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2-298 (Raw)

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addressee author,male,McCombie, Thomas,26
ns1:discourse_type
Narrative Discourse
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8045
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ns1:register
Public Written
ns1:texttype
Narratives
ns1:localityName
http://dbpedia.org/resource/Victoria
Created:
1845
Identifier
2-298
Source
McCombie, 1845
pages
1-36
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46114
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2-298-raw.txt
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2-298#Raw
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Raw

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<source><g=m><o=b><age=26><status=2><abode=04><p=vic><r=pcw><tt=nv><2-298>
ADVENTURES OF A COLONIST; OR, GODFREY ARABIN THE SETTLER
CHAPTER I.
THE INTRODUCTION - A CHARACTER.
THE distinguished American writer, Washington Irving, in his introduction to "The Sketch Book," has depicted his ardent longing, when young, for travel; in recording his own experience, he has described the feelings of the young of Britain and America. We observe, it is true, many young men, educated within the influence of strict commercial discipline, who sink prematurely into the starched neckcloths and saturnine countenances of their forefathers, while their anxious faces little accord with their extreme youth, and their mock anxiety is a caricature upon the profession. We are happy to think the majority of our young men, especially those who have been born free from the influence of commercial circles, are more or less addicted to poetry and literary pursuits; many rear Utopian schemes in early life, while a few - a favoured few - go beyond this, and end by becoming enthusiasts. Out of this latter class, our intellectual great have sprung - our beautiful prose writers and sublime poets, our finest painters and most celebrated sculptors, our brave commanders, and most distinguished circumnavigators and travellers. Indeed, were it our object to write an essay on enthusiasm, we would draw a distinct line of demarcation between practical and speculative enthusiasm; but this is not our purpose, and we merely wish to introduce a young man of enthusiastic temperament to our readers. [6]
Godfrey Arabin was the third son of a respectable trader in a county-town in England. At the early age of eight he was sent to the care of a relative in the south of Scotland, and went to a school of repute in the neighbourhood of his relation's dwelling. He attended the school regularly; his relation was a bachelor, and he was allowed to follow the bent of his wild fancy. He mixed with the country-people, and acquired much information - for, as a people, the Scotch stand pre-eminent for intellectual ability, and many of the lower orders are passionately attached to the literature of their country. The country-people are rather fond of fictitious and speculative literature, and the schoolboy would often spend the winter evenings with some one who would talk over the adventures of Ivanhoe. When he did not meet with agreeable company, he used to wander among the mountains, thinking on the warriors and people of the long-forgotten past, until he would inspire the dull landscape with imaginary beings. He stood in fancy at the head of an array of warriors, while on the opposite side was the enemy's camp. He unsheathed his sword, gave his war-cry, and led to the attack, - the opposing forces are scattered as chaff before the wind. He remembered, when with his mother he went to view one of England's "old cathedrals," and gazing with astonishment upon the tombs of the Crusaders, his impression of that strange order was vague and mazy, something like that we might derive from the description of Coeur de Lion, Ivanhoe, and Conrad of Montserrat, in the novel of "Ivanhoe." He would brood over the battles and sieges of the Crusades until his heart throbbed and his cheek flushed. He was often overpowered by an intense melancholy, which he however kept concealed, yet at times the most trifling incidents would chill his heart. He commonly took refuge in pious exercises, which he would perform fervently for two or three weeks, when, we regret to add, some new fancy would occupy his mind, or his attention would be captivated by some one of the many fictitious works then emanating from both the London and Edinburgh press. [7]
When he had attained the age of fifteen, he was removed to Edinburgh to finish his education at the University: he was unwilling to leave his acquaintances, but at the same time was glad that he should have opportunities of seeing life and procuring books. He was no sooner established in a lodging-house, than he began to feast upon the contents of the circulating libraries. Hitherto he had merely fallen in with works of fiction by chance, and with the exception of one or two of Sir Walter Scott's novels, they had been romances of the old school - emanations of the Minerva Press, as it has been designated; but now he revelled among the works of fiction which then almost daily issued from the press. The great change in the quality of the fictitious literature of the country was a leading feature of the time. The vulgarity, crudeness, and mawkishness which had marked the former school of fashionable romances was no longer to be observed; the works of Miss Edgeworth were the first which marked a new school, and soon after Sir Walter Scott was hailed as the head of a renovated style of fictitious literature, for as before the most improbable tales had been dished up with a seasoning of satyrs, hobgoblins, &c, Sir Walter Scott's tales on the contrary were rounded upon the more permanent basis of history, and being moreover executed in a style which almost placed imitation at defiance, they were not only favourably received, but the author acquired, perhaps, a more enduring fame than any former prose writer in our literature. The young scholar often neglected his lessons to indulge in his passion for novel-reading; he made little distinction between the good and the bad; indeed, he devoured everything in the shape of a romance which came within his reach. Here we may remark, that many may observe in Arabin some resemblance to the character of Waverly; we firmly assert, however, that we have not copied from the great work of the "Wizard of the North" indeed, it is because the character is rounded upon truth and permanent that it must resemble. The future career of Arabin will have no affinity with "the fortunes of Waverley," for, from the peculiar constitution of society in the present day, there are many Waverleys and Arabins. [8]
In his humble sleeping-room Arabin lived in a fictitious world; from the occasional neglect of his studies, he was regarded by his teachers as a boy [9] of slender abilities; nay, he often feigned bad health to escape the irksome restraints of a public school. At certain periods, however, the meanness of such conduct would break upon his mind, and then he would decline the practice, and pay more attention to his lessons. 
He had attained the age of eighteen before his teachers considered he had a sufficient knowledge of languages. About this time he determined to devote his attention to the science of medicine. The medical college of Edinburgh is justly celebrated; and as the young scholar had a taste for medical studies, his advances in the science astonished many of his former friends, who had regarded him as a dull boy. Even at this period the same feature of melancholy marked his character; the translations from the German writers, which were just then becoming the rage, were eagerly devoured by him, and their dreary metaphysics pleased him, and increased the flame of melancholy which glowed in his heart, engendered by solitary habits and the Byronian style of fictitious literature. This morbid misanthropy bid fair at one time to nip the flower in the morning of life, for he would crouch about without enjoying the pleasures of nature. Then, again, he would fancy himself a character of romance, and to keep up the deception would wander among the ancient churches, and transport himself centuries into the past. What magic exists in the past for novelist, poet, and enthusiast! - how can we expect any admiration for our poor labours, which are to be devoted to the present, and perhaps even towards the future? In plain words, Arabin was a melancholy enthusiast. Have we overdrawn the character? or, on the contrary, might it not be found to assimilate with that of many young men of the present day, even among the classes known as tradesmen? We have observed in the world too great an anxiety to ape the misanthropy in which the Byron school of poets have so completely enveloped their heroes. [10]
Arabin passed the usual examinations, and having received his diploma, left the metropolis of Scotland for his native land. His father died, and he found himself possessed of £500, with the world before him. He ruminated upon the course which he was called upon to pursue, and being unable to come to a determination, went over to the Continent, and travelled in France and Spain for some months. He then decided upon returning to England, and on his arrival in London tried to establish himself as a surgeon in one or two parts of that vast metropolis without success. He returned to his native city rather disconcerted; he had squandered a considerable portion of his small patrimony, and the want of success which had attended his efforts paralysed his energies and nourished the melancholy which preyed upon his heart. His mind gave way, and reeled under the wild fancies of which it had become the arena. The most horrible ideas would at times suggest themselves, a constant dread of future calamity weighed down his spirits, he bade fair to become a wreck at the age of twenty-one. 
Arabin was decidedly an intellectual person, and as it has often been noticed that the persons who have possessed the finest minds have had to endure a large amount of mental anguish, it may not be out of the way to give our opinion on the cause. The finest intellects are the most grasping and the most restless; this very restlessness, however, frequently becomes a curse, because it suggests fears and whims which an inferior mind cannot perceive. Fine minds are from home in the tame course of every-day life; common things appear "flat, stale, and unprofitable." Few around can appreciate the peculiarities of genius, and it has to retire within itself and create an ideal world peopled by beings of a more remote character than the rotaries of the desk and shop-table. They have a charm more potent than ever a witch possessed - they wave their wand, and, as Sir Walter Scott has written, [11]
"From haunted spring and grassy ring,
Troop goblin, elf and fairy" -
Or, who does not remember the finest poem which Mrs. Hemans has left upon record, on the funeral day of Sir Walter Scott? The following lines are very beautiful : - 
And he is silent! he whose flexile lips
Were but unsealed, and lo! a thousand forms
From every pastoral glen and fern-clad height,
In glowing life upsprang - vassal and chief,
Rider and steed, with shout and bugle-peal
Fast rushing through the brightly-troubled air,
Like the wild huntsman's band.
Mrs. Hemans was a kindred poet, who could bring a thousand forms rushing through the brightly- troubled air at a beck; let her memory be hallowed, for hers was a noble gift. [12] 
There was another very marked trait in the character of Arabin - his independent spirit. He scorned to crouch or cringe to any person; his manners, too, were abrupt, and he had but slender prospects at home. The medical man of modern times must have studied politeness as well as medicine - how to tie his cravat and dress; as well as how to amputate a limb - and, above all, the art of pleasing, whether he knows the art of healing or not. Now all this indispensable knowledge Arabin regarded as contemptible, yet he knew without them he could not succeed; he however cared not. "I have enough for the present," he would say; "and if I cannot provide for the wants of this poor body in future, why, I shall make quick work, for dependent I never shall be." To the genuine man of the world, without mind or character, these feelings may appear absurd; be that as it may, we are writing of a bird of a different tribe, with whom they can have little in common, except to hear his history. 
There was another marked feature in the character of Arabin at this time; he would rush heedlessly into the most absurd speculations, and without even affording them a fair trial, he would throw up one after another and get out of them at any sacrifice of property. He found his small capital dwindling away rapidly; no means of recovering it presented themselves to his eager mind, and he began to consider his case almost hopeless, - that he was destined to be unfortunate. We must add, that he was very bashful; he could not endure the sight of those whom he knew; he was afraid lest they should penetrate into his mind, and become masters of his secret thoughts - that they should pity him, which he could not endure. He was mistaken; his friends never regarded him as possessing either a mind or feelings; they looked sour because he was eccentric, which they misunderstood, and set him down as wild; he was not of their class, and they did not know what to think of him. He determined to return to London, and disappeared nearly as suddenly as he had reappeared. "London again!" he exclaimed, as he found himself one foggy November evening entering the dreary regions of Wapping, having left a steam-boat the moment before; "London again!" he said, as the faint traces of scenes he well knew broke upon his sight. "There is no city like thee! but to me all your princely mansions and magnificent marts of business form but a desert - it will not afford me bread." What magic is there in the very name of London to the young! - how many have longed to reach it, - how many have panted to try "their luck" in a city so vast in extent, so dazzling in splendour, so rich in trade! Thousands throng there: some are awed by the very extension of the field, and depart without endeavouring to find an opening; others, bolder, endeavour by every art to push forward, but they are lost in the crowd, thrust hither and thither, and give over the attempt in despair. Still young men swarm towards the mistress of the world, and perhaps a few, a very few, may succeed; and after a life of toil behind the shop- table, towards its close find themselves worth a little heap of gold. If the acquirement of this be success, they have, we allow, succeeded. [13] [14] 
Arabin once again endeavoured to push forward into business, without any better success. He resolved therefore, as a last and desperate measure, to go abroad, and he fixed upon the Australian Colonies as the scene of future attempts; in fact, he determined to emigrate with the crowd rushing towards the East. He soon found an opportunity, and sailed in a vessel bound for the Australian shores. 
The detail of the long dull voyage would not interest the general reader, and as it has been so often described, we pass it over. 

CHAPTER II.
COLONIAL POLITICS. [15] 
We have introduced Dr. Arabin to our readers, but before we proceed with his history we are compelled to offer a few preliminary remarks on the Colonial policy of our Government. Reader, you have heard doubtless of the Colonies of Britain; you are, however, peculiarly fortunate if you happen to know the mighty interests comprehended under the name. The Secretary of State for the Colonies enters upon the duties of his office without perhaps having been aware of the existence of one-half of the Colonies of Britain; yet the dictum of such a person is the law which the oppressed Colonists must obey. We believe that many ministers have discharged the functions of this onerous office with great ability and energy; but, however anxious the Secretary of State for the time may be to govern the Colonies impartially, and how noted soever he may be for the possession of sagacity and energy, he must act in the twilight, for it is a moral impossibility that any stranger could legislate for so many conflicting interests. We must observe, moreover, that too much confidence is placed in Governors. The Secretary of State is very frequently misled by "Their Excellencies," who, altogether, are far from being so honourable a class as might be at first expected. Many of these "excellent" men are adventurers of rather a high grade. It is far from uncommon to hear of Governors purchasing or reselling land, while others are landowners and stockowners, and perhaps speculators in Colonial trade. What more certain than that a large holder of land should desire his land to be enhanced in value? and any Governor who raises the Crown lands is certain to be popular with the landowners for the time being, though the measure might entail the most ruinous consequences on the Colony. Again, the majority of the Governors have too much in view the favour of the Home Government. To prevent unnecessary trouble, every complaint is studiously concealed; the real feelings of the Colonists are kept in the background, and the most arbitrary measures are carried into effect without any regard to the feelings of the suffering Colonists. Many of them, too, are paltry in their style of living, and instead of spending their salaries in the scene from which they have been wrung, they speculate and save every farthing: indeed, I could find many Governors with £3000 a year who do not spend beyond £500 per annum. This is unfair: the Colonial Secretary of State ought to know these persons, and prevent them from obtaining other appointments. A well- meaning, generous-hearted man of average ability will govern a Colony better (if he do not mix too much in Colonial politics) than a keen, active man of parsimonious habits, although the latter may possess abilities of a high order. [16]
There is but one opinion as to the abilities of Sir George Gipps, - they are very good. Yet, strange to reflect upon, the Colony has retrograded from prosperity to adversity during the time that he has discharged the functions of Governor, and the causes of this singular revolution we are now to detect and describe. [17]
A race of English economists has been at great pains to inculcate doctrines connected with Colonial policy, who happened at the same time to know nothing about either the Colonies, or the development of their resources. Edward Gibbon Wakefield ranks at the head of these fireside economists. In an evil hour the Home Government adopted the new-fangled principles; and since that time everything has gone wrong with our Colonies in the East. These principles, as we could show, are absurd: our limits, however, compel us to proceed. It is clearly impossible that Governors or Parliaments should affix a certain value to waste lands, and compel men to purchase; whatever the exchangeable value of land may be, it is evident that its intrinsic value is exactly in a ratio with the profits it can be made to yield. Speculation may advance it beyond this price, but legitimate demand never. 
The price of land in Australia was originally the same as in our British American Colonies; in an evil hour it was advanced to 12s. an acre - then the large landowners rejoiced, because they considered that their property was doubled in value. South Australian land was settled at 20s. an acre, upon the principles enunciated by Gibbon Wakefield; and the Governor of New South Wales and the Bishop of Australia represented to the Government, that land in New South Wales was worth as much as land in South Australia, and the price of Crown land was immediately settled at 20s. an acre in New South Wales. To show that the measure had a contrary effect to what was intended, we may state, that in a few years afterwards there were no buyers at any price; land was when pressed into the market knocked down at anything, frequently as low as 1s. 6d. an acre. In British America land is sold at about 6s. an acre, and the price is determined by the Colonial Legislature; in no respect is Australian land more valuable than Canadian, except from the brighter skies of the former. The land in Canada is moist, and the crops luxurious. Australia is frequently visited by droughts, and, in some seasons, by myriads of destructive animalculae; therefore, the greater portion of the country can only be occupied as grazing stations. The rich "bottoms" - the deposits of alluvial soil, usually yield, however, luxuriant crops: in many parts of the country 25 or 30 bushels may be grown upon an acre. In general, however, want of moisture is the great drawback to agricultural pursuits. Of course we do not include the rich soil of Australia Felix, where droughts are almost unknown, and where anything may be produced. [18]
When we take a retrospect of the policy of the Home Government towards the Colony, we are almost inclined to curse the ignorance and neglect which could have consigned a land so noble to almost premature decay; we are positive that, but for the invention of steaming down sheep for tallow, which affixed a minimum price to the surplus flocks of the Colony, the whole of the Colonial interest would have been ruined. View this in any way, it is a grand invention - tallow even at the low price of 41s. in the London market, will make ordinary sheep worth about 5s, and cattle £3; but the Government did not foresee this, and it deserves no credit on account of it. Does not the insolvency of nearly every man of note, in the length and breadth of the land, demonstrate more powerfully than our feeble pen can, the ignorance and baseness of our Colonial despots? more cruel and rapacious from their personal insignificance, while the supreme power in Downing Street knows nothing about the matter. What is there to encourage capitalists to come here? Let the land be reduced to 5s. and prosperity will once more dawn on our Australian settlers - an order little known, but which deserves respect from the indomitable perseverance, moral courage, untiring energy, and rough honesty of its members. They may be poor, for the race is not to the swift, but at any rate let them have bare justice: we should wish them to have fixity of tenure. At the present moment, the Australian settler may be deprived of his run of stock at the caprice of a Government pimp, called a land commissioner. The authority of these officials is supreme: there is no appeal from it, but to the land commissioner of a neighbouring district, who, as a matter of course, confirms the decision of his cotemporary; for, as the Scotch proverb goes, "one corbie will not pluck out another corbie's een." These commissioners travel about the country to settle the limits of the runs of the different settlers; in all disputes they take part with those who happen to be favourites, and those who are injured are afraid to take any notice, because the commissioner might ruin them; they are idle fellows withal, and commonly to be found in the town, instead of attending to public business in their districts. We, therefore, hold that no settler will be comfortable while such persons are allowed to oppress him. The land should be given to the settler at so much per acre, with time to pay the money, or the stations ought to be leased for nineteen years at a certain annual rent. Were this effected, let us look on the probable result. The settlers now live in huts, hardly fit for the beasts of the field; their food is of the poorest quality, from negligence in preparing it; their minds have been tainted - and some, we regret to add, have sunk into immoral and dissipated courses; their independence is gone, for they feel they must be dependent upon the Government understrappers; they do not cultivate the soil, because any person might go to the Government Office, and request that the station should be put up to auction, and either purchase it, or purchase it for one year, as the case might be. On the contrary, however, if the Australian settler had fixity of tenure, he would conjoin agricultural and pastoral pursuits; he would build a comfortable house, and eat his food independently of the land commissioners. We except those whose souls have rusted from neglect, and who scorn the habits of civilisation; they are already independent, because they can go out into any part of the wilderness with their flocks. Government influence preponderates too much in Australia; the Governors can create their own tools magistrates, and extend their influence. The respectable settlers know but too well that no other door is open to preferment, but the door which the Governor can open or shut at his pleasure. The young of Australia know also that they must favour and flatter His Excellency before they can become rich or great; and this tends to check the development of that independent spirit which is so much to be wished. [19] [20] [21] 
If land were reduced to 5s. an acre, many small capitalists would hither emigrate; a demand would necessarily arise for stock and farming implements, and both production and consumption would increase. Instead of exporting £400,000 per annum in specie for wheat, as hitherto, the Colony would export wheat in large quantities. 
The political economist, it is true, may here argue that the Colony imported grain at a cheaper rate than it could produce it; but we only answer - Then you must prove first, that the Colonists were more profitably employed - they were employed either in buying and selling land worth nothing, or in rearing stock; the last was as unprofitable as the first, because there did not exist a market for surplus stock; and thus any argument against our position must crumble down, for we are positive that before this splendid country can arrive at prosperity, the occupiers of stations must have a vested interest in the land, or they must have fixity of tenure. The next question would be, what is land worth for sheep farming? We answer, that it might be worth 2s. an acre, or it might be worth 40s. an acre. For sheep farming it is, in our opinion, worth 5s. an acre, payable by annual instalments for ten years. An acre is worth much more for agricultural purposes; but, of course, it would sell by auction at what it might be thought to be worth for either. The Home Government must bear in mind, that the Australian Colonies deserve attention, because each Colonist consumes more than twice the value of British manufactures that the Colonists of British America or the West Indies do. [22]
We must not blame the high rate of land alone for the large amount of distress, because other causes have co-operated. These we must notice without comment: the sudden want of cheap labour when the assignment system ceased, at the very moment that land advanced, and the withdrawal of the Commissariat expenditure, the fall in the price of wool, and the advance in the price of labour; the extravagant credit afforded by the banks to land speculators, principally on the Government deposits, which were withdrawn for emigration purposes, in 1840; the ruin of both banks and speculators in consequence, the breaking up of all the Colonial companies, including banks, and perhaps the failure of the crops, in 1839 and 1840. We allow that much distress has arisen from over-speculation and the decay of commerce, and stoppage of emigration; but had the farming and grazing interests been in a healthy state, it would not have extended beyond the social conventions of the towns. Of late years, too, the Colonial shipping interest has suffered, especially that portion of it embarked in the whaling trade. 
The Insolvent Law, which was framed by His Honour Mr. Justice Burton (and which has been facetiously termed "Burton's purge"), came into operation in 1842, and was just in time for the crash. Many availed themselves of the opportunity to clear accounts with their creditors by going through the Insolvent Court, who had no occasion to adopt any such course. The restraints which had bound society to honesty and plain dealing broken down, men turned round upon their creditors at pleasure. It was exactly the same as American repudiation. Those who would not pay, often could have paid. Upon the same principle that the bricks in a house hang by and support one another, are the members of our commercial societies dependent: the one pulled down the other, and the insolvency appeared nearly universal. [23]
The storm has blown over: all the large speculators have been thrown out of the commercial circles; the business is now in the hands of safe men - the Colonial property is in the hands of real owners. It wants but some reform, to be the most prosperous Colony in the world. The settlers must, however, be protected in some way or other by the Home Government. 

CHAPTER III. 
AN ECLAIRCISSEMENT. [24] 
We now proceed to open the first scene, not in Britain, but in Australia. It was a beautiful day in January, about midday, that two persons walked to and fro in a small garden which was laid out in front of a white cottage. The one was a young lady of surpassing beauty; the other, a man who appeared hardly more than twenty-five, but his features were unnaturally worn, and his eye gave a quick, unsteady glance, which altogether put it beyond the power of an observer to hazard anything like an accurate guess of what his age might be. The day was not oppressively hot, the air was pleasant, and the too powerful rays of the sun were intercepted by the thick forest. The casements of the house were open, the front rooms appeared to contain no unwelcome listeners, and the two paced along without any dread of being interrupted. 
The first surmise of a concealed observer would most probably have been, that they were lovers. A rather more attentive inspection of their manners and features would have occasioned a change in their opinion. The face of the young settler, for such he seemed, betrayed anxiety and mental irritation, while his lovely companion struggled hard to repel the uneasiness she felt at her position. Her timid eye wandered about, and her ear was on the stretch watching for some friendly intruder to break the tête-á-tête, which every moment became more irksome. The young man gazed earnestly in her face once or twice, and seemed as if he was anxious to address her upon some powerfully exciting topic; but his courage failed, and he turned off with some common-place remark, like a soldier who would fain attempt a daring deed, but whose valour fails at the critical moment. He seemed aware of his weakness, and at last made a desperate effort - his breath almost stopped, and his brain reeled, as he uttered, "Miss Waller, there is something I wished to say to you." [25]
The young woman looked as if the worst had occurred; but she did not jump, or start, or scream, or blush, - nay, she did not either faint or go into "hysterics." She replied quietly, that she should be happy to hear anything which Mr. Willis could have to say to her. 
"You must know," gasped the person addressed as Mr. Willis, "that I am - in - love with you, - that is - that - I would - wish - to - to - to - marry you. I have not got very much property, it is true; but what I have will maintain us in a humble sphere of life. You will have to cast in your lot with one who has few friends, but who is the more likely to love you upon that account. I hope you will favour my addresses. I am not, it is true, very much in the habit of speaking to ladies - or I have not been for some time past; but if I express myself in a clownish fashion, you must excuse my manner on account of my earnestness." 
[26] 
His companion had listened to his passionate address in silence. He ventured to take her hand, and clasped it with something like ecstatic fervour. A severe inward struggle had kept the young lady silent; but when he took her hand, she answered - 
"Mr. Willis, I am sorry to be placed in this disagreeable position; you know that it must give me infinite pain to refuse your offer. My affections are still disengaged; and even were it otherwise, I would not marry without the consent of my relations - and their consent I do not think you would get." 
"Well," interrupted the settler, "will you let me ask it? Your sister would not refuse me; Butler might, as he has no favour for me, but he is only your brother-in-law." 
"It would be of no service," replied she; "I cannot - in fact, it is better to be plain and not deceive you, I am sorry I can never think of accepting your offer. I wish you well and happy. I must go inside to my sister." 
"Stay but one moment, lady," said Mr. Willis, almost choking with emotion. "Might not time effect some change in your feelings? Do not deny me in a rash or harsh manner." 
"Mr. Willis," replied the girl in a tone of severe dignity, "I have heard of women who took time to consider offers, and battered their hand for a certain specified amount of comfort and fine furniture; but I despise them. I will not take a day to consider the offer - nor an hour, nor a minute. Although I am an Australian, I am not mercenary; I am not, thank God, tainted with the too common vice of my countrymen - and, alas! countrywomen too. It may suit the old worn-out cockney flirts whom I occasionally see here, to weigh the advantages or disadvantages of offers, but it suits not me. I am sorry to repeat that I cannot entertain your offer." [27]
It was but too plain, even to the excited young man, that she was resolute and determined. In a moment after, she excused herself and entered the house. The settler remained standing in the same position; who shall describe the reflections which tortured his mind? To be refused by a mercenary woman who will weigh you in the scale with the property you possess, is a lucky escape; but to be refused by one who is worth possessing, is exquisite torture. The settler partially recovered himself, and without re-entering, he left the garden and tore himself from the spot. "What an éclaircissement!" he said mentally. "I was an ass, a tom-fool, a spooney, to put it in the power of any person to slight me. I was positive that she loved me, and how eminently I was mistaken! - Loved me! - bah! what a contemptible dolt! what a sentimental love-sick puppy! what a noodle! what a silly-billy! A man of the world, too, like me, who has played his part in many a gay and noble scene, to be slighted by a native 'cornstalk!' I cannot yet believe it, - it must be but a dream and a lie. - But how I loved the girl, too! She is not to blame; no, hang it! I must not censure the girl, only I mistook her glances. I was a conceited idiot, and fancied, because she looked upon me, that she loved me: I deserved it all. And then she will tell her sister, and that puppy Butler, who will laugh in his sleeve at me, and think me an inferior. Well, I wish them all well, - I am compelled to do that; however bitter my heart is, I cannot curse them; but I curse myself! I curse the country! I curse my station! I curse my agent! I curse my lawyer! I curse my barber!" He threw himself on the ground, and tore his hair with rage. [28]

CHAPTERIV. 
A NIGHT IN THE AUSTRALIAN BUSH. [29] 
UPON one of those sultry afternoons which occur so often during summer, a horseman was wending his way across the -- Plains. The day had been oppressive; a hot wind had blazed fiercely during the forenoon; whilst towards evening the wind died away, but the heat still increased. Everything around was parched and withered, the dust on the roads was pulverised, the scorched ground seemed actually to pant for rain. As night approached, the sky changed, and the clouds which were gathering in the east warned the experienced Bushman that a thunder- storm was brewing. In the west, however, the sky was unstained, and the traveller's face being towards the setting sun, he was too intently engaged in admiring its gorgeous splendour to heed the danger in his rear. He was apparently about twenty-three; but a close observer of mankind might have traced in the lines of his dark countenance marks of sorrow - the sorrow which communion with a vain and selfish world brings; or, shall we designate it by the term of warm feelings turned into gall? 
The vast plains which the young man was traversing lie adjacent to the town of B---, which is indeed on one side of the range. They extend thirty miles from east to west, and twenty miles from north to south; but the view towards the north is bounded by Mount M---, the towering summit of which stands in solitary magnificence, as a bold relief to the monotonous plains. Lofty ranges may be seen far away in the south; no other object is visible but the wide stony range, the solitude perhaps occasionally partially interrupted by a stunted shrub or tree, just well calculated to make the desolation of the landscape more complete. Far as the eye can wander, it rests on the silent, boundless plains; neither house nor living thing is visible, not even a bird: the traveller might be buried in the bosom of an African desert, There is, however, a grandeur present in the scene - a magnificence derived from its vast proportions: compared with it, the scenery of Britain is tame; its tiny parks and its petty forests, its mimic mountains and brawling rivulets, are all insignificant. In an Australian scene you have Nature in her grandest aspect and most gigantic proportions; you gaze around, and the heart thrills, because you feel you are nothing when alone with your Maker. [30]
To return, however, to the traveller. It was already late in the afternoon, and as he had been detained crossing a punt, he pressed his horse to its utmost speed. In two hours or less it would be dark, and he had many miles to ride across the dreary plain. He looked frequently in the rear, and observed the thick drapery of dark clouds rising and beginning to stretch across the horizon towards the west. Soon after, the wind changed, and began to moan, and cross the plain in fitful gusts, the certain indications of a thunder-storm in Australia. The horseman was not indifferent to these symptoms, and he urged his jaded steed; the animal, thoroughly ragged, only answered the spur by a shuffling attempt to run away. So long as he had maintained the old cart-track, dignified with the name of the road, the nag had kept gallantly along; he had, however, diverged into the wide plain, and then the beast, to the no little chagrin of the traveller, gave pretty plain indications of its intentions not to proceed very much further unless it were allowed to select its pace. After one or two vain essays, the horseman shrugged his shoulders, and giving the attempt over, was soon buried in deep thought. [31]
We must put our readers out of pain, and acknowledge- that we are following the adventures of Arabin. Two years had passed since we took leave of him in Britain; in that short time he had entered upon a new sphere. He had emigrated to the Australian Colonies and settled in the adjoining town. When he arrived, although he did not possess much money, he would not deliver the few letters of introduction which he had brought with him. He was shy, because he was perfectly aware that he was poor; and he despised those who, superior, perhaps, in wealth, were very inferior in mind. He scorned their patronage, and positively determined to depend, in the struggle to get forward, on his own exertions. He had been more than twelve months settled in Australia, and, like most nervous men, had been unsuccessful; he had no quality to recommend him - he was timid and independent. If sent for professionally, he would perform his duty anxiously and faithfully; but then he would not wait and hear the characters of half the town torn to shreds - he could not sit an evening and make himself agreeable, and therefore did not get on: indeed he was regarded as a self-conceited person, and made himself very disagreeable. He had very little to do. There were two other surgeons in the town: one was a dapper personage, who would bow and scrape for half an hour, and who knew more scandal than any other man in the place; he was ever riding about, touching his well- brushed hat to everybody, and a ready companion for either a lady or a gentleman: of course they employed this surgeon. He was not popular with the lower orders; their favourite was the other surgeon: he was a rough, vulgar man, and rather addicted to dissipated and rakish courses; he might be observed at night in a tap, dressed in a faded shooting-jacket, smoking an old black pipe, and keeping the inmates laughing almost constantly, for he possessed a great deal of humour; the lower orders would have no other attendant when he could be had. The practice was pretty fairly divided between these two, and Arabin therefore came in for the poorest share. But he cared little about it, for he had hitherto managed to earn a precarious existence, and did not envy his professional brethren for having been more successful than him-self, because he was perfectly aware of the reasons. He was careless too in matters of account, and seldom would accept money from the wretched, although there are few poor in Australia. For his kindness he received little recompense: indeed his brethren laughed at him for attending the poor as regularly as the rich, and not charging them. [32] [33] 
Arabin had been sent for, about a week before, to visit a young settler or grazier: he had attended, was requested to repeat the visit within the week, and was now on his way to perform his professional duties. The visit was not likely to be pleasant, as the settler had been labouring under mental derangement. He had now arrived at a deep ravine which intercepted his progress. The banks being steep and rocky, he could not perform the passage without some danger, and therefore retraced his way along the banks until he reached the cart-track. A road wended down the bank by many a fold, and another zigzag path enabled him at last to reach the open plains beyond. The first thing he did, after he had emerged from the dangerous ravine, was to take a survey of the wide plain. A conical hill was just visible, far, far away, across the plain: this was the desired land-mark, and taking a course parallel with it, and keeping the frowning masses of Mount M--- to the right, he recommenced his journey across the wide, dreary level. It would have been a bold act for an experienced Bushman to cross the plain with night approaching - and such a night! Dr. Arabin was insensible to the danger, and, not accustomed to calculate distances on extensive ranges, he supposed the conical mount to be little more than eight miles from where he then was; the real distance was about twenty miles, and on a fine evening he could hardly have reached it by the light of day, and would even then, most probably, have gone astray in the darkness. 
It was far from agreeable on the plain, when the air became cold and the evening to fall. He once more endeavoured to push forward, but his horse was tired and would not increase its pace. The threatening clouds which now canopied the heavens, and the sudden gusts of wind which from time to time crossed the plains, at length brought conviction to the mind of the traveller. He was frightened at the thoughts of a night on the plain, and made a last desperate endeavour to cross the dreary intervening waste and reach the land-mark already noticed by daylight. Twenty miles is a long journey to ride across stony ridges; before he had passed half the distance it was almost dark, the rain began to fall slowly, it increased, it rained in torrents, and the lightning played with awful sublimity; then came the slow muffled thunder, distant at first, each successive peal sounded nearer, - it was crossing the plain, and would pass directly overhead. It approached; Arabin was brave, but the lurid blue flames of the electric fluid as it whirled past like a thought, and the deafening peal of the thunder, almost daunted him. He hesitated - should he attempt to cross the plain? - a shiver ran through his frame, - he decided that he would proceed, but now he could not find any land-mark to indicate the direction. He therefore determined, as the forlorn hope, to make the best of his way back to the road, and endearour to get under cover in some hut until morning. [34]
Dr. Arabin was not exactly afraid, - perhaps startled would be the proper expression; he repented of his temerity in attempting to traverse the plains so late in the day, and stared wildly at the fast-flashing lightning. To those in Europe who glance at these pages, the terror of Arabin must appear childish; but perhaps, having never been more than a few miles from the abodes of men, they have but an imperfect conception of the utter desolation of the boundless plains of Australia. The solitude is too awful for a creature formed for social intercourse to bear; his littleness and his feebleness become apparent. Then, when the Maker of all speaks in His thunders, it is time to reflect upon former courses. To the reflecting mind He speaks as powerfully in the majesty of nature, - the calm blue sky, the murmuring or brawling stream, the luxuriant vegetation of the mimosa and casuarina, the silent heave of the perpetual ocean. In courts and cities the denizens may forget Him - here they scarcely can. [35]
Still the rain fell in torrents; the attending obscurity rendered objects invisible at a very limited distance. Dr. Arabin could not regain the road; he lost confidence, and wavered in his course. At last he came to a dead stop; he was bewildered, and reflected on the course he should adopt. Oh, heavens ! what an awful shock! a thunderbolt struck a stone within a few yards of where he was (within two paces of his horse's legs) and shattered it to atoms; the animal reared and fell heavily with its rider on the ground, and at the same moment the thunder broke overhead with a crash so horrible that he almost thought nature laboured under a convulsion. He shook from head to foot, and put his hands to his head almost instinctively to deaden the sound; the earth shook palpably - it was awful. A moment, and it was over; he arose from his watery pillow, for the whole plains were flooded by this time; his face was wild and fearfully pale, - it was more fitted for the charnel-house than the living earth. [36]
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http://ns.ausnc.org.au/corpora/cooee/source/2-298#Raw