my letter. I ran to him and put
it into his hands. He took it out of the envelope, and the moment his
eye caught the royal coat of arms printed at its top, he took off his cap
and made a beautiful bow to me, and said in English:
"Which is your baggage? Please show it to me."
I showed him the mountain. Nobody was disturbing it; nobody was
interested in it; all the family's attempts to get attention to it had
failed--except in the case of one of the trunks containing the dutiable
goods. It was just being opened. My officer said:
"There, let that alone! Lock it. Now chalk it. Chalk all of the lot.
Now please come and show the hand-baggage."
He plowed through the waiting crowd, I following, to the counter, and he
gave orders again, in his emphatic military way:
"Chalk these. Chalk all of them."
Then he took off his cap and made that beautiful bow again, and went his
way. By this time these attentions had attracted the wonder of that acre
of passengers, and the whisper had gone around that the royal family were
present getting their baggage chalked; and as we passed down in review on
our way to the door, I was conscious of a pervading atmosphere of envy
which gave me deep satisfaction.
But soon there was an accident. My overcoat pockets were stuffed with
German cigars and linen packages of American smoking tobacco, and a
porter was following us around with this overcoat on his arm, and
gradually getting it upside down. Just as I, in the rear of my family,
moved by the sentinels at the door, about three hatfuls of the tobacco
tumbled out on the floor. One of the soldiers pounced upon it, gathered
it up in his arms, pointed back whence I had come, and marched me ahead
of him past that long wall of passengers again--he chattering and
exulting like a devil, they smiling in peaceful joy, and I trying to look
as if my pride was not hurt, and as if I did not mind being brought to
shame before these pleased people who had so lately envied me. But at
heart I was cruelly humbled.
When I had been marched two-thirds of the long distance and the misery of
it was at the worst, the stately station-master stepped out from
somewhere, and the soldier left me and darted after him and overtook him;
and I could see by the soldier's excited gestures that he was betraying
to him the whole shabby business. The station-master was plainly very
angry. He came striding down toward me, and when he was come near he
began to pour out a stream of indignant Italian; then suddenly took off
his hat and made that beautiful bow and said:
"Oh, it is you! I beg a thousands pardons! This idiot here---" He turned
to the exulting soldier and burst out with a flood of white-hot Italian
lava, and the next moment he was bowing, and the soldier and I were
moving in procession again--he in the lead and ashamed, this time, I with
my chin up. And so we marched by the crowd of fascinated passengers, and
I went forth to the train with the honors of war. Tobacco and all.
Man will do many things to get himself loved, he will do all things to
get himself envied.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Before I saw Australia I had never heard of the "weet-weet" at all.
I met but few men who had seen it thrown--at least I met but few who
mentioned having seen it thrown. Roughly described, it is a fat wooden
cigar with its butt-end fastened to a flexible twig. The whole thing is
only a couple of feet long, and weighs less than two ounces. This
feather--so to call it--is not thrown through the air, but is flung with
an underhanded throw and made to strike the ground a little way in front
of the thrower; then it glances and makes a long skip; glances again,
skips again, and again and again, like the flat stone which a boy sends
skating over the water. The water is smooth, and the stone has a good
chance; so a strong man may make it travel fifty or seventy-five yards;
but the weet-weet has no such good chance, for it strikes sand, grass,
and earth in its course. Yet an expert aboriginal has sent it a measured
distance of two hundred and twenty yards. It would have gone even
further but it encountered rank ferns and underwood on its passage and
they damaged its speed. Two hundred and twenty yards; and so weightless
a toy--a mouse on the end of a bit of wire, in effect; and not sailing
through the accommodating air, but encountering grass and sand and stuff
at every jump. It looks wholly impossible; but Mr. Brough Smyth saw the
feat and did the measuring, and set down the facts in his book about
aboriginal life, which he wrote by command of the Victorian Government.
What is the secret of the feat? No one explains. It cannot be physical
strength, for that could not drive such a feather-weight any distance.
It must be art. But no one explains what the art of it is; nor how it
gets around that law of nature which says you shall not throw any
two-ounce thing 220 yards, either through the air or bumping along the
ground. Rev. J. G. Woods says:
"The distance to which the weet-weet or kangaroo-rat can be thrown is
truly astonishing. I have seen an Australian stand at one side of
Kennington Oval and throw the kangaroo rat completely across it." (Width
of Kensington Oval not stated.) "It darts through the air with the sharp
and menacing hiss of a rifle-ball, its greatest height from the ground
being some seven or eight feet . . . . . . When properly thrown it
looks just like a living animal leaping along . . . . . . Its
movements have a wonderful resemblance to the long leaps of a
kangaroo-rat fleeing in alarm, with its long tail trailing behind it."
The Old Settler said that he had seen distances made by the weet-weet, in
the early days, which almost convinced him that it was as extraordinary
an instrument as the boomerang.
There must have been a large distribution of acuteness among those naked
skinny aboriginals, or they couldn't have been such unapproachable
trackers and boomerangers and weet-weeters. It must have been
race-aversion that put upon them a good deal of the low-rate intellectual
reputation which they bear and have borne this long time in the world's
estimate of them.
They were lazy--always lazy. Perhaps that was their trouble. It is a
killing defect. Surely they could have invented and built a competent
house, but they didn't. And they could have invented and developed the
agricultural arts, but they didn't. They went naked and houseless, and
lived on fish and grubs and worms and wild fruits, and were just plain
savages, for all their smartness.
With a country as big as the United States to live and multiply in, and
with no epidemic diseases among them till the white man came with those
and his other appliances of civilization, it is quite probable that there
was never a day in his history when he could muster 100,000 of his race
in all Australia. He diligently and deliberately kept population down by
infanticide--largely; but mainly by certain other methods. He did not
need to practise these artificialities any more after the white man came.
The white man knew ways of keeping down population which were worth
several of his. The white man knew ways of reducing a native population
80 percent. in 20 years. The native had never seen anything as fine as
For example, there is the case of the country now called Victoria--a
country eighty times as large as Rhode Island, as I have already said.
By the best official guess there were 4,500 aboriginals in it when the
whites came along in the middle of the 'Thirties. Of these, 1,000 lived
in Gippsland, a patch of territory the size of fifteen or sixteen Rhode
Islands: they did not diminish as fast as some of the other communities;
indeed, at the end of forty years there were still 200 of them left. The
Geelong tribe diminished more satisfactorily: from 173 persons it faded
to 34 in twenty years; at the end of another twenty the tribe numbered
one person altogether. The two Melbourne tribes could muster almost 300
when the white man came; they could muster but twenty, thirty-seven years
later, in 1875. In that year there were still odds and ends of tribes
scattered about the colony of Victoria, but I was told that natives of
full blood are very scarce now. It is said that the aboriginals continue
in some force in the huge territory called Queensland.
The early whites were not used to savages. They could not understand the
primary law of savage life: that if a man do you a wrong, his whole tribe
is responsible--each individual of it--and you may take your change out
of any individual of it, without bothering to seek out the guilty one.
When a white killed an aboriginal, the tribe applied the ancient law, and
killed the first white they came across. To the whites this was a
monstrous thing. Extermination seemed to be the proper medicine for such
creatures as this. They did not kill all the blacks, but they promptly
killed enough of them to make their own persons safe. From the dawn of
civilization down to this day the white man has always used that very
precaution. Mrs. Campbell Praed lived in Queensland, as a child, in the
early days, and in her "Sketches of Australian life," we get informing
pictures of the early struggles of the white and the black to reform each
Speaking of pioneer days in the mighty wilderness of Queensland, Mrs.
"At first the natives retreated before the whites; and, except that
they every now and then speared a beast in one of the herds, gave
little cause for uneasiness. But, as the number of squatters
increased, each one taking up miles of country and bringing two or
three men in his train, so that shepherds' huts and stockmen's camps
lay far apart, and defenseless in the midst of hostile tribes, the
Blacks' depredations became more frequent and murder was no unusual
"The loneliness of the Australian bush can hardly be painted in
words. Here extends mile after mile of primeval forest where
perhaps foot of white man has never trod--interminable vistas where
the eucalyptus trees rear their lofty trunks and spread forth their
lanky limbs, from which the red gum oozes and hangs in fantastic
pendants like crimson stalactites; ravines along the sides of which
the long-bladed grass grows rankly; level untimbered plains
alternating with undulating tracts of pasture, here and there broken
by a stony ridge, steep gully, or dried-up creek. All wild, vast
and desolate; all the same monotonous gray coloring, except where
the wattle, when in blossom, shows patches of feathery gold, or a
belt of scrub lies green, glossy, and impenetrable as Indian jungle.
"The solitude seems intensified by the strange sounds of reptiles,
birds, and insects, and by the absence of larger creatures; of which
in the day-time, the only audible signs are the stampede of a herd
of kangaroo, or the rustle of a wallabi, or a dingo stirring the
grass as it creeps to its lair. But there are the whirring of
locusts, the demoniac chuckle of the laughing jack-ass, the
screeching of cockatoos and parrots, the hissing of the frilled
lizard, and the buzzing of innumerable insects hidden under the
dense undergrowth. And then at night, the melancholy wailing of the
curlews, the dismal howling of dingoes, the discordant croaking of
tree-frogs, might well shake the nerves of the solitary watcher."
That is the theater for the drama. When you comprehend one or two other
details, you will perceive how well suited for trouble it was, and how
loudly it invited it. The cattlemen's stations were scattered over that
profound wilderness miles and miles apart--at each station half a dozen
persons. There was a plenty of cattle, the black natives were always
ill-nourished and hungry. The land belonged to them. The whites had not
bought it, and couldn't buy it; for the tribes had no chiefs, nobody in
authority, nobody competent to sell and convey; and the tribes themselves
had no comprehension of the idea of transferable ownership of land. The
ousted owners were despised by the white interlopers, and this opinion
was not hidden under a bushel. More promising materials for a tragedy
could not have been collated. Let Mrs. Praed speak:
"At Nie station, one dark night, the unsuspecting hut-keeper,
having, as he believed, secured himself against assault, was lying
wrapped in his blankets sleeping profoundly. The Blacks crept
stealthily down the chimney and battered in his skull while he
One could guess the whole drama from that little text. The curtain was
up. It would not fall until the mastership of one party or the other was
"There was treachery on both sides. The Blacks killed the Whites
when they found them defenseless, and the Whites slew the Blacks in
a wholesale and promiscuous fashion which offended against my
childish sense of justice.
"They were regarded as little above the level of brutes, and in some
cases were destroyed like vermin.
"Here is an instance. A squatter, whose station was surrounded by
Blacks, whom he suspected to be hostile and from whom he feared an
attack, parleyed with them from his house-door. He told them it was
Christmas-time--a time at which all men, black or white, feasted;
that there were flour, sugar-plums, good things in plenty in the
store, and that he would make for them such a pudding as they had
never dreamed of--a great pudding of which all might eat and be
filled. The Blacks listened and were lost. The pudding was made
and distributed. Next morning there was howling in the camp, for it
had been sweetened with sugar and arsenic!"
The white man's spirit was right, but his method was wrong. His spirit
was the spirit which the civilized white has always exhibited toward the
savage, but the use of poison was a departure from custom. True, it was
merely a technical departure, not a real one; still, it was a departure,
and therefore a mistake, in my opinion. It was better, kinder, swifter,
and much more humane than a number of the methods which have been
sanctified by custom, but that does not justify its employment. That is,
it does not wholly justify it. Its unusual nature makes it stand out and
attract an amount of attention which it is not entitled to. It takes
hold upon morbid imaginations and they work it up into a sort of
exhibition of cruelty, and this smirches the good name of our
civilization, whereas one of the old harsher methods would have had no
such effect because usage has made those methods familiar to us and
innocent. In many countries we have chained the savage and starved him
to death; and this we do not care for, because custom has inured us to
it; yet a quick death by poison is loving-kindness to it. In many
countries we have burned the savage at the stake; and this we do not care
for, because custom has inured us to it; yet a quick death is
loving-kindness to it. In more than one country we have hunted the
savage and his little children and their mother with dogs and guns
through the woods and swamps for an afternoon's sport, and filled the
region with happy laughter over their sprawling and stumbling flight, and
their wild supplications for mercy; but this method we do not mind,
because custom has inured us to it; yet a quick death by poison is
loving-kindness to it. In many countries we have taken the savage's land
from him, and made him our slave, and lashed him every day, and broken
his pride, and made death his only friend, and overworked him till he
dropped in his tracks; and this we do not care for, because custom has
inured us to it; yet a quick death by poison is loving-kindness to it.
In the Matabeleland today--why, there we are confining ourselves to
sanctified custom, we Rhodes-Beit millionaires in South Africa and Dukes
in London; and nobody cares, because we are used to the old holy customs,
and all we ask is that no notice-inviting new ones shall be intruded upon
the attention of our comfortable consciences. Mrs. Praed says of the
poisoner, "That squatter deserves to have his name handed down to the
contempt of posterity."
I am sorry to hear her say that. I myself blame him for one thing, and
severely, but I stop there. I blame him for, the indiscretion of
introducing a novelty which was calculated to attract attention to our
civilization. There was no occasion to do that. It was his duty, and it
is every loyal man's duty to protect that heritage in every way he can;
and the best way to do that is to attract attention elsewhere. The
squatter's judgment was bad--that is plain; but his heart was right. He
is almost the only pioneering representative of civilization in history
who has risen above the prejudices of his caste and his heredity and
tried to introduce the element of mercy into the superior race's dealings
with the savage. His name is lost, and it is a pity; for it deserves to
be handed down to posterity with homage and reverence.
This paragraph is from a London journal:
"To learn what France is doing to spread the blessings of
civilization in her distant dependencies we may turn with advantage
to New Caledonia. With a view to attracting free settlers to that
penal colony, M. Feillet, the Governor, forcibly expropriated the
Kanaka cultivators from the best of their plantations, with a
derisory compensation, in spite of the protests of the Council
General of the island. Such immigrants as could be induced to cross
the seas thus found themselves in possession of thousands of coffee,
cocoa, banana, and bread-fruit trees, the raising of which had cost
the wretched natives years of toil whilst the latter had a few
five-franc pieces to spend in the liquor stores of Noumea."
You observe the combination? It is robbery, humiliation, and slow, slow
murder, through poverty and the white man's whisky. The savage's gentle
friend, the savage's noble friend, the only magnanimous and unselfish
friend the savage has ever had, was not there with the merciful swift
release of his poisoned pudding.
There are many humorous things in the world; among them the white man's
notion that he is less savage than the other savages.--[See Chapter on
Nothing is so ignorant as a man's left hand, except a lady's watch.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
You notice that Mrs. Praed knows her art. She can place a thing before
you so that you can see it. She is not alone in that. Australia is
fertile in writers whose books are faithful mirrors of the life of the
country and of its history. The materials were surprisingly rich, both
in quality and in mass, and Marcus Clarke, Ralph Boldrewood, Cordon,
Kendall, and the others, have built out of them a brilliant and vigorous
literature, and one which must endure. Materials--there is no end to
them! Why, a literature might be made out of the aboriginal all by
himself, his character and ways are so freckled with varieties--varieties
not staled by familiarity, but new to us. You do not need to invent any
picturesquenesses; whatever you want in that line he can furnish you; and
they will not be fancies and doubtful, but realities and authentic. In
his history, as preserved by the white man's official records, he is
everything--everything that a human creature can be. He covers the
entire ground. He is a coward--there are a thousand fact to prove it.
He is brave--there are a thousand facts to prove it. He is treacherous
--oh, beyond imagination! he is faithful, loyal, true--the white man's
records supply you with a harvest of instances of it that are noble,
worshipful, and pathetically beautiful. He kills the starving stranger
who comes begging for food and shelter there is proof of it. He succors,
and feeds, and guides to safety, to-day, the lost stranger who fired on
him only yesterday--there is proof of it. He takes his reluctant bride
by force, he courts her with a club, then loves her faithfully through a
long life--it is of record. He gathers to himself another wife by the
same processes, beats and bangs her as a daily diversion, and by and by
lays down his life in defending her from some outside harm--it is of
record. He will face a hundred hostiles to rescue one of his children,
and will kill another of his children because the family is large enough
without it. His delicate stomach turns, at certain details of the white
man's food; but he likes over-ripe fish, and brazed dog, and cat, and
rat, and will eat his own uncle with relish. He is a sociable animal,
yet he turns aside and hides behind his shield when his mother-in-law
goes by. He is childishly afraid of ghosts and other trivialities that
menace his soul, but dread of physical pain is a weakness which he is not
acquainted with. He knows all the great and many of the little
constellations, and has names for them; he has a symbol-writing by means
of which he can convey messages far and wide among the tribes; he has a
correct eye for form and expression, and draws a good picture; he can
track a fugitive by delicate traces which the white man's eye cannot
discern, and by methods which the finest white intelligence cannot
master; he makes a missile which science itself cannot duplicate without
the model--if with it; a missile whose secret baffled and defeated the
searchings and theorizings of the white mathematicians for seventy years;
and by an art all his own he performs miracles with it which the white
man cannot approach untaught, nor parallel after teaching. Within
certain limits this savage's intellect is the alertest and the brightest
known to history or tradition; and yet the poor creature was never able
to invent a counting system that would reach above five, nor a vessel
that he could boil water in. He is the prize-curiosity of all the races.
To all intents and purposes he is dead--in the body; but he has features
that will live in literature.
Mr. Philip Chauncy, an officer of the Victorian Government, contributed
to its archives a report of his personal observations of the aboriginals
which has in it some things which I wish to condense slightly and insert
here. He speaks of the quickness of their eyes and the accuracy of their
judgment of the direction of approaching missiles as being quite
extraordinary, and of the answering suppleness and accuracy of limb and
muscle in avoiding the missile as being extraordinary also. He has seen
an aboriginal stand as a target for cricket-balls thrown with great force
ten or fifteen yards, by professional bowlers, and successfully dodge
them or parry them with his shield during about half an hour. One of
those balls, properly placed, could have killed him; "Yet he depended,
with the utmost self-possession, on the quickness of his eye and his
The shield was the customary war-shield of his race, and would not be a
protection to you or to me. It is no broader than a stovepipe, and is
about as long as a man's arm. The opposing surface is not flat, but
slopes away from the centerline like a boat's bow. The difficulty about
a cricket-ball that has been thrown with a scientific "twist" is, that it
suddenly changes it course when it is close to its target and comes
straight for the mark when apparently it was going overhead or to one
side. I should not be able to protect myself from such balls for
half-an-hour, or less.
Mr. Chauncy once saw "a little native man" throw a cricket-ball 119
yards. This is said to beat the English professional record by thirteen
We have all seen the circus-man bound into the air from a spring-board
and make a somersault over eight horses standing side by side. Mr.
Chauncy saw an aboriginal do it over eleven; and was assured that he had
sometimes done it over fourteen. But what is that to this:
"I saw the same man leap from the ground, and in going over he
dipped his head, unaided by his hands, into a hat placed in an
inverted position on the top of the head of another man sitting
upright on horseback--both man and horse being of the average size.
The native landed on the other side of the horse with the hat fairly
on his head. The prodigious height of the leap, and the precision
with which it was taken so as to enable him to dip his head into the
hat, exceeded any feat of the kind I have ever beheld."
I should think so! On board a ship lately I saw a young Oxford athlete
run four steps and spring into the air and squirm his hips by a
side-twist over a bar that was five and one-half feet high; but he could
not have stood still and cleared a bar that was four feet high. I know
this, because I tried it myself.
One can see now where the kangaroo learned its art.
Sir George Grey and Mr. Eyre testify that the natives dug wells fourteen
or fifteen feet deep and two feet in diameter at the bore--dug them in
the sand--wells that were "quite circular, carried straight down, and the
work beautifully executed."
Their tools were their hands and feet. How did they throw sand out from
such a depth? How could they stoop down and get it, with only two feet
of space to stoop in? How did they keep that sand-pipe from caving in
on them? I do not know. Still, they did manage those seeming
impossibilities. Swallowed the sand, may be.
Mr. Chauncy speaks highly of the patience and skill and alert
intelligence of the native huntsman when he is stalking the emu, the
kangaroo, and other game:
"As he walks through the bush his step is light, elastic, and
noiseless; every track on the earth catches his keen eye; a leaf, or
fragment of a stick turned, or a blade of grass recently bent by the
tread of one of the lower animals, instantly arrests his attention;
in fact, nothing escapes his quick and powerful sight on the ground,
in the trees, or in the distance, which may supply him with a meal
or warn him of danger. A little examination of the trunk of a tree
which may be nearly covered with the scratches of opossums ascending
and descending is sufficient to inform him whether one went up the
night before without coming down again or not."
Fennimore Cooper lost his chance. He would have known how to value these
people. He wouldn't have traded the dullest of them for the brightest
Mohawk he ever invented.
All savages draw outline pictures upon bark; but the resemblances are not
close, and expression is usually lacking. But the Australian
aboriginal's pictures of animals were nicely accurate in form, attitude,
carriage; and he put spirit into them, and expression. And his pictures
of white people and natives were pretty nearly as good as his pictures of
the other animals. He dressed his whites in the fashion of their day,
both the ladies and the gentlemen. As an untaught wielder of the pencil
it is not likely that he has had his equal among savage people.
His place in art--as to drawing, not color-work--is well up, all things
considered. His art is not to be classified with savage art at all, but
on a plane two degrees above it and one degree above the lowest plane of
civilized art. To be exact, his place in art is between Botticelli and
De Maurier. That is to say, he could not draw as well as De Maurier but
better than Boticelli. In feeling, he resembles both; also in grouping
and in his preferences in the matter of subjects. His "corrobboree" of
the Australian wilds reappears in De Maurier's Belgravian ballrooms, with
clothes and the smirk of civilization added; Botticelli's "Spring" is the
"corrobboree" further idealized, but with fewer clothes and more smirk.
And well enough as to intention, but--my word!
The aboriginal can make a fire by friction. I have tried that.
All savages are able to stand a good deal of physical pain. The
Australian aboriginal has this quality in a well-developed degree. Do
not read the following instances if horrors are not pleasant to you.
They were recorded by the Rev. Henry N. Wolloston, of Melbourne, who had
been a surgeon before he became a clergyman:
1. "In the summer of 1852 I started on horseback from Albany, King
George's Sound, to visit at Cape Riche, accompanied by a native on
foot. We traveled about forty miles the first day, then camped by a
water-hole for the night. After cooking and eating our supper, I
observed the native, who had said nothing to me on the subject,
collect the hot embers of the fire together, and deliberately place
his right foot in the glowing mass for a moment, then suddenly
withdraw it, stamping on the ground and uttering a long-drawn
guttural sound of mingled pain and satisfaction. This operation he
repeated several times. On my inquiring the meaning of his strange
conduct, he only said, 'Me carpenter-make 'em' ('I am mending my
foot'), and then showed me his charred great toe, the nail of which
had been torn off by a tea-tree stump, in which it had been caught
during the journey, and the pain of which he had borne with stoical
composure until the evening, when he had an opportunity of
cauterizing the wound in the primitive manner above described."
And he proceeded on the journey the next day, "as if nothing had
happened"--and walked thirty miles. It was a strange idea, to keep a
surgeon and then do his own surgery.
2. "A native about twenty-five years of age once applied to me, as
a doctor, to extract the wooden barb of a spear, which, during a
fight in the bush some four months previously, had entered his
chest, just missing the heart, and penetrated the viscera to a
considerable depth. The spear had been cut off, leaving the barb
behind, which continued to force its way by muscular action
gradually toward the back; and when I examined him I could feel a
hard substance between the ribs below the left blade-bone. I made a
deep incision, and with a pair of forceps extracted the barb, which
was made, as usual, of hard wood about four inches long and from
half an inch to an inch thick. It was very smooth, and partly
digested, so to speak, by the maceration to which it had been
exposed during its four months' journey through the body. The wound
made by the spear had long since healed, leaving only a small
cicatrix; and after the operation, which the native bore without
flinching, he appeared to suffer no pain. Indeed, judging from his
good state of health, the presence of the foreign matter did not
materially annoy him. He was perfectly well in a few days."
But No. 3 is my favorite. Whenever I read it I seem to enjoy all that
the patient enjoyed--whatever it was:
3. "Once at King George's Sound a native presented himself to me
with one leg only, and requested me to supply him with a wooden leg.
He had traveled in this maimed state about ninety-six miles, for
this purpose. I examined the limb, which had been severed just
below the knee, and found that it had been charred by fire, while
about two inches of the partially calcined bone protruded through
the flesh. I at once removed this with the saw; and having made as
presentable a stump of it as I could, covered the amputated end of
the bone with a surrounding of muscle, and kept the patient a few
days under my care to allow the wound to heal. On inquiring, the
native told me that in a fight with other black-fellows a spear had
struck his leg and penetrated the bone below the knee. Finding it
was serious, he had recourse to the following crude and barbarous
operation, which it appears is not uncommon among these people in
their native state. He made a fire, and dug a hole in the earth
only sufficiently large to admit his leg, and deep enough to allow
the wounded part to be on a level with the surface of the ground.
He then surrounded the limb with the live coals or charcoal, which
was replenished until the leg was literally burnt off. The
cauterization thus applied completely checked the hemorrhage, and he
was able in a day or two to hobble down to the Sound, with the aid
of a long stout stick, although he was more than a week on the
But he was a fastidious native. He soon discarded the wooden leg made
for him by the doctor, because "it had no feeling in it." It must have
had as much as the one he burnt off, I should think.
So much for the Aboriginals. It is difficult for me to let them alone.
They are marvelously interesting creatures. For a quarter of a century,
now, the several colonial governments have housed their remnants in
comfortable stations, and fed them well and taken good care of them in
every way. If I had found this out while I was in Australia I could have
seen some of those people--but I didn't. I would walk thirty miles to
see a stuffed one.
Australia has a slang of its own. This is a matter of course. The vast
cattle and sheep industries, the strange aspects of the country, and the
strange native animals, brute and human, are matters which would
naturally breed a local slang. I have notes of this slang somewhere, but
at the moment I can call to mind only a few of the words and phrases.
They are expressive ones. The wide, sterile, unpeopled deserts have
created eloquent phrases like "No Man's Land" and the "Never-never
Country." Also this felicitous form: "She lives in the Never-never
Country"--that is, she is an old maid. And this one is not without
merit: "heifer-paddock"--young ladies' seminary. "Bail up" and "stick
up" equivalent of our highwayman-term to "hold up" a stage-coach or a
train. "New-chum" is the equivalent of our "tenderfoot"--new arrival.
And then there is the immortal "My word!" "We must import it."
"In cold print it is the equivalent of our "Ger-rreat Caesar!" but spoken
with the proper Australian unction and fervency, it is worth six of it
for grace and charm and expressiveness. Our form is rude and explosive;
it is not suited to the drawing-room or the heifer-paddock; but "M-y
word!" is, and is music to the ear, too, when the utterer knows how to
say it. I saw it in print several times on the Pacific Ocean, but it
struck me coldly, it aroused no sympathy. That was because it was the
dead corpse of the thing, the 'soul was not there--the tones were
lacking--the informing spirit--the deep feeling--the eloquence. But the
first time I heard an Australian say it, it was positively thrilling.
Be careless in your dress if you must, but keep a tidy soul.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
We left Adelaide in due course, and went to Horsham, in the colony of
Victoria; a good deal of a journey, if I remember rightly, but pleasant.
Horsham sits in a plain which is as level as a floor--one of those famous
dead levels which Australian books describe so often; gray, bare, sombre,
melancholy, baked, cracked, in the tedious long drouths, but a
horizonless ocean of vivid green grass the day after a rain. A country
town, peaceful, reposeful, inviting, full of snug homes, with garden
plots, and plenty of shrubbery and flowers.
"Horsham, October 17.
At the hotel. The weather divine. Across the way, in front of the
London Bank of Australia, is a very handsome cottonwood. It is in
opulent leaf, and every leaf perfect. The full power of the on-rushing
spring is upon it, and I imagine I can see it grow. Alongside the bank
and a little way back in the garden there is a row of soaring
fountain-sprays of delicate feathery foliage quivering in the breeze, and
mottled with flashes of light that shift and play through the mass like
flash-lights through an opal--a most beautiful tree, and a striking
contrast to the cottonwood. Every leaf of the cottonwood is distinctly
defined--it is a kodak for faithful, hard, unsentimental detail; the
other an impressionist picture, delicious to look upon, full of a subtle
and exquisite charm, but all details fused in a swoon of vague and soft
It turned out, upon inquiry, to be a pepper tree--an importation from
China. It has a silky sheen, soft and rich. I saw some that had long
red bunches of currant-like berries ambushed among the foliage. At a
distance, in certain lights, they give the tree a pinkish tint and a new
There is an agricultural college eight miles from Horsham. We were
driven out to it by its chief. The conveyance was an open wagon; the
time, noonday; no wind; the sky without a cloud, the sunshine brilliant
--and the mercury at 92 deg. in the shade. In some countries an indolent
unsheltered drive of an hour and a half under such conditions would have
been a sweltering and prostrating experience; but there was nothing of
that in this case. It is a climate that is perfect. There was no sense
of heat; indeed, there was no heat; the air was fine and pure and
exhilarating; if the drive had lasted half a day I think we should not
have felt any discomfort, or grown silent or droopy or tired. Of course,
the secret of it was the exceeding dryness of the atmosphere. In that
plain 112 deg. in the shade is without doubt no harder upon a man than is
88 or 90 deg. in New York.
The road lay through the middle of an empty space which seemed to me to
be a hundred yards wide between the fences. I was not given the width in
yards, but only in chains and perches--and furlongs, I think. I would
have given a good deal to know what the width was, but I did not pursue
the matter. I think it is best to put up with information the way you
get it; and seem satisfied with it, and surprised at it, and grateful for
it, and say, "My word!" and never let on. It was a wide space; I could
tell you how wide, in chains and perches and furlongs and things, but
that would not help you any. Those things sound well, but they are
shadowy and indefinite, like troy weight and avoirdupois; nobody knows
what they mean. When you buy a pound of a drug and the man asks you
which you want, troy or avoirdupois, it is best to say "Yes," and shift
They said that the wide space dates from the earliest sheep and
cattle-raising days. People had to drive their stock long distances
--immense journeys--from worn-out places to new ones where were water
and fresh pasturage; and this wide space had to be left in grass and
unfenced, or the stock would have starved to death in the transit.
On the way we saw the usual birds--the beautiful little green parrots,
the magpie, and some others; and also the slender native bird of modest
plumage and the eternally-forgettable name--the bird that is the smartest
among birds, and can give a parrot 30 to 1 in the game and then talk him
to death. I cannot recall that bird's name. I think it begins with M.
I wish it began with G. or something that a person can remember.
The magpie was out in great force, in the fields and on the fences. He
is a handsome large creature, with snowy white decorations, and is a
singer; he has a murmurous rich note that is lovely. He was once modest,
even diffident; but he lost all that when he found out that he was
Australia's sole musical bird. He has talent, and cuteness, and
impudence; and in his tame state he is a most satisfactory pet--never
coming when he is called, always coming when he isn't, and studying
disobedience as an accomplishment. He is not confined, but loafs all
over the house and grounds, like the laughing jackass. I think he learns
to talk, I know he learns to sing tunes, and his friends say that he
knows how to steal without learning. I was acquainted with a tame magpie
in Melbourne. He had lived in a lady's house several years, and believed
he owned it. The lady had tamed him, and in return he had tamed the
lady. He was always on deck when not wanted, always having his own way,
always tyrannizing over the dog, and always making the cat's life a slow
sorrow and a martyrdom. He knew a number of tunes and could sing them in
perfect time and tune; and would do it, too, at any time that silence was
wanted; and then encore himself and do it again; but if he was asked to
sing he would go out and take a walk.
It was long believed that fruit trees would not grow in that baked and
waterless plain around Horsham, but the agricultural college has
dissipated that idea. Its ample nurseries were producing oranges,
apricots, lemons, almonds, peaches, cherries, 48 varieties of apples--in
fact, all manner of fruits, and in abundance. The trees did not seem to
miss the water; they were in vigorous and flourishing condition.
Experiments are made with different soils, to see what things thrive best
in them and what climates are best for them. A man who is ignorantly
trying to produce upon his farm things not suited to its soil and its
other conditions can make a journey to the college from anywhere in
Australia, and go back with a change of scheme which will make his farm
productive and profitable.
There were forty pupils there--a few of them farmers, relearning their
trade, the rest young men mainly from the cities--novices. It seemed a
strange thing that an agricultural college should have an attraction for
city-bred youths, but such is the fact. They are good stuff, too; they
are above the agricultural average of intelligence, and they come without
any inherited prejudices in favor of hoary ignorances made sacred by long
The students work all day in the fields, the nurseries, and the
shearing-sheds, learning and doing all the practical work of the
business--three days in a week. On the other three they study and hear
lectures. They are taught the beginnings of such sciences as bear upon
agriculture--like chemistry, for instance. We saw the sophomore class in
sheep-shearing shear a dozen sheep. They did it by hand, not with the
machine. The sheep was seized and flung down on his side and held there;
and the students took off his coat with great celerity and adroitness.
Sometimes they clipped off a sample of the sheep, but that is customary
with shearers, and they don't mind it; they don't even mind it as much as
the sheep. They dab a splotch of sheep-dip on the place and go right
The coat of wool was unbelievably thick. Before the shearing the sheep
looked like the fat woman in the circus; after it he looked like a bench.
He was clipped to the skin; and smoothly and uniformly. The fleece comes
from him all in one piece and has the spread of a blanket.
The college was flying the Australian flag--the gridiron of England
smuggled up in the northwest corner of a big red field that had the
random stars of the Southern Cross wandering around over it.
From Horsham we went to Stawell. By rail. Still in the colony of
Victoria. Stawell is in the gold-mining country. In the bank-safe was
half a peck of surface-gold--gold dust, grain gold; rich; pure in fact,
and pleasant to sift through one's fingers; and would be pleasanter if it
would stick. And there were a couple of gold bricks, very heavy to
handle, and worth $7,500 a piece. They were from a very valuable quartz
mine; a lady owns two-thirds of it; she has an income of $75,000 a month
from it, and is able to keep house.
The Stawell region is not productive of gold only; it has great
vineyards, and produces exceptionally fine wines. One of these
vineyards--the Great Western, owned by Mr. Irving--is regarded as a
model. Its product has reputation abroad. It yields a choice champagne
and a fine claret, and its hock took a prize in France two or three years
ago. The champagne is kept in a maze of passages under ground, cut in
the rock, to secure it an even temperature during the three-year term
required to perfect it. In those vaults I saw 120,000 bottles of
champagne. The colony of Victoria has a population of 1,000,000, and
those people are said to drink 25,000,000 bottles of champagne per year.
The dryest community on the earth. The government has lately reduced the
duty upon foreign wines. That is one of the unkindnesses of Protection.
A man invests years of work and a vast sum of money in a worthy
enterprise, upon the faith of existing laws; then the law is changed, and
the man is robbed by his own government.
On the way back to Stawell we had a chance to see a group of boulders
called the Three Sisters--a curiosity oddly located; for it was upon high
ground, with the land sloping away from it, and no height above it from
whence the boulders could have rolled down. Relics of an early
ice-drift, perhaps. They are noble boulders. One of them has the size
and smoothness and plump sphericity of a balloon of the biggest pattern.
The road led through a forest of great gum-trees, lean and scraggy and
sorrowful. The road was cream-white--a clayey kind of earth, apparently.
Along it toiled occasional freight wagons, drawn by long double files of
oxen. Those wagons were going a journey of two hundred miles, I was
told, and were running a successful opposition to the railway! The
railways are owned and run by the government.
Those sad gums stood up out of the dry white clay, pictures of patience
and resignation. It is a tree that can get along without water; still it
is fond of it--ravenously so. It is a very intelligent tree and will
detect the presence of hidden water at a distance of fifty feet, and send
out slender long root-fibres to prospect it. They will find it; and will
also get at it even through a cement wall six inches thick. Once a
cement water-pipe under ground at Stawell began to gradually reduce its
output, and finally ceased altogether to deliver water. Upon examining
into the matter it was found stopped up, wadded compactly with a mass of
root-fibres, delicate and hair-like. How this stuff had gotten into the
pipe was a puzzle for some little time; finally it was found that it had
crept in through a crack that was almost invisible to the eye. A gum
tree forty feet away had tapped the pipe and was drinking the water.
There is no such thing as "the Queen's English." The property has gone
into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Frequently, in Australia, one has cloud-effects of an unfamiliar sort.
We had this kind of scenery, finely staged, all the way to Ballarat.
Consequently we saw more sky than country on that journey. At one time a
great stretch of the vault was densely flecked with wee ragged-edged
flakes of painfully white cloud-stuff, all of one shape and size, and
equidistant apart, with narrow cracks of adorable blue showing between.
The whole was suggestive of a hurricane of snow-flakes drifting across
the skies. By and by these flakes fused themselves together in
interminable lines, with shady faint hollows between the lines, the long
satin-surfaced rollers following each other in simulated movement, and
enchantingly counterfeiting the majestic march of a flowing sea. Later,
the sea solidified itself; then gradually broke up its mass into
innumerable lofty white pillars of about one size, and ranged these
across the firmament, in receding and fading perspective, in the
similitude of a stupendous colonnade--a mirage without a doubt flung from
the far Gates of the Hereafter.
The approaches to Ballarat were beautiful. The features, great green
expanses of rolling pasture-land, bisected by eye contenting hedges of
commingled new-gold and old-gold gorse--and a lovely lake. One must put
in the pause, there, to fetch the reader up with a slight jolt, and keep
him from gliding by without noticing the lake. One must notice it; for a
lovely lake is not as common a thing along the railways of Australia as
are the dry places. Ninety-two in the shade again, but balmy and
comfortable, fresh and bracing. A perfect climate.
Forty-five years ago the site now occupied by the City of Ballarat was a
sylvan solitude as quiet as Eden and as lovely. Nobody had ever heard of
it. On the 25th of August, 1851, the first great gold-strike made in
Australia was made here. The wandering prospectors who made it scraped
up two pounds and a half of gold the first day-worth $600. A few days
later the place was a hive--a town. The news of the strike spread
everywhere in a sort of instantaneous way--spread like a flash to the
very ends of the earth. A celebrity so prompt and so universal has
hardly been paralleled in history, perhaps. It was as if the name
BALLARAT had suddenly been written on the sky, where all the world could
read it at once.
The smaller discoveries made in the colony of New South Wales three
months before had already started emigrants toward Australia; they had
been coming as a stream, but they came as a flood, now. A hundred
thousand people poured into Melbourne from England and other countries in
a single month, and flocked away to the mines. The crews of the ships
that brought them flocked with them; the clerks in the government offices
followed; so did the cooks, the maids, the coachmen, the butlers, and the
other domestic servants; so did the carpenters, the smiths, the plumbers,
the painters, the reporters, the editors, the lawyers, the clients, the
barkeepers, the bummers, the blacklegs, the thieves, the loose women, the
grocers, the butchers, the bakers, the doctors, the druggists, the
nurses; so did the police; even officials of high and hitherto envied
place threw up their positions and joined the procession. This roaring
avalanche swept out of Melbourne and left it desolate, Sunday-like,
paralyzed, everything at a stand-still, the ships lying idle at anchor,
all signs of life departed, all sounds stilled save the rasping of the
cloud-shadows as they scraped across the vacant streets.
That grassy and leafy paradise at Ballarat was soon ripped open, and
lacerated and scarified and gutted, in the feverish search for its hidden
riches. There is nothing like surface-mining to snatch the graces and
beauties and benignities out of a paradise, and make an odious and
repulsive spectacle of it.
What fortunes were made! Immigrants got rich while the ship unloaded and
reloaded--and went back home for good in the same cabin they had come out
in! Not all of them. Only some. I saw the others in Ballarat myself,
forty-five years later--what were left of them by time and death and the
disposition to rove. They were young and gay, then; they are patriarchal
and grave, now; and they do not get excited any more. They talk of the
Past. They live in it. Their life is a dream, a retrospection.
Ballarat was a great region for "nuggets." No such nuggets were found in
California as Ballarat produced. In fact, the Ballarat region has
yielded the largest ones known to history. Two of them weighed about 180
pounds each, and together were worth $90,000. They were offered to any
poor person who would shoulder them and carry them away. Gold was so
plentiful that it made people liberal like that.
Ballarat was a swarming city of tents in the early days. Everybody was
happy, for a time, and apparently prosperous. Then came trouble. The
government swooped down with a mining tax. And in its worst form, too;
for it was not a tax upon what the miner had taken out, but upon what he
was going to take out--if he could find it. It was a license-tax license
to work his claim--and it had to be paid before he could begin digging.
Consider the situation. No business is so uncertain as surface-mining.
Your claim may be good, and it may be worthless. It may make you well
off in a month; and then again you may have to dig and slave for half a
year, at heavy expense, only to find out at last that the gold is not
there in cost-paying quantity, and that your time and your hard work have
been thrown away. It might be wise policy to advance the miner a monthly
sum to encourage him to develop the country's riches; but to tax him
monthly in advance instead--why, such a thing was never dreamed of in
America. There, neither the claim itself nor its products, howsoever
rich or poor, were taxed.
The Ballarat miners protested, petitioned, complained--it was of no use;
the government held its ground, and went on collecting the tax. And not
by pleasant methods, but by ways which must have been very galling to
free people. The rumblings of a coming storm began to be audible.
By and by there was a result; and I think it may be called the finest
thing in Australasian history. It was a revolution--small in size; but
great politically; it was a strike for liberty, a struggle for a
principle, a stand against injustice and oppression. It was the Barons
and John, over again; it was Hampden and Ship-Money; it was Concord and
Lexington; small beginnings, all of them, but all of them great in
political results, all of them epoch-making. It is another instance of a
victory won by a lost battle. It adds an honorable page to history; the
people know it and are proud of it. They keep green the memory of the
men who fell at the Eureka Stockade, and Peter Lalor has his monument.
The surface-soil of Ballarat was full of gold. This soil the miners
ripped and tore and trenched and harried and disembowled, and made it
yield up its immense treasure. Then they went down into the earth with
deep shafts, seeking the gravelly beds of ancient rivers and brooks--and
found them. They followed the courses of these streams, and gutted them,
sending the gravel up in buckets to the upper world, and washing out of
it its enormous deposits of gold. The next biggest of the two monster
nuggets mentioned above came from an old river-channel 180 feet under
Finally the quartz lodes were attacked. That is not poor-man's mining.
Quartz-mining and milling require capital, and staying-power, and
patience. Big companies were formed, and for several decades, now, the
lodes have been successfully worked, and have yielded great wealth.
Since the gold discovery in 1853 the Ballarat mines--taking the three
kinds of mining together--have contributed to the world's pocket
something over three hundred millions of dollars, which is to say that
this nearly invisible little spot on the earth's surface has yielded
about one-fourth as much gold in forty-four years as all California has
yielded in forty-seven. The Californian aggregate, from 1848 to 1895,
inclusive, as reported by the Statistician of the United States Mint, is
A citizen told me a curious thing about those mines. With all my
experience of mining I had never heard of anything of the sort before.
The main gold reef runs about north and south--of course for that is the
custom of a rich gold reef. At Ballarat its course is between walls of
slate. Now the citizen told me that throughout a stretch of twelve miles
along the reef, the reef is crossed at intervals by a straight black
streak of a carbonaceous nature--a streak in the slate; a streak no
thicker than a pencil--and that wherever it crosses the reef you will
certainly find gold at the junction. It is called the Indicator. Thirty
feet on each side of the Indicator (and down in the slate, of course) is
a still finer streak--a streak as fine as a pencil mark; and indeed, that
is its name Pencil Mark. Whenever you find the Pencil Mark you know that
thirty feet from it is the Indicator; you measure the distance, excavate,
find the Indicator, trace it straight to the reef, and sink your shaft;
your fortune is made, for certain. If that is true, it is curious. And
it is curious anyway.
Ballarat is a town of only 40,000 population; and yet, since it is in
Australia, it has every essential of an advanced and enlightened big
city. This is pure matter of course. I must stop dwelling upon these
things. It is hard to keep from dwelling upon them, though; for it is
difficult to get away from the surprise of it. I will let the other
details go, this time, but I must allow myself to mention that this
little town has a park of 326 acres; a flower garden of 83 acres, with an
elaborate and expensive fernery in it and some costly and unusually fine
statuary; and an artificial lake covering 600 acres, equipped with a
fleet of 200 shells, small sail boats, and little steam yachts.
At this point I strike out some other praiseful things which I was
tempted to add. I do not strike them out because they were not true or
not well said, but because I find them better said by another man--and a
man more competent to testify, too, because he belongs on the ground, and
knows. I clip them from a chatty speech delivered some years ago by Mr.
William Little, who was at that time mayor of Ballarat:
"The language of our citizens, in this as in other parts of
Australasia, is mostly healthy Anglo-Saxon, free from Americanisms,
vulgarisms, and the conflicting dialects of our Fatherland, and is
pure enough to suit a Trench or a Latham. Our youth, aided by
climatic influence, are in point of physique and comeliness
unsurpassed in the Sunny South. Our young men are well ordered; and
our maidens, 'not stepping over the bounds of modesty,' are as fair
as Psyches, dispensing smiles as charming as November flowers."
The closing clause has the seeming of a rather frosty compliment, but
that is apparent only, not real. November is summer-time there.
His compliment to the local purity of the language is warranted. It is
quite free from impurities; this is acknowledged far and wide. As in the
German Empire all cultivated people claim to speak Hanovarian German, so
in Australasia all cultivated people claim to speak Ballarat English.
Even in England this cult has made considerable progress, and now that it
is favored by the two great Universities, the time is not far away when
Ballarat English will come into general use among the educated classes of
Great Britain at large. Its great merit is, that it is shorter than
ordinary English--that is, it is more compressed. At first you have some
difficulty in understanding it when it is spoken as rapidly as the orator
whom I have quoted speaks it. An illustration will show what I mean.
When he called and I handed him a chair, he bowed and said:
Presently, when we were lighting our cigars, he held a match to mine and
"Thank you," and he said:
Then I saw. 'Q' is the end of the phrase "I thank you" 'Km' is the end
of the phrase "You are welcome." Mr. Little puts no emphasis upon either
of them, but delivers them so reduced that they hardly have a sound. All
Ballarat English is like that, and the effect is very soft and pleasant;
it takes all the hardness and harshness out of our tongue and gives to it
a delicate whispery and vanishing cadence which charms the ear like the
faint rustling of the forest leaves.
"Classic." A book which people praise and don't read.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
On the rail again--bound for Bendigo. From diary:
October 23. Got up at 6, left at 7.30; soon reached Castlemaine, one of
the rich gold-fields of the early days; waited several hours for a train;
left at 3.40 and reached Bendigo in an hour. For comrade, a Catholic
priest who was better than I was, but didn't seem to know it--a man full
of graces of the heart, the mind, and the spirit; a lovable man. He will
rise. He will be a bishop some day. Later an Archbishop. Later a
Cardinal. Finally an Archangel, I hope. And then he will recall me when
I say, "Do you remember that trip we made from Ballarat to Bendigo, when
you were nothing but Father C., and I was nothing to what I am now?"
It has actually taken nine hours to come from Ballarat to Bendigo. We
could have saved seven by walking. However, there was no hurry.
Bendigo was another of the rich strikes of the early days. It does a
great quartz-mining business, now--that business which, more than any
other that I know of, teaches patience, and requires grit and a steady
nerve. The town is full of towering chimney-stacks, and hoisting-works,
and looks like a petroleum-city. Speaking of patience; for example, one
of the local companies went steadily on with its deep borings and
searchings without show of gold or a penny of reward for eleven years
--then struck it, and became suddenly rich. The eleven years' work had
cost $55,000, and the first gold found was a grain the size of a pin's
head. It is kept under locks and bars, as a precious thing, and is
reverently shown to the visitor, "hats off." When I saw it I had not
heard its history.
"It is gold. Examine it--take the glass. Now how much should you say it
"I should say about two cents; or in your English dialect, four
"Well, it cost L11,000."
"Yes, it did. Ballarat and Bendigo have produced the three monumental
nuggets of the world, and this one is the monumentalest one of the three.
The other two represent 19,000 a piece; this one a couple of thousand
more. It is small, and not much to look at, but it is entitled to (its)
name--Adam. It is the Adam-nugget of this mine, and its children run up
into the millions."
Speaking of patience again, another of the mines was worked, under heavy
expenses, during 17 years before pay was struck, and still another one
compelled a wait of 21 years before pay was struck; then, in both
instances, the outlay was all back in a year or two, with compound
Bendigo has turned out even more gold than Ballarat. The two together
have produced $650,000,000 worth--which is half as much as California has
It was through Mr. Blank--not to go into particulars about his name--it
was mainly through Mr. Blank that my stay in Bendigo was made memorably
pleasant and interesting. He explained this to me himself. He told me
that it was through his influence that the city government invited me to
the town-hall to hear complimentary speeches and respond to them; that it
was through his influence that I had been taken on a long pleasure-drive
through the city and shown its notable features; that it was through his
influence that I was invited to visit the great mines; that it was
through his influence that I was taken to the hospital and allowed to see
the convalescent Chinaman who had been attacked at midnight in his lonely
hut eight weeks before by robbers, and stabbed forty-six times and
scalped besides; that it was through his influence that when I arrived
this awful spectacle of piecings and patchings and bandagings was sitting
up in his cot letting on to read one of my books; that it was through his
influence that efforts had been made to get the Catholic Archbishop of
Bendigo to invite me to dinner; that it was through his influence that
efforts had been made to get the Anglican Bishop of Bendigo to ask me to
supper; that it was through his influence that the dean of the editorial
fraternity had driven me through the woodsy outlying country and shown
me, from the summit of Lone Tree Hill, the mightiest and loveliest
expanse of forest-clad mountain and valley that I had seen in all
Australia. And when he asked me what had most impressed me in Bendigo
and I answered and said it was the taste and the public spirit which had
adorned the streets with 105 miles of shade trees, he said that it was
through his influence that it had been done.
But I am not representing him quite correctly. He did not say it was
through his influence that all these things had happened--for that would
have been coarse; be merely conveyed that idea; conveyed it so subtly
that I only caught it fleetingly, as one catches vagrant faint breaths of
perfume when one traverses the meadows in summer; conveyed it without
offense and without any suggestion of egoism or ostentation--but conveyed
He was an Irishman; an educated gentleman; grave, and kindly, and
courteous; a bachelor, and about forty-five or possibly fifty years old,
apparently. He called upon me at the hotel, and it was there that we had
this talk. He made me like him, and did it without trouble. This was
partly through his winning and gentle ways, but mainly through the
amazing familiarity with my books which his conversation showed. He was
down to date with them, too; and if he had made them the study of his
life he could hardly have been better posted as to their contents than he
was. He made me better satisfied with myself than I had ever been
before. It was plain that he had a deep fondness for humor, yet he never
laughed; he never even chuckled; in fact, humor could not win to outward
expression on his face at all. No, he was always grave--tenderly,
pensively grave; but he made me laugh, all along; and this was very
trying--and very pleasant at the same time--for it was at quotations from
my own books.
When he was going, he turned and said:
"You don't remember me?"
"I? Why, no. Have we met before?"
"No, it was a matter of correspondence."
"Yes, many years ago. Twelve or fifteen. Oh, longer than that. But of
course you----" A musing pause. Then he said:
"Do you remember Corrigan Castle?"
"N-no, I believe I don't. I don't seem to recall the name."
He waited a moment, pondering, with the door-knob in his hand, then
started out; but turned back and said that I had once been interested in
Corrigan Castle, and asked me if I would go with him to his quarters in
the evening and take a hot Scotch and talk it over. I was a teetotaler
and liked relaxation, so I said I would.
We drove from the lecture-hall together about half-past ten. He had a
most comfortably and tastefully furnished parlor, with good pictures on
the walls, Indian and Japanese ornaments on the mantel, and here and
there, and books everywhere-largely mine; which made me proud. The light
was brilliant, the easy chairs were deep-cushioned, the arrangements for
brewing and smoking were all there. We brewed and lit up; then he passed
a sheet of note-paper to me and said--
"Do you remember that?"
"Oh, yes, indeed!"
The paper was of a sumptuous quality. At the top was a twisted and
interlaced monogram printed from steel dies in gold and blue and red, in
the ornate English fashion of long years ago; and under it, in neat
gothic capitals was this--printed in blue:
THE MARK TWAIN CLUB
"My!" said I, "how did you come by this?"
"I was President of it."
"No!--you don't mean it."
"It is true. I was its first President. I was re-elected annually as
long as its meetings were held in my castle--Corrigan--which was five
Then he showed me an album with twenty-three photographs of me in it.
Five of them were of old dates, the others of various later crops; the
list closed with a picture taken by Falk in Sydney a month before.
"You sent us the first five; the rest were bought."
This was paradise! We ran late, and talked, talked, talked--subject, the
Mark Twain Club of Corrigan Castle, Ireland.
My first knowledge of that Club dates away back; all of twenty years, I
should say. It came to me in the form of a courteous letter, written on
the note-paper which I have described, and signed "By order of the
President; C. PEMBROKE, Secretary." It conveyed the fact that the Club
had been created in my honor, and added the hope that this token of
appreciation of my work would meet with my approval.
I answered, with thanks; and did what I could to keep my gratification
It was then that the long correspondence began. A letter came back, by
order of the President, furnishing me the names of the members-thirty-two
in number. With it came a copy of the Constitution and By-Laws, in
pamphlet form, and artistically printed. The initiation fee and dues
were in their proper place; also, schedule of meetings--monthly--for
essays upon works of mine, followed by discussions; quarterly for
business and a supper, without essays, but with after-supper speeches
also, there was a list of the officers: President, Vice-President,
Secretary, Treasurer, etc. The letter was brief, but it was pleasant
reading, for it told me about the strong interest which the membership
took in their new venture, etc., etc. It also asked me for a photograph
--a special one. I went down and sat for it and sent it--with a letter,
Presently came the badge of the Club, and very dainty and pretty it was;
and very artistic. It was a frog peeping out from a graceful tangle of
grass-sprays and rushes, and was done in enamels on a gold basis, and had
a gold pin back of it. After I had petted it, and played with it, and
caressed it, and enjoyed it a couple of hours, the light happened to fall
upon it at a new angle, and revealed to me a cunning new detail; with the
light just right, certain delicate shadings of the grass-blades and
rush-stems wove themselves into a monogram--mine! You can see that that
jewel was a work of art. And when you come to consider the intrinsic
value of it, you must concede that it is not every literary club that
could afford a badge like that. It was easily worth $75, in the opinion
of Messrs. Marcus and Ward of New York. They said they could not
duplicate it for that and make a profit. By this time the Club was well
under way; and from that time forth its secretary kept my off-hours well
supplied with business. He reported the Club's discussions of my books
with laborious fullness, and did his work with great spirit and ability.
As a, rule, he synopsized; but when a speech was especially brilliant, he
short-handed it and gave me the best passages from it, written out.
There were five speakers whom he particularly favored in that way:
Palmer, Forbes, Naylor, Norris, and Calder. Palmer and Forbes could
never get through a speech without attacking each other, and each in his
own way was formidably effective--Palmer in virile and eloquent abuse,
Forbes in courtly and elegant but scalding satire. I could always tell
which of them was talking without looking for his name. Naylor had a
polished style and a happy knack at felicitous metaphor; Norris's style
was wholly without ornament, but enviably compact, lucid, and strong.
But after all, Calder was the gem. He never spoke when sober, he spoke
continuously when he wasn't. And certainly they were the drunkest
speeches that a man ever uttered. They were full of good things, but so
incredibly mixed up and wandering that it made one's head swim to follow
him. They were not intended to be funny, but they were,--funny for the
very gravity which the speaker put into his flowing miracles of
incongruity. In the course of five years I came to know the styles of
the five orators as well as I knew the style of any speaker in my own
club at home.
These reports came every month. They were written on foolscap, 600 words
to the page, and usually about twenty-five pages in a report--a good
15,000 words, I should say,--a solid week's work. The reports were
absorbingly entertaining, long as they were; but, unfortunately for me,
they did not come alone. They were always accompanied by a lot of
questions about passages and purposes in my books, which the Club wanted
answered; and additionally accompanied every quarter by the Treasurer's
report, and the Auditor's report, and the Committee's report, and the
President's review, and my opinion of these was always desired; also
suggestions for the good of the Club, if any occurred to me.
By and by I came to dread those things; and this dread grew and grew and
grew; grew until I got to anticipating them with a cold horror. For I
was an indolent man, and not fond of letter-writing, and whenever these
things came I had to put everything by and sit down--for my own peace of
mind--and dig and dig until I got something out of my head which would
answer for a reply. I got along fairly well the first year; but for the
succeeding four years the Mark Twain Club of Corrigan Castle was my
curse, my nightmare, the grief and misery of my life. And I got so, so
sick of sitting for photographs. I sat every year for five years, trying
to satisfy that insatiable organization. Then at last I rose in revolt.
I could endure my oppressions no longer. I pulled my fortitude together
and tore off my chains, and was a free man again, and happy. From that
day I burned the secretary's fat envelopes the moment they arrived, and
by and by they ceased to come.
Well, in the sociable frankness of that night in Bendigo I brought this
all out in full confession. Then Mr. Blank came out in the same frank
way, and with a preliminary word of gentle apology said that he was the
Mark Twain Club, and the only member it had ever had!
Why, it was matter for anger, but I didn't feel any. He said he never
had to work for a living, and that by the time he was thirty life had
become a bore and a weariness to him. He had no interests left; they had
paled and perished, one by one, and left him desolate. He had begun to
think of suicide. Then all of a sudden he thought of that happy idea of
starting an imaginary club, and went straightway to work at it, with
enthusiasm and love. He was charmed with it; it gave him something to
do. It elaborated itself on his hands;--it became twenty times more
complex and formidable than was his first rude draft of it. Every new
addition to his original plan which cropped up in his mind gave him a
fresh interest and a new pleasure. He designed the Club badge himself,
and worked over it, altering and improving it, a number of days and
nights; then sent to London and had it made. It was the only one that
was made. It was made for me; the "rest of the Club" went without.
He invented the thirty-two members and their names. He invented the five
favorite speakers and their five separate styles. He invented their
speeches, and reported them himself. He would have kept that Club going
until now, if I hadn't deserted, he said. He said he worked like a slave
over those reports; each of them cost him from a week to a fortnight's
work, and the work gave him pleasure and kept him alive and willing to be
alive. It was a bitter blow to him when the Club died.
Finally, there wasn't any Corrigan Castle. He had invented that, too.
It was wonderful--the whole thing; and altogether the most ingenious and
laborious and cheerful and painstaking practical joke I have ever heard
of. And I liked it; liked to bear him tell about it; yet I have been a
hater of practical jokes from as long back as I can remember. Finally he
"Do you remember a note from Melbourne fourteen or fifteen years ago,
telling about your lecture tour in Australia, and your death and burial
in Melbourne?--a note from Henry Bascomb, of Bascomb Hall, Upper
"I wrote it."
"Yes, I did it. I don't know why. I just took the notion, and carried
it out without stopping to think. It was wrong. It could have done
harm. I was always sorry about it afterward. You must forgive me. I
was Mr. Bascom's guest on his yacht, on his voyage around the world. He
often spoke of you, and of the pleasant times you had had together in his
home; and the notion took me, there in Melbourne, and I imitated his
hand, and wrote the letter."
So the mystery was cleared up, after so many, many years.
There are people who can do all fine and heroic things but one! keep
from telling their happinesses to the unhappy.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
After visits to Maryborough and some other Australian towns, we presently
took passage for New Zealand. If it would not look too much like showing
off, I would tell the reader where New Zealand is; for he is as I was; he
thinks he knows. And he thinks he knows where Hertzegovina is; and how
to pronounce pariah; and how to use the word unique without exposing
himself to the derision of the dictionary. But in truth, he knows none
of these things. There are but four or five people in the world who
possess this knowledge, and these make their living out of it. They
travel from place to place, visiting literary assemblages, geographical
societies, and seats of learning, and springing sudden bets that these
people do not know these things. Since all people think they know them,
they are an easy prey to these adventurers. Or rather they were an easy
prey until the law interfered, three months ago, and a New York court
decided that this kind of gambling is illegal, "because it traverses
Article IV, Section 9, of the Constitution of the United States, which
forbids betting on a sure thing." This decision was rendered by the full
Bench of the New York Supreme Court, after a test sprung upon the court
by counsel for the prosecution, which showed that none of the nine Judges
was able to answer any of the four questions.
All people think that New Zealand is close to Australia or Asia, or
somewhere, and that you cross to it on a bridge. But that is not so. It
is not close to anything, but lies by itself, out in the water. It is
nearest to Australia, but still not near. The gap between is very wide.
It will be a surprise to the reader, as it was to me, to learn that the
distance from Australia to New Zealand is really twelve or thirteen
hundred miles, and that there is no bridge. I learned this from
Professor X., of Yale University, whom I met in the steamer on the great
lakes when I was crossing the continent to sail across the Pacific. I
asked him about New Zealand, in order to make conversation. I supposed
he would generalize a little without compromising himself, and then turn
the subject to something he was acquainted with, and my object would then
be attained; the ice would be broken, and we could go smoothly on, and
get acquainted, and have a pleasant time. But, to my surprise, he was
not only not embarrassed by my question, but seemed to welcome it, and to
take a distinct interest in it. He began to talk--fluently, confidently,
comfortably; and as he talked, my admiration grew and grew; for as the
subject developed under his hands, I saw that he not only knew where New
Zealand was, but that he was minutely familiar with every detail of its
history, politics, religions, and commerce, its fauna, flora, geology,
products, and climatic peculiarities. When he was done, I was lost in
wonder and admiration, and said to myself, he knows everything; in the
domain of human knowledge he is king.
I wanted to see him do more miracles; and so, just for the pleasure of
hearing him answer, I asked him about Hertzegovina, and pariah, and
unique. But he began to generalize then, and show distress. I saw that
with New Zealand gone, he was a Samson shorn of his locks; he was as
other men. This was a curious and interesting mystery, and I was frank
with him, and asked him to explain it.
He tried to avoid it at first; but then laughed and said that after all,
the matter was not worth concealment, so he would let me into the secret.
In substance, this is his story:
"Last autumn I was at work one morning at home, when a card came up--the
card of a stranger. Under the name was printed a line which showed that
this visitor was Professor of Theological Engineering in Wellington
University, New Zealand. I was troubled--troubled, I mean, by the
shortness of the notice. College etiquette required that he be at once
invited to dinner by some member of the Faculty--invited to dine on that
day--not, put off till a subsequent day. I did not quite know what to
do. College etiquette requires, in the case of a foreign guest, that the
dinner-talk shall begin with complimentary references to his country, its
great men, its services to civilization, its seats of learning, and
things like that; and of course the host is responsible, and must either
begin this talk himself or see that it is done by some one else. I was
in great difficulty; and the more I searched my memory, the more my
trouble grew. I found that I knew nothing about New Zealand. I thought
I knew where it was, and that was all. I had an impression that it was
close to Australia, or Asia, or somewhere, and that one went over to it
on a bridge. This might turn out to be incorrect; and even if correct,
it would not furnish matter enough for the purpose at the dinner, and I
should expose my College to shame before my guest; he would see that I, a
member of the Faculty of the first University in America, was wholly
ignorant of his country, and he would go away and tell this, and laugh at
it. The thought of it made my face burn.
"I sent for my wife and told her how I was situated, and asked for her
help, and she thought of a thing which I might have thought of myself, if
I had not been excited and worried. She said she would go and tell the
visitor that I was out but would be in in a few minutes; and she would
talk, and keep him busy while I got out the back way and hurried over and
make Professor Lawson give the dinner. For Lawson knew everything, and
could meet the guest in a creditable way and save the reputation of the
University. I ran to Lawson, but was disappointed. He did not know
anything about New Zealand. He said that, as far as his recollection
went it was close to Australia, or Asia, or somewhere, and you go over to
it on a bridge; but that was all he knew. It was too bad. Lawson was a
perfect encyclopedia of abstruse learning; but now in this hour of our
need, it turned out that he did not know any useful thing.
"We consulted. He saw that the reputation of the University was in very
real peril, and he walked the floor in anxiety, talking, and trying to
think out some way to meet the difficulty. Presently he decided that we
must try the rest of the Faculty--some of them might know about New
Zealand. So we went to the telephone and called up the professor of
astronomy and asked him, and he said that all he knew was, that it was
close to Australia, or Asia, or somewhere, and you went over to it on----
"We shut him off and called up the professor of biology, and he said that
all he knew was that it was close to Aus----.
"We shut him off, and sat down, worried and disheartened, to see if we
could think up some other scheme. We shortly hit upon one which promised
well, and this one we adopted, and set its machinery going at once. It
was this. Lawson must give the dinner. The Faculty must be notified by
telephone to prepare. We must all get to work diligently, and at the end
of eight hours and a half we must come to dinner acquainted with New
Zealand; at least well enough informed to appear without discredit before
this native. To seem properly intelligent we should have to know about
New Zealand's population, and politics, and form of government, and
commerce, and taxes, and products, and ancient history, and modern
history, and varieties of religion, and nature of the laws, and their
codification, and amount of revenue, and whence drawn, and methods of
collection, and percentage of loss, and character of climate, and--well,
a lot of things like that; we must suck the maps and cyclopedias dry.
And while we posted up in this way, the Faculty's wives must flock over,
one after the other, in a studiedly casual way, and help my wife keep the
New Zealander quiet, and not let him get out and come interfering with
our studies. The scheme worked admirably; but it stopped business,
stopped it entirely.
"It is in the official log-book of Yale, to be read and wondered at by
future generations--the account of the Great Blank Day--the memorable
Blank Day--the day wherein the wheels of culture were stopped, a Sunday
silence prevailed all about, and the whole University stood still while
the Faculty read-up and qualified itself to sit at meat, without shame,
in the presence of the Professor of Theological Engineering from New
"When we assembled at the dinner we were miserably tired and worn--but we
were posted. Yes, it is fair to claim that. In fact, erudition is a
pale name for it. New Zealand was the only subject; and it was just
beautiful to hear us ripple it out. And with such an air of
unembarrassed ease, and unostentatious familiarity with detail, and
trained and seasoned mastery of the subject-and oh, the grace and fluency
"Well, finally somebody happened to notice that the guest was looking
dazed, and wasn't saying anything. So they stirred him up, of course.
Then that man came out with a good, honest, eloquent compliment that made
the Faculty blush. He said he was not worthy to sit in the company of
men like these; that he had been silent from admiration; that he had been
silent from another cause also--silent from shame--silent from ignorance!
'For,' said he, 'I, who have lived eighteen years in New Zealand and have
served five in a professorship, and ought to know much about that
country, perceive, now, that I know almost nothing about it. I say it
with shame, that I have learned fifty times, yes, a hundred times more
about New Zealand in these two hours at this table than I ever knew
before in all the eighteen years put together. I was silent because I
could not help myself. What I knew about taxes, and policies, and laws,
and revenue, and products, and history, and all that multitude of things,
was but general, and ordinary, and vague-unscientific, in a word--and it
would have been insanity to expose it here to the searching glare of your
amazingly accurate and all-comprehensive knowledge of those matters,
gentlemen. I beg you to let me sit silent--as becomes me. But do not
change the subject; I can at least follow you, in this one; whereas if
you change to one which shall call out the full strength of your mighty
erudition, I shall be as one lost. If you know all this about a remote
little inconsequent patch like New Zealand, ah, what wouldn't you know
about any other Subject!'"
Man is the Only Animal that Blushes. Or needs to.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The universal brotherhood of man is our most precious possession, what
there is of it.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
November 1--noon. A fine day, a brilliant sun. Warm in the sun, cold
in the shade--an icy breeze blowing out of the south. A solemn long
swell rolling up northward. It comes from the South Pole, with nothing
in the way to obstruct its march and tone its energy down. I have read
somewhere that an acute observer among the early explorers--Cook? or
Tasman?--accepted this majestic swell as trustworthy circumstantial
evidence that no important land lay to the southward, and so did not
waste time on a useless quest in that direction, but changed his course
and went searching elsewhere.
Afternoon. Passing between Tasmania (formerly Van Diemen's Land) and
neighboring islands--islands whence the poor exiled Tasmanian savages
used to gaze at their lost homeland and cry; and die of broken hearts.
How glad I am that all these native races are dead and gone, or nearly
so. The work was mercifully swift and horrible in some portions of
Australia. As far as Tasmania is concerned, the extermination was
complete: not a native is left. It was a strife of years, and decades of
years. The Whites and the Blacks hunted each other, ambushed each other,
butchered each other. The Blacks were not numerous. But they were wary,
alert, cunning, and they knew their country well. They lasted a long
time, few as they were, and inflicted much slaughter upon the Whites.
The Government wanted to save the Blacks from ultimate extermination, if
possible. One of its schemes was to capture them and coop them up, on a
neighboring island, under guard. Bodies of Whites volunteered for the
hunt, for the pay was good--L5 for each Black captured and delivered, but
the success achieved was not very satisfactory. The Black was naked, and
his body was greased. It was hard to get a grip on him that would hold.
The Whites moved about in armed bodies, and surprised little families of
natives, and did make captures; but it was suspected that in these
surprises half a dozen natives were killed to one caught--and that was
not what the Government desired.
Another scheme was to drive the natives into a corner of the island and
fence them in by a cordon of men placed in line across the country; but
the natives managed to slip through, constantly, and continue their
murders and arsons.
The governor warned these unlettered savages by printed proclamation that
they must stay in the desolate region officially appointed for them! The
proclamation was a dead letter; the savages could not read it. Afterward
a picture-proclamation was issued. It was painted up on boards, and
these were nailed to trees in the forest. Herewith is a photographic
reproduction of this fashion-plate. Substantially it means:
1. The Governor wishes the Whites and the Blacks to love each other;
2. He loves his black subjects;
3. Blacks who kill Whites will be hanged;
4. Whites who kill Blacks will be hanged.
Upon its several schemes the Government spent L30,000 and employed the
labors and ingenuities of several thousand Whites for a long time with
failure as a result. Then, at last, a quarter of a century after the
beginning of the troubles between the two races, the right man was found.
No, he found himself. This was George Augustus Robinson, called in
history "The Conciliator." He was not educated, and not conspicuous in
any way. He was a working bricklayer, in Hobart Town. But he must have
been an amazing personality; a man worth traveling far to see. It may be
his counterpart appears in history, but I do not know where to look for
He set himself this incredible task: to go out into the wilderness, the
jungle, and the mountain-retreats where the hunted and implacable savages
were hidden, and appear among them unarmed, speak the language of love
and of kindness to them, and persuade them to forsake their homes and the
wild free life that was so dear to them, and go with him and surrender to
the hated Whites and live under their watch and ward, and upon their
charity the rest of their lives! On its face it was the dream of a
In the beginning, his moral-suasion project was sarcastically dubbed the
sugar plum speculation. If the scheme was striking, and new to the
world's experience, the situation was not less so. It was this. The
White population numbered 40,000 in 1831; the Black population numbered
three hundred. Not 300 warriors, but 300 men, women, and children. The
Whites were armed with guns, the Blacks with clubs and spears. The
Whites had fought the Blacks for a quarter of a century, and had tried
every thinkable way to capture, kill, or subdue them; and could not do
it. If white men of any race could have done it, these would have
accomplished it. But every scheme had failed, the splendid 300, the
matchless 300 were unconquered, and manifestly unconquerable. They would
not yield, they would listen to no terms, they would fight to the bitter
end. Yet they had no poet to keep up their heart, and sing the marvel of
their magnificent patriotism.
At the end of five-and-twenty years of hard fighting, the surviving 300
naked patriots were still defiant, still persistent, still efficacious
with their rude weapons, and the Governor and the 40,000 knew not which
way to turn, nor what to do.
Then the Bricklayer--that wonderful man--proposed to go out into the
wilderness, with no weapon but his tongue, and no protection but his
honest eye and his humane heart; and track those embittered savages to
their lairs in the gloomy forests and among the mountain snows.
Naturally, he was considered a crank. But he was not quite that. In
fact, he was a good way short of that. He was building upon his long and
intimate knowledge of the native character. The deriders of his project
were right--from their standpoint--for they believed the natives to be
mere wild beasts; and Robinson was right, from his standpoint--for he
believed the natives to be human beings. The truth did really lie
between the two. The event proved that Robinson's judgment was soundest;
but about once a month for four years the event came near to giving the
verdict to the deriders, for about that frequently Robinson barely
escaped falling under the native spears.
But history shows that he had a thinking head, and was not a mere wild
sentimentalist. For instance, he wanted the war parties (called) in
before he started unarmed upon his mission of peace. He wanted the best
chance of success--not a half-chance. And he was very willing to have
help; and so, high rewards were advertised, for any who would go unarmed
with him. This opportunity was declined. Robinson persuaded some tamed
natives of both sexes to go with him--a strong evidence of his persuasive
powers, for those natives well knew that their destruction would be
almost certain. As it turned out, they had to face death over and over
Robinson and his little party had a difficult undertaking upon their
hands. They could not ride off, horseback, comfortably into the woods
and call Leonidas and his 300 together for a talk and a treaty the
following day; for the wild men were not in a body; they were scattered,
immense distances apart, over regions so desolate that even the birds
could not make a living with the chances offered--scattered in groups of
twenty, a dozen, half a dozen, even in groups of three. And the mission
must go on foot. Mr. Bonwick furnishes a description of those horrible
regions, whereby it will be seen that even fugitive gangs of the hardiest
and choicest human devils the world has seen--the convicts set apart to
people the "Hell of Macquarrie Harbor Station"--were never able, but
once, to survive the horrors of a march through them, but starving and
struggling, and fainting and failing, ate each other, and died:
"Onward, still onward, was the order of the indomitable Robinson. No one
ignorant of the western country of Tasmania can form a correct idea of
the traveling difficulties. While I was resident in Hobart Town, the
Governor, Sir John Franklin, and his lady, undertook the western journey
to Macquarrie Harbor, and suffered terribly. One man who assisted to
carry her ladyship through the swamps, gave me his bitter experience of
its miseries. Several were disabled for life. No wonder that but one
party, escaping from Macquarrie Harbor convict settlement, arrived at the
civilized region in safety. Men perished in the scrub, were lost in
snow, or were devoured by their companions. This was the territory
traversed by Mr. Robinson and his Black guides. All honor to his
intrepidity, and their wonderful fidelity! When they had, in the depth
of winter, to cross deep and rapid rivers, pass among mountains six
thousand feet high, pierce dangerous thickets, and find food in a country
forsaken even by birds, we can realize their hardships.
"After a frightful journey by Cradle Mountain, and over the lofty plateau
of Middlesex Plains, the travelers experienced unwonted misery, and the
circumstances called forth the best qualities of the noble little band.
Mr. Robinson wrote afterwards to Mr. Secretary Burnett some details of
this passage of horrors. In that letter, of Oct 2, 1834, he states that
his Natives were very reluctant to go over the dreadful mountain passes;
that 'for seven successive days we continued traveling over one solid
body of snow;' that 'the snows were of incredible depth;' that 'the
Natives were frequently up to their middle in snow.' But still the
ill-clad, ill-fed, diseased, and way-worn men and women were sustained by
the cheerful voice of their unconquerable friend, and responded most
nobly to his call."
Mr. Bonwick says that Robinson's friendly capture of the Big River tribe
remember, it was a whole tribe--"was by far the grandest feature of the
war, and the crowning glory of his efforts." The word "war" was not well
chosen, and is misleading. There was war still, but only the Blacks were
conducting it--the Whites were holding off until Robinson could give his
scheme a fair trial. I think that we are to understand that the friendly
capture of that tribe was by far the most important thing, the highest in
value, that happened during the whole thirty years of truceless
hostilities; that it was a decisive thing, a peaceful Waterloo, the
surrender of the native Napoleon and his dreaded forces, the happy ending
of the long strife. For "that tribe was the terror of the colony," its
chief "the Black Douglas of Bush households."
Robinson knew that these formidable people were lurking somewhere, in
some remote corner of the hideous regions just described, and he and his
unarmed little party started on a tedious and perilous hunt for them. At
last, "there, under the shadows of the Frenchman's Cap, whose grim cone
rose five thousand feet in the uninhabited westward interior," they were
found. It was a serious moment. Robinson himself believed, for once,
that his mission, successful until now, was to end here in failure, and
that his own death-hour had struck.
The redoubtable chief stood in menacing attitude, with his eighteen-foot
spear poised; his warriors stood massed at his back, armed for battle,
their faces eloquent with their long-cherished loathing for white men.
"They rattled their spears and shouted their war-cry." Their women were
back of them, laden with supplies of weapons, and keeping their 150 eager
dogs quiet until the chief should give the signal to fall on.
"I think we shall soon be in the resurrection," whispered a member of
Robinson's little party.
"I think we shall," answered Robinson; then plucked up heart and began
his persuasions--in the tribe's own dialect, which surprised and pleased
the chief. Presently there was an interruption by the chief:
"Who are you?"
"We are gentlemen."
"Where are your guns?"
"We have none."
The warrior was astonished.
"Where your little guns?" (pistols).
"We have none."
A few minutes passed--in by-play--suspense--discussion among the
tribesmen--Robinson's tamed squaws ventured to cross the line and begin
persuasions upon the wild squaws. Then the chief stepped back "to confer
with the old women--the real arbiters of savage war." Mr. Bonwick
"As the fallen gladiator in the arena looks for the signal of life
or death from the president of the amphitheatre, so waited our
friends in anxious suspense while the conference continued. In a
few minutes, before a word was uttered, the women of the tribe threw
up their arms three times. This was the inviolable sign of peace!
Down fell the spears. Forward, with a heavy sigh of relief, and
upward glance of gratitude, came the friends of peace. The
impulsive natives rushed forth with tears and cries, as each saw in
the other's rank a loved one of the past.
"It was a jubilee of joy. A festival followed. And, while tears
flowed at the recital of woe, a corrobory of pleasant laughter
closed the eventful day."
In four years, without the spilling of a drop of blood, Robinson brought
them all in, willing captives, and delivered them to the white governor,
and ended the war which powder and bullets, and thousands of men to use
them, had prosecuted without result since 1804.
Marsyas charming the wild beasts with his music--that is fable; but the
miracle wrought by Robinson is fact. It is history--and authentic; and
surely, there is nothing greater, nothing more reverence-compelling in
the history of any country, ancient or modern.
And in memory of the greatest man Australasia ever developed or ever will
develop, there is a stately monument to George Augustus Robinson, the
Conciliator in--no, it is to another man, I forget his name.
However, Robertson's own generation honored him, and in manifesting it
honored themselves. The Government gave him a money-reward and a
thousand acres of land; and the people held mass-meetings and praised him
and emphasized their praise with a large subscription of money.
A good dramatic situation; but the curtain fell on another:
"When this desperate tribe was thus captured, there was much
surprise to find that the L30,000 of a little earlier day had been
spent, and the whole population of the colony placed under arms, in
contention with an opposing force of sixteen men with wooden spears!
Yet such was the fact. The celebrated Big River tribe, that had
been raised by European fears to a host, consisted of sixteen men,
nine women, and one child. With a knowledge of the mischief done by
these few, their wonderful marches and their widespread aggressions,
their enemies cannot deny to them the attributes of courage and
military tact. A Wallace might harass a large army with a small and
determined band; but the contending parties were at least equal in
arms and civilization. The Zulus who fought us in Africa, the
Maories in New Zealand, the Arabs in the Soudan, were far better
provided with weapons, more advanced in the science of war, and
considerably more numerous, than the naked Tasmanians. Governor
Arthur rightly termed them a noble race."
These were indeed wonderful people, the natives. They ought not to have
been wasted. They should have been crossed with the Whites. It would
have improved the Whites and done the Natives no harm.
But the Natives were wasted, poor heroic wild creatures. They were
gathered together in little settlements on neighboring islands, and
paternally cared for by the Government, and instructed in religion, and
deprived of tobacco, because the superintendent of the Sunday-school was
not a smoker, and so considered smoking immoral.
The Natives were not used to clothes, and houses, and regular hours, and
church, and school, and Sunday-school, and work, and the other misplaced
persecutions of civilization, and they pined for their lost home and
their wild free life. Too late they repented that they had traded that
heaven for this hell. They sat homesick on their alien crags, and day by
day gazed out through their tears over the sea with unappeasable longing
toward the hazy bulk which was the specter of what had been their
paradise; one by one their hearts broke and they died.
In a very few years nothing but a scant remnant remained alive. A
handful lingered along into age. In 1864 the last man died, in 1876 the
last woman died, and the Spartans of Australasia were extinct.
The Whites always mean well when they take human fish out of the ocean
and try to make them dry and warm and happy and comfortable in a chicken
coop; but the kindest-hearted white man can always be depended on to
prove himself inadequate when he deals with savages. He cannot turn the
situation around and imagine how he would like it to have a well-meaning
savage transfer him from his house and his church and his clothes and his
books and his choice food to a hideous wilderness of sand and rocks and
snow, and ice and sleet and storm and blistering sun, with no shelter, no
bed, no covering for his and his family's naked bodies, and nothing to
eat but snakes and grubs and 'offal. This would be a hell to him; and if
he had any wisdom he would know that his own civilization is a hell to
the savage--but he hasn't any, and has never had any; and for lack of it
he shut up those poor natives in the unimaginable perdition of his
civilization, committing his crime with the very best intentions, and saw
those poor creatures waste away under his tortures; and gazed at it,
vaguely troubled and sorrowful, and wondered what could be the matter
with them. One is almost betrayed into respecting those criminals, they
were so sincerely kind, and tender, and humane; and well-meaning.
They didn't know why those exiled savages faded away, and they did their
honest best to reason it out. And one man, in a like case in New South
Wales, did reason it out and arrive at a solution:
"It is from the wrath of God, which is revealed from heaven against
cold ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."
That settles it.
Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The aphorism does really seem true: "Given the Circumstances, the Man
will appear." But the man musn't appear ahead of time, or it will spoil
everything. In Robinson's case the Moment had been approaching for a
quarter of a century--and meantime the future Conciliator was tranquilly
laying bricks in Hobart. When all other means had failed, the Moment had
arrived, and the Bricklayer put down his trowel and came forward.
Earlier he would have been jeered back to his trowel again. It reminds
me of a tale that was told me by a Kentuckian on the train when we were
crossing Montana. He said the tale was current in Louisville years ago.
He thought it had been in print, but could not remember. At any rate, in
substance it was this, as nearly as I can call it back to mind.
A few years before the outbreak of the Civil War it began to appear that
Memphis, Tennessee, was going to be a great tobacco entrepot--the wise
could see the signs of it. At that time Memphis had a wharf boat, of
course. There was a paved sloping wharf, for the accommodation of
freight, but the steamers landed on the outside of the wharfboat, and all
loading and unloading was done across it, between steamer and shore. A
number of wharfboat clerks were needed, and part of the time, every day,
they were very busy, and part of the time tediously idle. They were
boiling over with youth and spirits, and they had to make the intervals
of idleness endurable in some way; and as a rule, they did it by
contriving practical jokes and playing them upon each other.
The favorite butt for the jokes was Ed Jackson, because he played none
himself, and was easy game for other people's--for he always believed
whatever was told him.
One day he told the others his scheme for his holiday. He was not going
fishing or hunting this time--no, he had thought out a better plan. Out
of his $40 a month he had saved enough for his purpose, in an economical
way, and he was going to have a look at New York.
It was a great and surprising idea. It meant travel immense travel--in
those days it meant seeing the world; it was the equivalent of a voyage
around it in ours. At first the other youths thought his mind was
affected, but when they found that he was in earnest, the next thing to
be thought of was, what sort of opportunity this venture might afford for
a practical joke.
The young men studied over the matter, then held a secret consultation
and made a plan. The idea was, that one of the conspirators should offer
Ed a letter of introduction to Commodore Vanderbilt, and trick him into
delivering it. It would be easy to do this. But what would Ed do when
he got back to Memphis? That was a serious matter. He was good-hearted,
and had always taken the jokes patiently; but they had been jokes which
did not humiliate him, did not bring him to shame; whereas, this would be
a cruel one in that way, and to play it was to meddle with fire; for with
all his good nature, Ed was a Southerner--and the English of that was,
that when he came back he would kill as many of the conspirators as he
could before falling himself. However, the chances must be taken--it
wouldn't do to waste such a joke as that.
So the letter was prepared with great care and elaboration. It was
signed Alfred Fairchild, and was written in an easy and friendly spirit.
It stated that the bearer was the bosom friend of the writer's son, and
was of good parts and sterling character, and it begged the Commodore to
be kind to the young stranger for the writer's sake. It went on to say,
"You may have forgotten me, in this long stretch of time, but you will
easily call me back out of your boyhood memories when I remind you of how
we robbed old Stevenson's orchard that night; and how, while he was
chasing down the road after us, we cut across the field and doubled back
and sold his own apples to his own cook for a hat-full of doughnuts; and
the time that we----" and so forth and so on, bringing in names of
imaginary comrades, and detailing all sorts of wild and absurd and, of
course, wholly imaginary schoolboy pranks and adventures, but putting
them into lively and telling shape.
With all gravity Ed was asked if he would like to have a letter to
Commodore Vanderbilt, the great millionaire. It was expected that the
question would astonish Ed, and it did.
"What? Do you know that extraordinary man?"
"No; but my father does. They were schoolboys together. And if you
like, I'll write and ask father. I know he'll be glad to give it to you
for my sake."
Ed could not find words capable of expressing his gratitude and delight.
The three days passed, and the letter was put into his bands. He started
on his trip, still pouring out his thanks while he shook good-bye all
around. And when he was out of sight his comrades let fly their laughter
in a storm of happy satisfaction--and then quieted down, and were less
happy, less satisfied. For the old doubts as to the wisdom of this
deception began to intrude again.
Arrived in New York, Ed found his way to Commodore Vanderbilt's business
quarters, and was ushered into a large anteroom, where a score of people
were patiently awaiting their turn for a two-minute interview with the
millionaire in his private office. A servant asked for Ed's card, and
got the letter instead. Ed was sent for a moment later, and found Mr.
Vanderbilt alone, with the letter--open--in his hand.
"Pray sit down, Mr. --er--"
" Ah--sit down, Mr. Jackson. By the opening sentences it seems to be a
letter from an old friend. Allow me--I will run my eye through it. He
says he says--why, who is it?" He turned the sheet and found the
signature. "Alfred Fairchild--hm--Fairchild--I don't recall the name.
But that is nothing--a thousand names have gone from me. He says--he
says-hm-hmoh, dear, but it's good! Oh, it's rare! I don't quite
remember it, but I seem to it'll all come back to me presently. He says
--he says--hm--hm-oh, but that was a game! Oh, spl-endid! How it
carries me back! It's all dim, of course it's a long time ago--and the
names--some of the names are wavery and indistinct--but sho', I know it
happened--I can feel it! and lord, how it warms my heart, and brings
back my lost youth! Well, well, well, I've got to come back into this
work-a-day world now--business presses and people are waiting--I'll keep
the rest for bed to-night, and live my youth over again. And you'll
thank Fairchild for me when you see him--I used to call him Alf, I think
--and you'll give him my gratitude for--what this letter has done for the
tired spirit of a hard-worked man; and tell him there isn't anything that
I can do for him or any friend of his that I won't do. And as for you,
my lad, you are my guest; you can't stop at any hotel in New York. Sit.
where you are a little while, till I get through with these people, then
we'll go home. I'll take care of you, my boy--make yourself easy as to
Ed stayed a week, and had an immense time--and never suspected that the
Commodore's shrewd eye was on him, and that he was daily being weighed
and measured and analyzed and tried and tested.
Yes, he had an immense time; and never wrote home, but saved it all up to
tell when he should get back. Twice, with proper modesty and decency, he
proposed to end his visit, but the Commodore said, "No--wait; leave it to
me; I'll tell you when to go."
In those days the Commodore was making some of those vast combinations of
his--consolidations of warring odds and ends of railroads into harmonious
systems, and concentrations of floating and rudderless commerce in
effective centers--and among other things his farseeing eye had detected
the convergence of that huge tobacco-commerce, already spoken of, toward
Memphis, and he had resolved to set his grasp upon it and make it his
The week came to an end. Then the Commodore said:
"Now you can start home. But first we will have some more talk about
that tobacco matter. I know you now. I know your abilities as well as
you know them yourself--perhaps better. You understand that tobacco
matter; you understand that I am going to take possession of it, and you
also understand the plans which I have matured for doing it. What I want
is a man who knows my mind, and is qualified to represent me in Memphis,
and be in supreme command of that important business--and I appoint you."
"Yes. Your salary will be high--of course-for you are representing me.
Later you will earn increases of it, and will get them. You will need a
small army of assistants; choose them yourself--and carefully. Take no
man for friendship's sake; but, all things being equal, take the man you
know, take your friend, in preference to the stranger." After some
further talk under this head, the Commodore said:
"Good-bye, my boy, and thank Alf for me, for sending you to me."
When Ed reached Memphis he rushed down to the wharf in a fever to tell
his great news and thank the boys over and over again for thinking to
give him the letter to Mr. Vanderbilt. It happened to be one of those
idle times. Blazing hot noonday, and no sign of life on the wharf. But
as Ed threaded his way among the freight piles, he saw a white linen
figure stretched in slumber upon a pile of grain-sacks under an awning,
and said to himself, "That's one of them," and hastened his step; next,
he said, "It's Charley--it's Fairchild good"; and the next moment laid an
affectionate hand on the sleeper's shoulder. The eyes opened lazily,
took one glance, the face blanched, the form whirled itself from the
sack-pile, and in an instant Ed was alone and Fairchild was flying for
the wharf-boat like the wind!
Ed was dazed, stupefied. Was Fairchild crazy? What could be the meaning
of this? He started slow and dreamily down toward the wharf-boat; turned
the corner of a freight-pile and came suddenly upon two of the boys.
They were lightly laughing over some pleasant matter; they heard his
step, and glanced up just as he discovered them; the laugh died abruptly;
and before Ed could speak they were off, and sailing over barrels and
bales like hunted deer. Again Ed was paralyzed. Had the boys all gone
mad? What could be the explanation of this extraordinary conduct? And
so, dreaming along, he reached the wharf-boat, and stepped aboard nothing
but silence there, and vacancy. He crossed the deck, turned the corner
to go down the outer guard, heard a fervent--
"O lord!" and saw a white linen form plunge overboard.
The youth came up coughing and strangling, and cried out--
"Go 'way from here! You let me alone. I didn't do it, I swear I
"Didn't do what?"
"Give you the----"
"Never mind what you didn't do--come out of that! What makes you all act
so? What have I done?"
"You? Why you haven't done anything. But----"
"Well, then, what have you got against me? What do you all treat me so
"I--er--but haven't you got anything against us?"
"Of course not. What put such a thing into your head?"
"Honor bright--you haven't?
"I don't know what in the world you mean, but I swear it, anyway."
"And you'll shake hands with me?"
"Goodness knows I'll be glad to! Why, I'm just starving to shake hands
The swimmer muttered, "Hang him, he smelt a rat and never delivered the
letter!--but it's all right, I'm not going to fetch up the subject." And
he crawled out and came dripping and draining to shake hands. First one
and then another of the conspirators showed up cautiously--armed to the
teeth--took in the amicable situation, then ventured warily forward and
joined the love-feast.
And to Ed's eager inquiry as to what made them act as they had been
acting, they answered evasively, and pretended that they had put it up as
a joke, to see what he would do. It was the best explanation they could
invent at such short notice. And each said to himself, "He never
delivered that letter, and the joke is on us, if he only knew it or we
were dull enough to come out and tell."
Then, of course, they wanted to know all about the trip; and he said--
"Come right up on the boiler deck and order the drinks it's my treat.
I'm going to tell you all about it. And to-night it's my treat again
--and we'll have oysters and a time!"
When the drinks were brought and cigars lighted, Ed said:
"Well, when, I delivered the letter to Mr. Vanderbilt----"
"Gracious, how you scared me. What's the matter?"
"Oh--er--nothing. Nothing--it was a tack in the chair-seat," said one.
"But you all said it. However, no matter. When I delivered the
"Did you deliver it?" And they looked at each other as people might who
thought that maybe they were dreaming.
Then they settled to listening; and as the story deepened and its marvels
grew, the amazement of it made them dumb, and the interest of it took
their breath. They hardly uttered a whisper during two hours, but sat
like petrifactions and drank in the immortal romance. At last the tale
was ended, and Ed said--
"And it's all owing to you, boys, and you'll never find me ungrateful
--bless your hearts, the best friends a fellow ever had! You'll all have
places; I want every one of you. I know you--I know you 'by the back,'
as the gamblers say. You're jokers, and all that, but you're sterling,
with the hallmark on. And Charley Fairchild, you shall be my first
assistant and right hand, because of your first-class ability, and
because you got me the letter, and for your father's sake who wrote it
for me, and to please Mr. Vanderbilt, who said it would! And here's to
that great man--drink hearty!"
Yes, when the Moment comes, the Man appears--even if he is a thousand
miles away, and has to be discovered by a practical joke.
When people do not respect us we are sharply offended; yet deep down in
his private heart no man much respects himself.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
Necessarily, the human interest is the first interest in the log-book of
any country. The annals of Tasmania, in whose shadow we were sailing,
are lurid with that feature. Tasmania was a convict-dump, in old times;
this has been indicated in the account of the Conciliator, where
reference is made to vain attempts of desperate convicts to win to
permanent freedom, after escaping from Macquarrie Harbor and the "Gates
of Hell." In the early days Tasmania had a great population of convicts,
of both sexes and all ages, and a bitter hard life they had. In one spot
there was a settlement of juvenile convicts--children--who had been sent
thither from their home and their friends on the other side of the globe
to expiate their "crimes."
In due course our ship entered the estuary called the Derwent, at whose
head stands Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. The Derwent's shores
furnish scenery of an interesting sort. The historian Laurie, whose
book, "The Story of Australasia," is just out, invoices its features with
considerable truth and intemperance: "The marvelous picturesqueness of
every point of view, combined with the clear balmy atmosphere and the
transparency of the ocean depths, must have delighted and deeply
impressed" the early explorers. "If the rock-bound coasts, sullen,
defiant, and lowering, seemed uninviting, these were occasionally broken
into charmingly alluring coves floored with golden sand, clad with
evergreen shrubbery, and adorned with every variety of indigenous wattle,
she-oak, wild flower, and fern, from the delicately graceful
'maiden-hair' to the palm-like 'old man'; while the majestic gum-tree,
clean and smooth as the mast of 'some tall admiral' pierces the clear air
to the height of 230 feet or more."
It looked so to me. "Coasting along Tasman's Peninsula, what a shock of
pleasant wonder must have struck the early mariner on suddenly sighting
Cape Pillar, with its cluster of black-ribbed basaltic columns rising to
a height of 900 feet, the hydra head wreathed in a turban of fleecy
cloud, the base lashed by jealous waves spouting angry fountains of
That is well enough, but I did not suppose those snags were 900 feet
high. Still they were a very fine show. They stood boldly out by
themselves, and made a fascinatingly odd spectacle. But there was
nothing about their appearance to suggest the heads of a hydra. They
looked like a row of lofty slabs with their upper ends tapered to the
shape of a carving-knife point; in fact, the early voyager, ignorant of
their great height, might have mistaken them for a rusty old rank of
piles that had sagged this way and that out of the perpendicular.
The Peninsula is lofty, rocky, and densely clothed with scrub, or brush,
or both. It is joined to the main by a low neck. At this junction was
formerly a convict station called Port Arthur--a place hard to escape
from. Behind it was the wilderness of scrub, in which a fugitive would
soon starve; in front was the narrow neck, with a cordon of chained dogs
across it, and a line of lanterns, and a fence of living guards, armed.
We saw the place as we swept by--that is, we had a glimpse of what we
were told was the entrance to Port Arthur. The glimpse was worth
something, as a remembrancer, but that was all.
The voyage thence up the Derwent Frith displays a grand succession of
fairy visions, in its entire length elsewhere unequaled. In gliding over
the deep blue sea studded with lovely islets luxuriant to the water's
edge, one is at a loss which scene to choose for contemplation and to
admire most. When the Huon and Bruni have been passed, there seems no
possible chance of a rival; but suddenly Mount Wellington, massive and
noble like his brother Etna, literally heaves in sight, sternly guarded
on either hand by Mounts Nelson and Rumney; presently we arrive at
It is an attractive town. It sits on low hills that slope to the harbor
--a harbor that looks like a river, and is as smooth as one. Its still
surface is pictured with dainty reflections of boats and grassy banks and
luxuriant foliage. Back of the town rise highlands that are clothed in
woodland loveliness, and over the way is that noble mountain, Wellington,
a stately bulk, a most majestic pile. How beautiful is the whole region,
for form, and grouping, and opulence, and freshness of foliage, and
variety of color, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the,
promontories; and then, the splendor of the sunlight, the dim rich
distances, the charm of the water-glimpses! And it was in this paradise
that the yellow-liveried convicts were landed, and the Corps-bandits
quartered, and the wanton slaughter of the kangaroo-chasing black
innocents consummated on that autumn day in May, in the brutish old time.
It was all out of keeping with the place, a sort of bringing of heaven
and hell together.
The remembrance of this paradise reminds me that it was at Hobart that we
struck the head of the procession of Junior Englands. We were to
encounter other sections of it in New Zealand, presently, and others
later in Natal. Wherever the exiled Englishman can find in his new home
resemblances to his old one, he is touched to the marrow of his being;
the love that is in his heart inspires his imagination, and these allied
forces transfigure those resemblances into authentic duplicates of the
revered originals. It is beautiful, the feeling which works this
enchantment, and it compels one's homage; compels it, and also compels
one's assent--compels it always--even when, as happens sometimes, one
does not see the resemblances as clearly as does the exile who is
pointing them out.
The resemblances do exist, it is quite true; and often they cunningly
approximate the originals--but after all, in the matter of certain
physical patent rights there is only one England. Now that I have
sampled the globe, I am not in doubt. There is a beauty of Switzerland,
and it is repeated in the glaciers and snowy ranges of many parts of the
earth; there is a beauty of the fiord, and it is repeated in New Zealand
and Alaska; there is a beauty of Hawaii, and it is repeated in ten
thousand islands of the Southern seas; there is a beauty of the prairie
and the plain, and it is repeated here and there in the earth; each of
these is worshipful, each is perfect in its way, yet holds no monopoly of
its beauty; but that beauty which is England is alone--it has no
It is made up of very simple details--just grass, and trees, and shrubs,
and roads, and hedges, and gardens, and houses, and vines, and churches,
and castles, and here and there a ruin--and over it all a mellow
dream-haze of history. But its beauty is incomparable, and all its own.
Hobart has a peculiarity--it is the neatest town that the sun shines on;
and I incline to believe that it is also the cleanest. However that may
be, its supremacy in neatness is not to be questioned. There cannot be
another town in the world that has no shabby exteriors; no rickety gates
and fences, no neglected houses crumbling to ruin, no crazy and unsightly
sheds, no weed-grown front-yards of the poor, no back-yards littered with
tin cans and old boots and empty bottles, no rubbish in the gutters, no
clutter on the sidewalks, no outer-borders fraying out into dirty lanes
and tin-patched huts. No, in Hobart all the aspects are tidy, and all a
comfort to the eye; the modestest cottage looks combed and brushed, and
has its vines, its flowers, its neat fence, its neat gate, its comely cat
asleep on the window ledge.
We had a glimpse of the museum, by courtesy of the American gentleman who
is curator of it. It has samples of half-a-dozen different kinds of
marsupials--[A marsupial is a plantigrade vertebrate whose specialty is
its pocket. In some countries it is extinct, in the others it is rare.
The first American marsupials were Stephen Girard, Mr. Aston and the
opossum; the principal marsupials of the Southern Hemisphere are Mr.
Rhodes, and the kangaroo. I, myself, am the latest marsupial. Also, I
might boast that I have the largest pocket of them all. But there is
nothing in that.]--one, the "Tasmanian devil;" that is, I think he was
one of them. And there was a fish with lungs. When the water dries up
it can live in the mud. Most curious of all was a parrot that kills
sheep. On one great sheep-run this bird killed a thousand sheep in a
whole year. He doesn't want the whole sheep, but only the kidney-fat.
This restricted taste makes him an expensive bird to support. To get the
fat he drives his beak in and rips it out; the wound is mortal. This
parrot furnishes a notable example of evolution brought about by changed
conditions. When the sheep culture was introduced, it presently brought
famine to the parrot by exterminating a kind of grub which had always
thitherto been the parrot's diet. The miseries of hunger made the bird
willing to eat raw flesh, since it could get no other food, and it began
to pick remnants of meat from sheep skins hung out on the fences to dry.
It soon came to prefer sheep meat to any other food, and by and by it
came to prefer the kidney-fat to any other detail of the sheep. The
parrot's bill was not well shaped for digging out the fat, but Nature
fixed that matter; she altered the bill's shape, and now the parrot can
dig out kidney-fat better than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or
anybody else, for that matter--even an Admiral.
And there was another curiosity--quite a stunning one, I thought:
Arrow-heads and knives just like those which Primeval Man made out of
flint, and thought he had done such a wonderful thing--yes, and has been
humored and coddled in that superstition by this age of admiring
scientists until there is probably no living with him in the other world
by now. Yet here is his finest and nicest work exactly duplicated in our
day; and by people who have never heard of him or his works: by
aborigines who lived in the islands of these seas, within our time. And
they not only duplicated those works of art but did it in the brittlest
and most treacherous of substances--glass: made them out of old brandy
bottles flung out of the British camps; millions of tons of them. It is
time for Primeval Man to make a little less noise, now. He has had his
day. He is not what he used to be. We had a drive through a bloomy and
odorous fairy-land, to the Refuge for the Indigent--a spacious and
comfortable home, with hospitals, etc., for both sexes. There was a
crowd in there, of the oldest people I have ever seen. It was like being
suddenly set down in a new world--a weird world where Youth has never
been, a world sacred to Age, and bowed forms, and wrinkles. Out of the
359 persons present, 223, were ex-convicts, and could have told stirring
tales, no doubt, if they had been minded to talk; 42 of the 359 were past
80, and several were close upon 90; the average age at death there is 76
years. As for me, I have no use for that place; it is too healthy.
Seventy is old enough--after that, there is too much risk. Youth and
gaiety might vanish, any day--and then, what is left? Death in life;
death without its privileges, death without its benefits. There were 185
women in that Refuge, and 81 of them were ex-convicts.
The steamer disappointed us. Instead of making a long visit at Hobart,
as usual, she made a short one. So we got but a glimpse of Tasmania, and
then moved on.
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