Page images

affair is arranged by the youth going to a neighbouring tribe, and on seeing a damsel to suit his taste, commencing his courtship at once. This he does in a summary manner, by greeting his intended with a blow or two with a “waddy” upon the skull, which in these people is so remarkably thick that but little permanent or injurious effect is produced by the operation. Should a blow or two not be sufficient, he continues the process until his “ ladye love” becomes insensible; he then seizes her, and drags her to his own habitation, and the “happy couple” are forthwith united. Should he take a fancy to more than one, their laws do not forbid him to indulge himself with half-a-dozen or more; but the former ones are generally allotted to other less fortunate youths, who may be lingering in single blessedness from the scarcity of the “sex.”

The men are first-rate shots and good riders, and their senses of sight, hearing, and smelling are so acute, that they are able to track a person over hard rocky ground where no trace whatever would present itself to an European eye; to tell whether anything is moving for an immense distance round; and they can tell by smelling at a tree whether an opossum is lodged in its trunk or branches. They have a few very peculiar superstitious notions, the principal one of which must evidently have been only of modern origin: it is, that after death they immediately reappear on the earth as white people-to use their own expression, “they fall down black fellows and jump up white fellows;” and many amusing instances are related by the colonists of their having been continually pestered by the affectionate embracings of some native “mamma," who fancied she had traced in their lineaments the features of some son or other relative she had recently lost. They are exceedingly indolent, and it is with great difficulty that any of them can be persuaded to perform the simplest kind of labour, although they are aware of the value of money and anxious to possess it. To such an extent is this carried, that even at the gold diggings, they will stand by calmly looking on at the energetic operations of the miners, and with a perfect knowledge of the value of the metal they are procuring, but without evidencing the smallest inclination to participate in the search. Neither will they, if any colonist should take the trouble to teach them the art of planting food, either believe in his instructions, or wait the time necessary for the attainment of the product. Dr. Mackenzie mentions as a proof of this, that a friend of his gave some potato cuttings to one of them, telling him that if he planted them he would soon obtain young


potatoes from them. The black fellow went and put them beneath the ground and watched them carefully for two days, at the end of which he went to his instructor, and told him with much chagrin that the potatoes had not yet “jumped up,” and inquired if they would "jump up” in two days more, and on being told it would probably be as many days as he had fingers, he at once dug up the cuttings and ate them, saying that “white fellow was all gammon.” None of the efforts which have yet been made appear to have had the effect of giving them the slightest relish or desire for the comforts or advantages of civilization ;- the blacks who lounge about the streets of Sydney never, in any instance, appear to emulate anything but the vices of the lowest class of society; they are servile, cringing, cunning, and dissipated whenever they have the opportunity of indulging in dissipation.

Widely different, however, from these, are the wild inhabitants of the forest, roaming at freedom over the immeasurable plains, bearing on their shoulders their weapons of war or of chase, yielding submission to no human power, and with a characteristic elasticity of movement, firmness of step, and dignity of gait, proclaiming, not in words but in every gesture, their hereditary rights and independence.

Dr. Mackenzie mentions it as his decided opinion, that if any remnant of the race can be saved from that gradual process of extermination to which they appear at present doomed, and brought over to a civilized condition, it can be only by the efforts of some of those missionaries of apostolic zeal, unconquerable enterprise, and imperturbable self-denial, who, like Mr. Elliott with the Red Indians of North America, will join themselves to the camps of the aborigines, study their language, follow them in their wanderings, live on roots, grubs, and opossums like themselves, and gradually make an impression upon their feelings, habits, and manners, until they begin to recognise the truth of Christianity and the benefits of a civilized state of existence.




We have from time to time, in those chapters which relate to the separate colonies, mentioned the general mineralogical features of each, but the subject of gold—“yellow, precious, glittering gold”—we mentioned as being reserved for special consideration.

The discovery of the prolific richness of the Australian gold fields has, in the course of a short twelve months, produced a complete revolution in the feelings of the public with regard to these colonies and their affairs and fortunes. It was not enough that they possessed enormous tracts of fertile land where, the seed being planted, magnificent crops sprang up to gladden the heart of the husbandman, almost without his care; it was not enough that immeasurable plains afforded rich pasturage for myriads of sheep and cattle which seemed to cry from the boiling-vats in which they were being wasted by millions, for mouths to come over and eat

« PreviousContinue »