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Title: Collected Prose
Author: Andrew Barton Paterson
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eBook No.: 0607731.txt
Language:  English
Date first posted: September 2006
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Title: Collected Prose
Author: Andrew Barton Paterson

Australia for the Australians
Hughey's Dog
How I Shot The Policeman
How Wild Horses Are Yarded
My Various Schools
The Downfall of Mulligan's
His Masterpiece
The History of a Jackaroo in Five Letters
Victor Second
The Cast-Iron Canvasser
The Tug-of-War
Our Ambassador or Sharp Practice on the Darling
Concerning a Dog Fight
The Merino Sheep
Concerning a Steeplechase Rider
Bill and Jim Nearly Get Taken Down
Preparing for Premiers
Review of Barcroft Boake's Poems
The Cycloon, Paddy Cahill and the G. R.
Buffalo Shooting in Australia
Bush Justice
A War Office in Trouble
A Visit to Basutoland
French's Cavalry and Their Work
Prince Alexander of Teck
Our Federal Army and Its Cost
The Bullock
An Informal Letter from London
A Fighting General--Lord Methuen
Thirsty Island
The Late Lieutenant Morant
Sitting in Judgment
Pearling Industry at Thursday Island
A Visit to Drought Land
In the Cattle Country
The Dog
Gleanings of a Globe Trotter: A Day's Racing in France
Gleanings of a Globe Trotter: The Coloured Alien
The Cat
The Dog--As a Sportsman
Lord Milner
Dr Morrison: A Notable Australian
The Election Season
The Amateur Gardener
The Oracle at the Races
The Oracle in the Private Bar
The Oracle in the Sanctum
The Oracle in the Barber's Shop
The Oracle at the Bowling Green
The Oracle on Music and Singing
The Oracle at the Theatre
The Oracle on Politics
The Oracle on War and Debt
The Oracle on the Capital Site
Humours of a Horse Bazaar
The Last of Sherlock Holmes
Motoring to Melbourne
Dan Fitzgerald Explains
Done for the Double
The Great War
The Cookhouse
A General Inspection
In a Hospital
J. F. Archibald: Great Australian Journalist
Shakespeare on the Turf
The Man Who Gave 'Em What They wanted


A political pamphlet, showing the necessity for land reform,
combined with protection


IT IS of the greatest importance to every man amongst us that he should
have some clear idea of what position he occupies in relation to other
people, and that he should understand what it is that fixes his
prospects, and circumstances in life. It is not too much to say that
this is the most important question which any man can have to consider;
but it is astonishing how few give any attention to such matters. On
coming to years of discretion, each man adopts that trade, profession,
or business to which circumstances seem to point: the clerk goes to his
desk, the workman to his tools, the architect to his plans, the lawyer
to his books--each plods along to the day of his death, obtaining as
well as may be the market value for his work, but never enquiring how
that market value is arrived at. The capitalist finds that interest on
his money is obtainable at a certain rate, and he too grumbles that he
cannot get larger interest on safe investments; but he never makes any
investigation into the causes which determine the rate of interest, and
its rise or fall. The young man beginning life finds that there is "no
good opening", but it never occurs to him to ask why there is "no good
opening"; he creeps into the first vacancy he can see, and adapts
himself to circumstances. Every man is more or less a "politician", and
will spout by the hour about free trade and protection, but men seem to
treat political matters rather as abstract theories than as things of
practical importance to themselves. The difference between free trade
and protection, etc., is not the difference between one set of
politicians and another; it is a question of which is the best for us as
a community, and as individuals.

It is the purpose of this pamphlet to present a brief summary of the
principles which govern the prosperity of individuals and nations; and
to show that there might be, amongst us Australians, much greater
all-round individual prosperity and wealth than there is: that we might
all be much better off than we are: that it is possible for men with
willing hands and brains to obtain the means to live in comfort and
comparative affluence, much more easily and certainly than can be done
now. Which desirable results can only be obtained by good laws.

It may appear at first sight that this is a personal and selfish rather
than a national matter, and that the title of this book is hardly
appropriate in such a connection; but the fact is that the only way to
improve the welfare and prosperity of the country at large is to improve
the individual welfare and prosperity of the inhabitants. To advance
Australia we must advance the Australians, and the question of
individual advancement is really the question of the greatest national

It may be said that we are already the most prosperous country in the
world; that in no other place can a good living be got so easily and
certainly as it can here. Even if we grant this, it does not prove that
we are as prosperous as we might be, or as we have every right to expect
to be. And when we come to look into the matter we find that we are a
very long way from any such happy state. It ought to be possible in a
new country like this for every man with a willing pair of hands to be
always employed, and at good wages. There should be constant openings
for our young men with brains and ability to make good incomes. Poverty
and enforced idleness of willing men should be unknown. Yet we find the
working men constantly seeking employment in vain. There seem to be less
and less openings or chances for the young men who are coming forward.
In all the colonies an absurd proportion of the population is crowding
into the towns. The professions are overcrowded.

In the year 1888 New South Wales paid over one hundred thousand pounds
for the support of men who could get nothing to do. The trouble is
temporarily disposed of, but will certainly crop up again. It is a
curious thing that in a partially settled country we find one colony
paying over one hundred thousand pounds in a year towards charity works
for those who can find nothing to do. Why should there be any unemployed
at all? Surely there is work enough to be done, land enough lying idle,
desires enough to be satisfied.

It is often alleged by people, especially of the "upper" classes, that
our labouring population are a great deal too well off. "They are
getting too independent altogether, these fellows with their eight hours
and their holidays: the colony will never go ahead until we get cheap
reliable labour." This idea is founded on a hideous ignorance of the
most simple rules of political economy. Cheap labour means degradation
of the community, and no country has ever been prosperous or happy by
reason of labour being cheap; but the exact contrary has always been the
case. High wages have everywhere and always meant prosperity, and low
wages have always meant bad times.

Let those who do not see the necessity for any change or questioning of
the present arrangement of affairs take a night walk round the poorer
quarters of any of our large colonial cities, and they will see such
things as they will never forget. They will see vice and sin and misery
in full development. They will see poor people herding in wretched
little shanties, the tiny stuffy rooms fairly reeking like ovens with
the heat of our tropical summer. I, the writer of this book, at one time
proposed, in search of novelty, to go and live for a space in one of the
lower class lodging houses in Sydney, to see what life was like under
that aspect. I had "roughed it" in the bush a good deal. I had camped
out with very little shelter and very little food. I had lived with the
stockmen in their huts, on their fare, so I was not likely to be dainty;
but after one night's experience of that lodging I dared not try a
second. To the frightful discomfort was added the serious danger of
disease from the filthy surroundings and the unhealthy atmosphere. I
fled. And yet what I, a strong man, dared not undertake for a week,
women and children have to go through from year's end to year's end. And
there were places compared with which the one I tried was a paradise.

Some say of course that all this misery is the fault of the people
themselves; in some cases it is. There are people who would be hard up,
no matter what chances they got; but there are a great many who, try as
they may, cannot make any comfortable kind of a living. Do you, reader,
believe that it is an inevitable law that in a wealthy country like this
we must have so much poverty? Do you not think there must be something
wrong somewhere? Of course people are much worse off in the older
countries. God grant that we never will reach the awful state in which
the poorer classes of England and the Continent now are. Are we not
going in the same direction? That is the question which we have to
consider. The same trouble is showing itself here which has come up
everywhere. Instead of the position of the working people improving at
the same rate as the various appliances for getting a living are
improved and perfected, we find a woeful deficiency. The improvement in
productive power has been like the speed of a racehorse, while the
improvement in the position of the people who ought to be benefited
thereby has been like the speed of the mud turtle--if indeed any
progress has been made at all.

If it be a fact that there is no help for this, and that it is an
absolute necessity that there should be unemployed and paupers, it is a
serious matter for us all, because there is no hard and fast line
dividing one class of workmen from another. All who work, whether by
hand or brain, are equally working for their living, and if that living
is becoming harder to get it is no joke for us. We who have no pressing
cares, look with indifference on the hardships of poverty-stricken
people; but it may be our turn next. It is a matter we should look into.
The accepted theory to explain all this is one which was started by a
clergyman named Malthus. He said that people had to slave day and
night, and women and little children had to suffer hunger and want
because the earth would not produce enough to support its popu-lation.
He said that just in the same way if a man kept on breeding sheep he
would in time overstock his run, so we human creatures tend to increase
and multiply so rapidly that we would overstock the earth, were it not
that our numbers are kept down by starvation, disease, dirt, misery, and
all the evil consequences which follow on and spring from poverty. Nine
men out of every ten you meet subscribe unthinkingly to this theory.
They will say if asked, "There must always be poor people, because there
isn't enough to go round."

It is hard to see how anyone who believes in religion, who believes in a
God of justice and mercy, can believe this theory--will for a moment
believe that God puts people on the earth just to starve them off it

This overpopulation theory, curiously enough, is accepted by a people to
whom it certainly does not apply, and who never learnt it from Malthus.
The howling black savages of the interior of this continent are true
Malthusians; they believe in applying a positive check to the increase
of population, so they operate in a crude but effective way on the
female infants, and render them incapable of ever bearing children. They
do this to relieve the pressure of population on subsistence, in a
wonderfully fertile country where the population is about one nigger to
the square league. In their view, the carrying power of the earth is
limited to the number of wild ducks, tree grubs, lizards and snakes that
it will furnish. Having arrived at this conclusion, they lie on their
backs in the sun all day and curse Creation for not having provided them
with more food. They endorse fully the sentiment of John Stuart Mill,
that it is not the laziness of man but the niggardliness of Nature which
is to blame for the privations which they occasionally endure.

Whether this Malthusian theory be true or not is luckily not a matter
which we need consider; there can be no question but that our country
will support all the population it has now, or is likely to have for the
next few centuries.

It is difficult to imagine a number of people so great that our country
could not carry them. When we think of the great rolling fertile plains
of this continent, the wonderfully rich river flats, and the miles and
thousands of miles of agricultural land, spreading all over the country
and hardly yet trodden by man, it is very evident that pressure of
population on subsistence has nothing whatever to do with our

It can, I believe, be shown that the supplies of heat in the sun will in
time give out; that the earth will grow cold and lifeless, and will stop
turning round and round, and I suppose it could be proved that the earth
will some day be overstocked--but all these things are a long way off.
Are we going to give ourselves up as lost, and to make no effort to put
things straight, because at some very remote period there may not be
enough subsistence to keep everybody alive? We would indeed be
chicken-hearted to give way to such opinion.

It is generally alleged that these ideas of a better state of things are
visionary and unrealisable. If it is the dream of a visionary, that in a
new country like this, where we have the most fertile soil and the
greatest natural resources of all kinds; where we can grow anything we
want and make all things we need for ourselves, or get them by exchange
from the older countries: if it is the dream of a visionary that in such
a country every man might be comfortably off, and might get a living
easily, certainly, and with a large amount of leisure, then God help the
people of such a country. They deserve to have it taken from them and
given back to the blacks.


IT MUST always be remembered that we are dealing here with the simple
question whether we can, by any means, be enabled to make a better
living. We are not concerning ourselves with the theoretical or
imaginative part of life at all. We are simply investigating the supply
and demand of bread and butter. We look upon the object of life as being
to get the best possible living. We live and work that we may have good
clothes to wear, good food to eat, may enjoy the luxuries of life, may
go to the theatre on occasions, may take our leisure when we wish it,
may help those in need, patronise our friends, and insult our enemies;
and that when we die we may leave a good name and a fair amount of money
to our posterity, and depart "over the border" with a decent share of
good deeds to our credit in the great ledger. As Bastiat puts it, the
rule is that man shall eat bread in the sweat of his brow, and the
object of us all is to get the greatest possible amount of bread for the
least possible amount of sweat. We estimate our wealth in money, but
money is only valuable for the things it will buy; it is a medium of
exchange; paper makes just as good money as gold; a banknote for a pound
will buy just as much in any Australian city as a sovereign. When we
say, therefore, that we work for money, we mean that we work for the
things which money will buy--for the desirable things of this life which
we may lump under the name of "wealth", meaning not money, but articles
of value. Now we have to consider: What are these desirable things, and
how are they obtained?

Everything which we have, or desire to have, is produced by the earth in
some crude form or other, and is worked up by human labour into the
shape in which we use it. A carriage is simply a hickory tree and other
trees, cut into shape, and bound together with iron ore which has been
smelted and refined. A suit of clothes is wool from the sheep twisted
into shape by intricate machinery, which machinery is also iron and
other ores refined and prop-erly treated, and put in proper shape.
Everything we have comes from the earth; there is no other wealth; there
is no other source of supply. Manna does not drop from heaven in these
days. The next thing is to try and find out the system, if any, on which
we set to work to make these things. Once we can find the basis, the
system of the thing, we will have made a good start.

The reader no doubt has been used to hear a good deal of talk about
productive and unproductive labour; about producer and consumer; about
supply and demand; about scarcity and overproduction; everything seems
mixed up, and there appears to be no system what-ever. One thing,
however, is clear, namely, that no one gets a living for nothing. We
hear about unproductive labourers, consumers, and so on. What is an
unproductive consumer? A mere mouth and belly, apparently, which other
men supply with food. There is no law whereby such people are
maintained, and as a matter of fact everyone except absolute paupers
does something, or gives something for a living. No one is an
unproductive consumer; everyone helps in some way in the production of
wealth. The Governor of the colony draws a salary. Why? Because he does
his share in the work of keeping order, protecting the people, and
managing the affairs of the State. Such share, perhaps, as we might
easily get done at less cost, but such as we have fixed at our own
valuation. Your services, we say, are worth so many thousands a
year--here are your wages. In the same way, through all classes of the
people, all are doing their share in production of wealth.

There are men who do not actually make, out of the produce of the earth,
by applying their labour, any tangible article of wealth; they do not
themselves produce any wealth, but they assist those who do. If we were
all like working bullocks, desiring grass and water, and grass and water
only, then we might well look upon anyone, who devoted his energies to
any object other than the attainment of grass and water, as a
supernumerary and an unproductive consumer. If we could do our work
without amusement, without recreation, without pleasure to the eye and
gratification of the senses, then might we dispense with all
"unproductive" labourers. We might all dress in moleskins and flannel
shirts, and if we did we might look upon people who wove silk fabrics as
unproductive and wasters. But our natures are different from this; we
need rest, recreation and amusement; we desire to have pretty things as
well as merely useful ones, and we have higher needs than eating and
drinking. For instance, actors and singers help us in our work by
lightening our minds and stirring up our mirth, so that we go on our way
more cheerful and contented. They themselves produce nothing, but they
help us so that we produce the more. We pay them their "wages", holding
them to have given us an equivalent. Each does his share, and if we seek
to weed out those whose labour might be dispensed with, where will we
draw the line? Not until we have dispensed with everything except the
plainest clothes, and the coarsest food, and the poorest shelter
compatible with health.

A civilised man does not choose to live under these conditions, and the
result is that many of us devote ourselves to labour that might be
dispensed with, if we were all to become anchorites; the principle
remains the same, namely, that we are all working for the desired
wealth. We merely extend the meaning of wealth from necessary things to
desirable things. We can see, therefore, that all labour tends to the
same end, and we should not allow the intricate subdivision of labour to
blind our eyes to the great central fundamental fact, that we are all
working for the best living we can get; that such living can only be got
out of the earth and its products, and that we are all engaged, more or
less directly, in obtaining and improving those products for our use.

This is the object of work; but besides the men who get their living by
their work, there are some that don't work, and still get a living: how
do we classify these? We have said that there is no law whereby a man
gets his living for nothing, and the reader will find it very easy to
define the position of the non-workers. They either own land and live on
the rent of it, or they own capital and live on the interest of it. The
brainless English new chum who comes out here with five thousand pounds
to invest does his share in the aggregate production by lending his

These are the three factors of production of wealth: land, labour, and
capital. Production is carried on by these three factors and by nothing
outside of them. If a man gets a living at all, he gets it by working
for it, or by using his own money, or letting other people use it; or by
using his own land, or letting other people use it.

To hear the current speakers and read the current books on this subject,
one would think that, as each man came of age, he was earmarked and
branded by Providence, one "capi-talist", another "landlord", another
"labourer", and that they were then turned loose into the world to war
on one another. This is not the right way to look at it. There is no
hard and fast distinction between different classes of men, and the
troubles that continually come up are due to mistakes, and ignorance of
the great social principles which govern such things. This, then, is the
system of our social life: We have, the Australians, a nation possessing
one of the finest countries in the world, amply supplied with capital,
or stored up wealth, of their own and older countries. Their object
being to get the best living they can out of their country, they divide
themselves into an infinity of trades, professions, and businesses,
ranging from those who directly till the soil and tend the herds up to
the most elevated officials of government. Capital is easily available
for any productive enterprise. Land is plenty. There is (theoretically)
no restriction whatever on the method in which they employ themselves.
Every man can go to the thing which he thinks will pay him best. If this
system were worked properly, it is the best possible system, being the
simplest. Under such a system one should expect to get the best possible

We would expect that no one would be idle until every want was
satisfied, and there was nothing left to be done. So long as there are
bare backs to clothe in the old country, so long as they want leather,
minerals, and all the raw products of our land, it surely must pay us to
go on exchanging with them, sending them the raw material and getting
back manufac-tured goods; so long as any other land wants our goods, and
is willing and able to give us in exchange for them such things as we
want, it surely should be possible for us all to get a good living by
going to work and exchanging with them. We have so much land, and so few
people. If they could not, or would not, exchange with us, we could
isolate ourselves if we liked, and still make a splendid living by
"manufacturing," i.e., improving our own raw material for our own
benefit. Either way, we ought to be able to get the best living that our
capabilities will allow; whereas we are not using half our natural
opportunities, and rich land is lying idle half a mile from towns where
men are sitting idle, or only half occupied, at professions for which
there is little demand, and trades in which employment is slack. To
anyone who understands the system of production, the way in which our
inhabitants are crowding into the towns is something appalling. We would
call a man a fool who ran a station with one-third of his hands at
bookkeeping. We would think a mine pretty well doomed where the
overseers and clerical hands numbered nearly as many as the working
miners; and yet we have about one-third of our population in Sydney and
suburbs alone! They are crowding into the townships, cutting one
another's throats to get employment, most of them half their time idle.
Why is this? The towns can only live on the produce of the country. They
don't grow anything in the towns. If there is a bad season in the
country, it means so much the less produce, so much the less to export,
so much the less to import and use up and enjoy, so much the less to
employ town labour on. This wonderful preponderance of town labour is a
thing which we may explain as we go on.


OUR SYSTEM clearly does not work as it ought. Where we have gone wrong
was, firstly, in dealing with our land. When our forefathers arrived
here there was any amount of land, and they started to grant it away
wholesale to anyone that liked to take it; and the way in which they
granted it was on the English system of what is called "fee simple
tenure"; that is to say, that the grantees took the land from the Crown,
to hold it for ever and ever, for themselves, their heirs, and their
assigns, free of any rent or payment to anyone. No provision was made
for the fact that, as population increased, these lands would become
more and more valuable. They were parted with once and for all. It was,
no doubt, necessary to grant some sort of secure tenure, because no man
will produce anything by cultivating land, unless he knows that he will
be secured in the enjoyment of what he produces. To this extent,
therefore, they were bound to give security of tenure. But that is a
very different thing from granting a man land in "fee simple". I intend
to show that when the land was granted away in fee simple, a cruel
mistake was made, which has thus early shown its effects on us and our
prosperity. The present system is absurd and unjust, in that it enables
some people to get a lot of benefit from the community to which they
have no right, and it discourages industry and prevents production. It
encourages men to hold land idle, and its effects extend to us all, as
we all live by what the country produces. "Oh", says the reader, "this
man is simply a Henry Georgeite." I certainly agree with his arguments
against fee simple tenures; but I do not agree in his remedy. It is a
wonderful thing to me how so many people persist in looking upon Henry
George as the discoverer of the evils of a system of fee simple tenure.
After reading his books, I took up the older writers, Adam Smith and
John Stuart Mill, thinking that it was always a good thing to hear both
sides of a question, and to my astonishment I found that they agreed
with George, or rather he with them, in every particular. There is no
other side. What people call Henry Georgeism, i.e. objection to fee
simple tenure in land, is no new doctrine. Every economist has supported
it. It was old before George was born.

John Stuart Mill says: "The plenty and cheapness of good land are the
principal causes of the rapid prosperity of new colonies. The engrossing
of land in effect destroys this plenty and cheapness. The engrossing of
uncultivated land besides is the greatest obstruction to its

Adam Smith says: "I shall conclude this very long chapter with observing
that every improvement in the circumstances of the society tends, either
directly or indirectly, to raise the real rent of land, to increase the
real wealth of the landlord, his power of purchasing the labour, or the
produce of the labour of other people."

I will add here a cutting from a paper read by Mr J. T. Walker, of
Sydney, before the Economic Association. Mr Walker's opinion will carry
weight with many men to whom the name of Adam Smith is as sounding brass
or a tinkling cymbal. Mr Walker says: "I think that radical land reform,
with due regard for vested interests, and co-operation, are the true
solution of labour and capital difficulties."

If the opinion of such men as Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill goes for
anything the mistake is here: but before going further into this
question, I would like to mention one matter--more harm than good is
done by the energetic writers who persist in denouncing all landowners
as "monopolists", "oppressors", and so on. Landowners are not different
from other people; we see them constantly and do not feel that they
exhibit any desire to "oppress the downtrodden labourer". This sort of
claptrap is largely talked in debating societies, and by back slum
orators. It only keeps thinking people from going into the matter at
all. The old saying, that he who has no case must abuse the other side,
is largely believed in; and readers, who see that the land reformers
constantly denounce the landowners as monopolists, grabbers, and
extortioners, are very apt to believe that they do so because their own
argu-ments are weak. Land ownership in fee simple is a state of things
which we ourselves have created, and was not forced on us. If we can
show that a grave mistake has been made in our dealings with land, let
us try and suggest some reform; but let us not go into hysterical abuse
of those who have profited by the mistake.

The first objection is that the men who buy land in the early days of a
settlement get a great deal of wealth to which they have no moral right.
To illustrate what I mean, near Melbourne is a vast freehold estate
owned by one family, and valued at a million of money. Almost all of
this is in the same state as it was when Batman first settled on the
place where Melbourne now is, as being a likely site for a village. It
carries sheep and nothing else. From Williamstown right down nearly to
Geelong you travel through it. Near Sydney, on the North Shore, is a
vast unimproved block of water frontage property, which frowns on the
harbour, bold and rugged, in just exactly the same state as it was when
Captain Cook brought his ships round there. It is now worth hundreds of
thousands of pounds. What has given these proper-ties their value?
Clearly not the labour and trouble of their owners, as they are
unimproved. They have steadily increased in value ever since the
settlements were founded, because as a country gets more and more
settled, and population gets denser, the demand for such land near the
capital cities becomes greater and greater. When the community parted
with these lands they got a few pounds only, which was all they were
worth. Then the people set to work to transform the howling bush into a
wealthy city; they worked and worked, building houses, making railways
and wharves, extending the suburbs; they added to the value of all lands
about there. Meanwhile the owners of these lands stood by and looked on.
"We can wait," they said. They were paying no rent for the land, and
they saw that it was gradually going up in value, and that they would in
time make a handsome profit, not out of their own exertions, but those
of the community. The reader must remember that, as Henry George says,
"When a man makes a fortune out of a rise in land value, it means that
he can have fine clothes, costly food, a house luxuriously furnished,
etc. Now, these things are not the spontaneous fruits of the soil,
neither do they fall from heaven, nor are they cast up by the sea. They
are products of labour--can only be produced by labour; and hence if men
who do not labour get them, it must be at the expense of those who do
labour." To whom does the finest house about Sydney belong? It belongs
to a man who inherited a huge fortune, made solely out of the rise and
rents of real estate near Sydney; a man who counts his fortune by
hundreds of thousands, and spends most of his time in England. He never
did a day's work in his life, and yet can have every luxury, while
thousands of his fellow countrymen have to toil and pinch and contrive
to get a living. The more the country goes ahead the more he prospers,
and the less he need do. It looks rather as if he "had the loan of us",
as the unrefined say. Yet it is not fair to blame the man. We should
blame the rotten, absurd system which makes such a thing possible.

It may be said, "We have plenty of land; there is no need to make an
outcry about it being granted away--you can get acres and acres out back
at the selection price." "Out back" you can; but every day the words
"out back" mean further and further out. At present the far back land
has little value except what the owners add to it; but every day there
is less and less available land worth taking up. It is all very well to
point to dry waterless plains and say, "There is land--plenty of
it--what are you complaining about the land system for? If you want
land, go and take up some of this." But there is an almighty difference
between such land as this, and the rich lands on the coast rivers, down
about Illawarra, and on the banks of the Hunter and Macleay. The
injustice, the stupidity, of the arrangement, consists in the fact that
our immediate predecessors granted away for ever and ever, in fee
simple, free of rent, the best lands we had, and left the present
generation the wilderness. They should never have allowed any absolute
ownership free of rent to be acquired in land. As the land gets more and
more scarce, those who enjoy the advantage of using the picked lands of
the colony should also enjoy the privilege of paying something to the
community for it.

It is evident that once all the available land gets into the hands of
owners, they have the rest of us at their mercy. Writers who deal with
the subject as it presents itself in older countries are very fond of
denouncing the tyranny of the landlord over the tenant. This phase of
the matter has not yet forced itself upon our community to any extent.
The country is too new for landlord and tenant disputes to have sprung
up; but we will have them, sure enough. We are creating the largest
landed proprietors yet known--men who count their freehold acres by the
hundred thousand. As soon as we leave our cities with their pitiful
little subdiv-isions and crowded buildings, we can run in the train
through miles and miles of freehold estates all belonging to individual
owners. These will all be cut up into farms some day and leased out, and
then the fun will begin. We will have all the things which make life in
Ireland so enjoyable--plenty of good landlord shooting then. We all know
the bitter hatred between the tenants and their landlords, not only in
Ireland, but in Scotland, England and Wales. That sort of thing will
come here some day--the poverty and all, unless we mend our system. As
to the question of discouraging improvements, many people are under the
impression that our present system, of what is practically absolute
ownership, is the only one that encour-ages improvements. "If you make
the tenure of land subject to a rent," say they, "or to any
restrictions, there will be no money spent on the land, no improvements
made, and great deterioration will set in. We will have wooden houses
instead of stone, paling fences instead of walls." But a very little
thought will show them that this is erroneous. It is only when the owner
realises that he can only add to the value of his land by making
improvements that improvements will be made in real earnest. Under the
present system it generally pays better not to improve; improvements
cost money. Any man who has tried his hand at building and laying out a
garden knows that in nine cases out of ten it would have paid him better
to let the land be idle, and wait for an increase in value. It is only
when we get rid of this increase in value through no good deed of the
owner, that we will get proper increase in value by way of improvements.

As to the locking-up of land; it is astonishing how far this locking-up
system prevails. Nearly every country town in New South Wales is cursed
by the proximity of some large estate which can neither be bought nor
leased. Think of the loss to the community caused by this. Every day's
work done on bad land while better land is lying idle is done at so much
loss. Every unfortunate selector who is driven out on to the Macquarie
and the Bogan to take up the dry plain, while land is lying idle on the
rich river flats all over the colony, is working at a dead loss to
himself and the community. It is on the success of such men as these
that city men live. Our present system is direct encouragement to the
owners to hold land idle and wait for a rise. The thing has taken a
great hold in this colony, and the cleverest man is not the man who can
use a bit of land and make something out of it, but the man who can make
a rise out of a railway being made to his property.

For city properties the evil is intensified. When we hear of George
Street property fetching a thousand pounds per foot, we say, "How
prosperous the country must be! What wonderful advances we are making! A
few years ago it could have been bought for a hundred pounds an acre!"
What we ought to say is, "What a dreadful handicap on the colony it is,
that men should be able to get such a lot of the colony's products for
land which was increased in value by the State. What fools we are to
allow it to go on!" That is what we ought to say. To anyone who
understands the matter, it is a cruel thing to see the settlers in the
interior of our colony, striving day after day on their little
properties, with no comforts, no leisure, no hopes nor aspirations
beyond making a decent living, and to think that it is owing to the
labour of these men and such as these that the owners of Sydney are
living luxuriously, travelling between this colony and England, drawing
large rentals, or spending the large values which they never did a
hand's turn to earn or deserve.

There is one stock argument which seems to go down with a lot of people.
It is said that the people who buy land when it is worth little, and
hold on to it till it rises in value, are risking their money, and that
if the land falls in value they lose, so that they surely ought to be
allowed to profit if it rises. The answer to this is that we should
never have to go into the risk at all. It is too great a certainty that
land will rise in any fertile unsettled country. The man who buys runs a
very small risk, and has the chance of a huge profit. The community on
the other hand make a very small profit if the land falls in value after
it is sold, and they make a huge loss if it rises.

Land which was bought for a pound an acre has often risen in value to
twenty thousand pounds per acre by the exertions of the community, and
the owner has reaped the benefit. Land buying in the early stage of a
settlement is a kind of lottery, in which the investor is pretty certain
to win; and where the fortunate men profit at the expense of their
fellow men, not for once but for all time, and not merely for themselves
but for their descendants. We have prohibited all other lotteries, and
yet not one of them ever did one-millionth part of the harm which this
has done. There is no sense in abusing the men who have taken advantage
of this state of affairs. The way was open to them, and they adopted it.
I expect most of my readers only wish that their forefathers had secured
a few acres about Sydney at the time when they could be bought for a keg
of rum. Their descendants need do very little work now; other people
would have to work for them.

There is another argument sometimes advanced, which looks well on paper
but carries little weight. It is argued that if a man pays money for
land and lets the land lie idle, he is entitled to profit by any advance
in its value, because he has lost interest on his money. This is a
rotten argument. If a man likes to lock up his capital in unproductive,
unused land, it is his own fault. The land is handed over to him to use,
not to look at. If he uses the land he can get a return for it, which
will pay his interest. If a man bought a mare for a hundred pounds and
never rode her or bred from her, by the time she was twenty years of age
he would, if he calculated up the interest on her price, expect to get
for her several thousands of pounds, whereas he would really get nothing
for so old an animal, nor would he expect it. He would ride her and
breed from her, and so get a return for his money year by year. In the
same way let the owners use the land if they want interest.

This is where we want to make a reform. Our land system is bad: it
drives the men into the cities; it causes good land to be locked up; it
enables some men to live at the expense of others; it enables a man to
say by his will that for twenty-one years after his death no one shall
use his land. Fancy that; a dead man's will can override the needs of
the living. We have created a land-grabbing mania--an earth hunger. Five
hundred and fifty-two persons in a population of over a million own
upwards of seventeen million acres of freehold; they possess in fee
simple over one-half the alienated lands of New South Wales. Squatters
have been forced to buy where they would rather have taken a good lease
on secure tenure. To buy the land they have had to borrow largely from
English capital, and our lands are mortgaged up to the hilt; the
purchase money has been spent in wasteful extravagance in public
build-ings, in useless courthouses, etc., in one-horse country towns.
Where we ought to have spent money in irrigation we have spent it in
building tramways and bridges, and such like city works, which add
nothing to the productive power of the country. This is the thing which
cries aloud for a reform.


WHAT SHAPE must our reform take? The followers of Henry George say,
"Resume all the land again without paying compensation, except for
improvements." At least, they say, take all the annual value except
enough to induce the land owners to collect it. They purpose not only to
make land pay all taxes, but to go on to take all the annual value,
whether needed for taxation or not (Progress and Poverty). This is too
sudden a remedy altogether. We cannot fairly resume the lands which we
have sold, even though we got but small money for them; we cannot fairly
take "all the annual return, except enough to induce the owner to
collect it". The men who own the land now are not, except in some few
cases, the men to whom it was originally granted. The present holders
have paid well for it in many cases; our whole credit system is founded
on those fee simple tenures; the banks have accepted the money of the
community, and have advanced it on security of these tenures. It would
be too great a jar, a dislocation of industry and security to attempt
any sudden method. Henry George wants to burst up the present system on
which all our credit and business is founded, and leave us without
anything in its place. His plan, if adopted, would make things very nice
for our posterity, but would leave us in a bad way.

The great keynote of the reform must be to let men hold lands to use,
and not to look at. We must try and devise some means whereby the
productive lands of the country shall be available for use by
individuals, under the most favourable circumstances for themselves and
for the community; we must devise some means whereby no one can hold
land idle and unproductive while others are anxious to use it, and
whereby all value created by the State will go to the State. We must
secure to every man the benefit of his labours, and so far as is needful
for that purpose we must give the holders secure tenure, and enable them
to mortgage their holdings to get an advance of money to aid in
improvements, and to allow them to sell out to others should they desire
it. We must conform to the tendency of the times to concentration, and
allow good large areas to be occupied.

We cannot touch the values already accrued, but what we want to do is to
find out the present unimproved values, and see that any rise in them is
reaped by the State. If the owners like to let them lie idle they must
pay for the privilege, and above all, and beyond all, we must stop, once
and for ever, the trafficking in lands; if a man wants to make money out
of land, let him do it by legitimate improvements, not by "holding for a
rise". If we have any sense we will see that the State gets the benefit
of all rises.

How can we do all this? First of all as to country lands--these are the
productive lands of the community, and if we take the matter in hand at
once, there will be little difficulty in dealing with these.

The generality of country owners would lose nothing by any reform,
because, whatever value their lands have, they have themselves created
by improvements and labour. Almost any farmer in this colony would
cheerfully sell out if you would pay him in full for all his
improvements, and the original purchase money of his land. They have got
no "unearned increment" of value at the expense of the public. We don't
hear of a farmer making a hundred thousand pounds by the construction of
a railway to his farm; but we hear of speculators and syndicates dealing
in Sydney property doing it often enough. The farmers have been working
at their farms to add value to city property, more than to their own
property. Some farm land, of course, has a value over and above the
improvements--such land as the Hunter River Valley, for instance. There
is farm land on the Hunter worth, unimproved, one hundred pounds per
acre; but all the community ever got for it was one or two pounds per
acre. The men who own this sort of land have got a large rise in values
for which they never worked, and they are in the same position as owners
of city property.

To put straight the tenure of country lands, I would make every land
owner send in a valuation of his land without improvements. Let it be
optional for the State to pay him or his mortgagees the unimproved
value, and become his landlord at a rent to be assessed; his
improvements to remain his own property; or else let the State put a tax
on him calculated on the excess of his valuation over the original price
which he gave. We would thus get a true valuation, because every owner
would know that if he valued too high he would find himself taxed on
that value.

We would thus resume control of the lands, and the existing credit
system would not be disturbed. The owners could hold for ever and ever,
or until they liked to sell out, but their lands should be revalued once
in every five years and a fresh rent imposed. This plan works very well
in Japan. The speculation in land would thus be done away with, because
no man would be able to hold land as a speculation; the rent would make
him use it, and he would not be able to get much more than the original
unimproved valuation, because every five years such valuation would be
overhauled and rectified. His improvements he could at any time get full
value for, and he would thereby be encouraged to make improvements and
discouraged from holding land idle, instead of being, as now, encouraged
to hold it idle and discouraged from improving. Any bushman can tell
hundreds of cases where rich land is locked up in the big freehold runs,
carrying sheep, while miserable selectors are trying to get a living on
stony ridges. This rich land would be made to pay a proportionate
taxation; its present value would be fixed so that the owner could never
make anything by a rise in it. That would be reaped by the State. The
owner would be driven to improve or to let others onto it who would
improve it. This plan would greatly help all small farmers and settlers.
Their holdings would pay no rent to speak of, having, without
improvements, no value above the original purchase money. And the
immense increase in aggregate production that would result would give us
all a fresh start. Owners of rich land would see that nothing would be
gained by holding onto it idle, and they would put it in use. There
would be a demand for labour of all sorts. The prosperity of the country
would at once go ahead, and prosperity of the country would mean
prosperity of the towns. People would be able to buy things, employ
professional men, and meet their bills more regularly than they can now.
The town values of lands I would deal with in much the same way. Fix the
present value without improve-ments, by the owner's own valuation, and
let it be clearly understood that the owner would reap no benefit from
any advance on that value. Such value as he liked to add by
improve-ments he would be welcome to. Once the owners saw that they
would make no profit by holding their land idle, a lot of it would be
brought into the market, and prices all round would fall in consequence.
The present absurdly high value of land must be brought down somehow. It
is no use saying we can do it without any jar, because there must be
some jar. The present owners of Sydney, for instance (and there are not
such a great many of them) could, if they liked to combine together, rob
the colony of thousands and thousands of pounds by simply raising their
rents. The business of the colony must be carried on in Sydney, and
under the present system we must pay the owners of Sydney what price
they like for the use of their land. There is no second Sydney to go to.
We have given them this vast power, and we cannot take it away by any
means which will be unfelt. I think the fairest way is to do as I have
suggested--don't interfere with the present values, but look after any
future value, and the result will be that prices for city land will
reach their true level.

The tremendous lot of unimproved land about Sydney, which is patiently
waiting for a rise is something wonderful. Go up into the Post Office
tower and look round. You will see hundreds of acres of land, exactly in
the state in which Captain Cook found it, but all of it worth according
to present values from a thousand pounds per foot down to three pounds
per foot. Once the owners get to know that no further advance is
possible, they will begin to use this land, and when all this unimproved
land comes into the market, the inhabitants of Sydney will not have to
levy such a heavy tax on their country brethren as they have been doing,
to pay the colossal rents of city properties.

This is the great reform which must come sooner or later. I am quite
aware that it is little use arguing and pointing out a thing which is
not severely felt--the average Englishman feels nothing unless it hits
him with the force of a club. Well, this fee simple ownership, if not
mended, will hit us like a club, and that before very long. It has hit
them that way in the old country. They are compelling landowners to hand
over their land to tenants who wish to use it. I propose some day to go
more fully into this land question, and to point out in detail its
bearings on the different kinds of properties. For the present we are
all agog over our fiscal policy. Any change in the fiscal policy will
mean only a change in distribution; it will add but little to production
of wealth. Nevertheless, as it is at present the burning question, we
may as well try and get at the principles of it, and see how it affects
us and our prosperity.


THERE HAS sprung up, for what reason I know not, an impression that land
reform and protection are diametrically opposed. The gentlemen who
advocate the single tax theory meet the gentlemen who advocate
protection in deadly combat on public platforms. There is no antagonism
between true land reform and protection, as I propose to show. They
support each other and should go together. The single tax men forget
that if they make their tax as heavy as George wishes, viz., a
confiscation tax, it will upset all existing arrangements, and burst up
the present system. If they only make it a light tax it will have no
effect, but will simply be passed on by the landlords to the tenants.
The last time a land tax was proposed this was provided for in all
leases. The question between free trade and protection, when you come to
the bedrock of it, is simply whether it is better for a community such
as ours to exchange its raw materials for the manufactures of other
countries, or to tax its own people and so create manufactures.

It is quite clear that the stock protectionist arguments hardly put the
matter properly. It is rather feeble to talk about being overwhelmed
with foreign boots, and inundated with cotton material. These things are
not curses but blessings. We wear boots and clothes; the question is
whether it is better to make these things for ourselves, or to get them
from other countries where they can be produced cheaper. The free trade
theory is that so long as any foreign country will furnish us with
manufactured goods cheaper than our own people will make them, it is
advisable to let them come in free, because our own people can go to
something else more profitable. Bastiat, the great free trade authority,
says in his Economic Sophisms:

"Why are men attached to the system of protection?"

"Because as liberty (of exchange) enables them to obtain the same result
with less labour, this apparent diminution of employment frightens

"Why do you say apparent?"

"Because all labour saved can be applied to something else."

"To what?"

"That I cannot specify, nor is there any need to specify it."


"Because if the sum of satisfactions which the country at present enjoys
could be obtained at one-tenth less labour, no one could enumerate the
new enjoyments which men would desire to obtain from the labour left
disposable. One man would desire to be better clothed, another better
fed, another better educated, another better amused."

Again: "As long as a man has wants to satisfy and time at his disposal,
there is always something to be done."

That is the whole theory of free trade; and it is exactly on this point
that in practice the free trade arguments break down. Something else!
Our people ought to be able to go to something else, no doubt; they
ought to be able to go out into the bush and grow wool and dig up the
minerals. The market for these things is not yet oversupplied, and the
land is not yet exhausted; but, owing to our land tenure system, their
chances of going to something else are lessening every day. So long as
there are unemployed or only partially employed men, crowding into our
cities eager for a job of work, it is no use for the free traders to say
that there is no need to foster manufactures, because the people can go
to something else. They can't get anything else to go to. So long as
they try to keep up their wages, i.e., to maintain a high standard of
living, they cannot hope to compete with the underpaid labourers of the
Continent and England. Henry George, in his Protection and Free Trade
lays down a doctrine which amounts to this, that wherever wages are
highest production is cheapest, and he quotes the Americans as a proof.
The Americans have got a start of the world in machinery, and can turn
out manufactured articles cheaper than lower wage countries. When those
lower wage countries get the same machinery as the Americans (and this
they are doing every day), they will soon disprove this fallacy that the
more a man is paid for his work, the less expensive his work is. The
true reason of the American success is simply that they have a huge
local market secured to them by protection. The bigger the market, the
cheaper can the articles be sold. If any coachbuilder here were to try
and make buggies of the same quality as the Abbott or Fleming buggies,
he would promptly go smash. They have a huge home market, and where he
could sell one they could sell a hundred, so that they can gain all the
advantages derived from doing things on a big scale. They can compete
with foreign labour because of their huge home market, because of their
immense start in machinery and scientific know-ledge, and because they
are protected heavily against foreign competition both of goods and
labour--no unemployed foreigner can land in America without paying a
tax, nor can his goods go in without paying a tax. It sounds rather well
for them to talk about fair competition with the world! The fact is that
where labour is high no manufactures can stand without protection. Adam
Smith said that they would grow up naturally; as a nation grew out of
the infancy stage its surplus capital would, he said, "naturally turn
itself to the employment of artificers and manufacturers at home". Both
those artificers and manufacturers, finding at home the materials (in
our case say wool and corn), and the subsistence (i.e., capital)
necessary for their work, might immediately, even with less skill, be
able to work as cheap as inhabitants of mercantile states at a distance
(say England). They might not be able to compete at first, because they
would not have such good machinery; but in time they would be able to
compete, and be able to "jostle" the manufacturing country out of the
local markets.

Smith, in this paragraph, overlooks the fact that labour will not reduce
its wages sufficiently to compete with "mercantile" states. They only
hold their own by degrading their labour to the starvation point, and to
"jostle" them out of our own, or any other market, we must reduce our
labourers accordingly, a thing which we are loath to do. He says that by
this means any landed country will in time manufacture and carry too.
But the great wages question he has overlooked. We cannot compete with
German iron goods, for instance, even though we have the iron here,
until our labourers like to come down to working fourteen hours a day,
with no holidays.

The English operatives can beat our local cloth factories in our own
markets, although the wool has to be carried there and handled by hosts
of people, and brought back here made up. If we could get men at English
wages we would soon beat them; but the old, old question then comes
up--are we going to pauperise our labour in the strife for the world's
markets? It must be remembered that our object is to put our working
classes on a higher footing than they now stand; and if we do this, we
can never expect them to manufacture things for us at the same rate of
pay as the foreign makers get. The trusts and monopolies whereby
labourers are robbed, and which grow up under protection, and which
formed, so far as I can see, almost the sole basis for Henry George's
book, Free Trade and Protection, are not the fault of the system, but of
the way it is administered.

This question of free trade and protection is purely a wages question.
While we have men unemployed, or half employed, it is idle to talk about
the economic value of their labour and to say that they need not
manufacture, as they can go to something else. It is for the free
traders to say to what else they should go. Failing an answer to this
question, the country will inevitably go for protection. We can see
pretty clearly the reason why these men are unemployed: the bad land
tenure system is the reason of it. But even when tenures are put right,
I think protection is the correct policy. We can of course, all devote
our attention to wool growing and farming, two things in which, by
reason of our superior natural advantages, we are bound (for the
present, at any rate) to find something to do. We can exchange our
products for those of other countries. With all our best land available,
we might command the markets of the world for raw material. But is it a
fitting destiny for such a nation as ours that we should have no higher
objects than to grow wool and reap corn? Are we to have no arts nor
manufactures? These things will only grow by protection. These is no
question what protection is: it simply means taking out of the pockets
of certain of the community a sum of money for the benefit of the
others; and I say deliberately that such a proceeding is right. We have
now the best of the wool trade; but the South American supplies are
catching on us. We cannot export wheat to compete with America. It is
better for us to make for ourselves a local market, even as the
Americans have done. It is better to lay a tax on the exporting
producers, and enable some of our people to start manufactures, so that
as these latter grow up we can create a system of exchange over which we
have control. Our own farmers and wool growers will have a certain
market with their own manufacturers; and the manufacturers will have a
certain market with their country people, instead of having to compete
with auction sold goods sent out here in huge batches, and made by
starving wretches working fifteen hours a day. There is no doubt that
there are quite enough of us to get a good living, even when dividing
our labour as I propose. Every other country almost has done the same
thing. If all the world were one country, under one set of laws, it
would be a different matter. But we cannot long devote ourselves
entirely to wool growing and farming, and as soon as we get any surplus
labour we must give it a chance.

Here is the gist of the whole matter. Adam Smith says, "It is the maxim
of every prudent master of a family never to attempt to make at home
what it will cost him more to make than to buy." No, but if he has to
keep some of his family doing nothing, it is better to make the article,
even at a loss, than submit to the loss of keeping the family idle, and
also buying the thing.

This, then, should be our policy: Reform our land tenure, so that we may
get the best possible use out of our lands; and reform our tariff, so
that we may give our industries a start on some other basis than that of
cheap labour. We will, of course, amass a huge revenue of Government;
but I have yet to learn that that is an evil. There are plenty of ways
of spending Government money besides building the North Shore bridge. We
can start irrigation works, and go in for artesian water. We can afford
to amuse ourselves a little, and life need not be such a very
"root-hog-or-die" proceeding as it now is.

One question is much debated--should trade be free between the colonies?
Certainly, once we get all the colonies under one Government, and get
the land system in each on a proper basis. At present our farmers out in
the back country are clamouring for protection against Victorian
products. They say that the cost of carriage prevents them having a
chance. That is one of the beauties of our present land system, that men
have to go three or four hundred miles inland to make a homestead, while
better land is lying idle near the towns; also, they say that they
cannot compete with the splendid land which the Victorian farmers enjoy.
When we get a proper land system, all such land will pay an additional
rent to the State, and the man that has the advantage of using it will
have the privilege of paying for it. We must always keep in view that
our object is the greatest good for the greatest number; and as soon as
we get all the colonies under one government and under a proper land
system, then we will know that everyone has a fair chance, and it will
pay us better to put some of our people on to manufactures and art,
rather than to go on being "a country where they grow wool". This will
be better than letting our manufactures grow up, by our population
growing down in their standard of living.

Published by Gordon & Gotch, 1889

A Station Sketch

HUGHEY WAS butcher on the station, and his soul yearned for a dog. Dogs
there were about in plenty, but he wanted something special, and as the
super was going to Sydney, Hughey commissioned him to buy him a dog.
"Buy a dog," he said, "as can fight. I don't put no value on pedigree--I
don't want no pedigree, I want a dog, get a dog as can fight, and he'll
fill the bill." Wherefore there appeared shortly in a Sydney paper, in
the somewhat inaccurate grammar of the super: "WANTED, at once, a dog as
can fight. Apply Bushman's Hotel."

Next morning the men with dogs commenced to roll up. The dogs were of
all sorts, sizes, and colours, having only one thing in common--they
each and all looked as if they would tear a man's leg off on the
slightest pretext. When the super went down and admitted them into the
bar parlour, he and the landlord had to get up on the table to obtain
anything like an unprejudiced view of the competitors. They soon weeded
them down to two, one a villainous-looking half-bred devil, and the
other a pure-bred bulldog of undeniable quality, a truculent ruffian
with milk-white skin and bloodshot eyes, by whose noble proportions the
soul of the landlord was much gratified. The other dog, however, was
evidently the better in a fight, because the gentleman in charge of him
said he thought the best way to decide was "to let the two dawgs 'ave a
go in, to see which is the best dawg". The one-eyed nobleman who
represented the bulldog saw that his dog would have no chance in a
fight, but being himself of the pugilistic persuasion, he tied his dog
to the leg of a table and advanced on the other man with his fists up.
"Suppose me an' you has a go in," he said, "to see which is the best

This proposal would have been promptly acceded to but for the arrival of
another man with a dog--a big brown dog with a coarse, heavy-jawed head,
big round the ribs, fairly long and light in the legs, evidently as
active as a cat and hard as nails. But the previous dog owners knew him
and apparently recognised that they and their canines were in the
presence of a master. "'Ere's 'Arrison's dawg," they said, "an' in
corse if you want a dawg to fight..." So the super explained that that
was just what he did want, and he became the purchaser of the brown
animal, which duly arrived among us and was installed as Hughey's dog.
As he had no tail Hughey, of course, christened him "Stumpy".

And he could fight. He "counted out" every dog in the place the first
two days he was there. His great activity, combined with his powerful
jaws, made him a Czar among tykes. After the first two days not a dog
dared heave in sight while Hughey's dog was taking a walk. He chased the
kangaroo dogs away up the paddock, he fought two rounds with the bullock
driver's dog, and would have killed him only for the arrival of the
bullocky with the whip, and as he was intercepted in hot pursuit of the
boss's favourite collie, Hughey thought it was best to tie him up. This
made him worse, and whenever he managed to slip his collar or break the
chain there would be a procession of dogs making full speed for the
river, with Stumpy after them kicking the dust up in hot pursuit. Once
they got to the river they were safe, as he was an indifferent swimmer
and would not take to the water. Whenever any traveller or teamster came
along with a dog that he fancied could fight, Hughey's dog was always
trotted out to maintain the honour of the station, which he invariably
did with a vengeance.

Soon his fame spread far and wide. Long, gawky, cornstalk youths used to
ride miles to see him, and a kind of exhibition used to be given on a
Sunday for the benefit of visitors. Stumpy was chained up by a fairly
long chain, and the entertainment consisted of taking a dog, one that
knew Stumpy's prowess for choice, and then getting Stumpy out to the
full length of his chain, and giving him a fair hold of the visiting
dog's tail. A most exciting struggle would ensue. The hospitable Stumpy
would drag with might and main to get his guest within the reach of his
chain, and the frenzied excitement in his face as he felt the other
dog's tail slipping out of his teeth was awful to witness. The other dog
meanwhile industriously scratched gravel to get away. Sometimes he
turned and confronted Stumpy, but no dog ever did that more than once;
once was more than enough, and on any second appearance they would
devote all their energies to pulling away, and praying that their tails
would break. Sometimes the tail was bitten through by Stumpy, and on
these occasions the dog was, if possible, recaptured and the affair was
started fresh, fair, and square. If Stumpy pulled the dog into his reach
he used to drag him back into the centre of the circle covered by his
chain, shorten his hold on the tail in a workmanlike manner until he got
him right up close to him, when he would suddenly release the tail and
make a spring for the dog's neck. This was a most exciting moment,
because if Stumpy missed his spring the other dog would probably dash
away out of reach, and it was with breathless interest the assembled
crowd would watch Stumpy nerving himself for this critical rush. If
Stumpy got a fair hold, the game was stopped and the dog released.

One night some dingoes came howling round the homestead, scaring the
sheep in the yard, frightening the cows and calves and small dogs,
making the fowls cackle and the cocks crow, and stirring up the deuce
generally. It was bright moonlight, and the big, grey expanse of the
plain lay open and clear almost as day when the men slipped down to the
back to let Stumpy go. They reckoned this dingo business would be right
into his hand, and when they got down there he was, straining at the
collar so hard that he nearly choked. They let him go, and he dashed
madly off into the moonlight in the direction of the howling dingoes,
breathing murder and dog's meat, and the men followed at a run, one of
them carrying an old carbine. "Lord help the dingo as Stumpy gets hold
on!" gasped out Hughey as they ran along. They soon lost sight of Stumpy
in the dim distance, and the howling had abruptly ceased. They ran on
until out of breath, when they pulled up and listened: a dead silence
reigned, there was no sound of dog or dingo, and nothing in sight on the
plain but the clumps of saltbush. "I expect he's follerin' them away
into the scrub," said Hughey. "I reckon they'd better take to the river
if they want to keep their hides outside their gizzards," said another.
They waited awhile and whistled and called, but nothing came, so they
tramped off home. As they drew near the sheep yard it became evident
something was wrong; the sheep were "ringing" wildly, rushing in all
directions to escape some foe.

"By Jove, there's a dingo in the yard," said Hughey, and they rushed up
at the double. The carbine was handed to one of the blackfellows, a
noted shot, and as the party ran up he got a clear view of the marauder
in the yard worrying a struggling ewe. The blackfellow put the carbine
to his shoulder and was just going to let drive, when Hughey knocked up
the muzzle of the weapon. "Don't fire," he said, "it's Stumpy."

And so it was. That amiable animal, finding that he could not catch the
dingoes, had come back to give the sheep a turn. After this he was tied
up at night and only occasionally let loose in the daytime, and on one
of these excursions an event happened which sealed his fate.

Hughey used to kill the sheep for eating, and of course, Stumpy came in
for the lion's share of the waste meat. The men's cook was a big
Dutchman, a half-witted chap who occasionally went religion-mad, and
between him and Stumpy there was a vendetta. Stumpy, you see, had killed
his dog, and he had poured boiling water on Stumpy on the only occasion
when the latter visited the kitchen: so it was not to be wondered at
that when the cook walked rather carelessly, and perhaps swaggeringly,
past Stumpy, who was devouring some sheep's liver, Stumpy went after him
and bit him severely. The cook went to Hughey, who was putting the
ornamental touches on the ribs of the dead sheep by cutting patterns
with his knife. "Hughey," he said, "your tam tog vas pite me!"

"What do I care!" responded Hughey. "I suppose it won't poison him--did
he swaller the piece?"

The Dutch cook looked at Hughey in a curious way, and walked on. Late
that night when the episode was forgotten, the cook announced his
intention of going out to shoot some possums. "Don't shoot yourself!"
was the only advice he got, but again he smiled that curious smile as he
replied, "I vill shoot a bossum--a big one."

Then he set forth into the night with all the dogs in the place
accompanying him. A couple of shots were heard down by the river, and
soon the Dutchman came back and put the gun away, and went off to the
house. He asked for the boss, and much to the boss's astonishment said
he meant to leave next morning. "You can't leave," said the boss. "You
are under agreement to give a certain amount of notice--you can't leave
all at once."

"Vell," responded the Dutchman slowly, "it is all in de agreement, but I
must go. De stars is gettin' very close togedder and I haf a heap of
preachin' to do--as soon as dem stars gets togedder de vorld vill be
purnt up and I must go and preach to the beeples."

"Off his nanny again," thought the boss, "the sooner he goes the
better." So the cook returned to the hut, and the men heard him packing
and rolling things at all hours of the night, then he went out again and
quiet reigned.

Next morning he was gone. The men had to cook their own breakfast, which
annoyed them greatly, and then they went down to the house to see if the
boss knew anything of the cook's disappearance, and he learned that he
had given notice.

"He seems to have taken my dog," groaned Hughey. "I can't see him

Then Hughey went off to the meat house to get the sheep he had killed on
the previous day. There it hung, wrapped round by a white cover just as
he had left it. As he took it down he noticed that it felt strangely
light, but he carried it to the kitchen, laid it on the chopping block
and took off the cover. Then he found out why it was so light. In the
place of the sheep there lay, skinned, dressed, and ornamented in true
butcher fashion, the corpse of Stumpy. The Dutchman had shot him and
butchered him the previous night, and had gone forth to do his
"preaching to the peoples" for fear of the consequences.

Hughey swore an oath of vengeance, but he never came across the cook
again. The latter got into a lunatic asylum and spends his days in
asserting that the Prince of Wales meanly cut him out of the affections
of Alexandra, to whom he (the mad butcher) was engaged to be married,
and in the contemplation of that romantic matter he has forgotten all
about Hughey's dog.

The Bulletin, 2 November 1889


HE WAS a short, fat, squat, bald-headed officer with a keen instinct for
whisky, and an unlimited capacity for taking things "easy"; he would
have been a tall man had Providence not turned round so much of his legs
to make his feet. He used to "mooch" about the village at night, and if
he saw any lights burning late in the houses, he would casually look in
to see that nothing was amiss, and pretend to be very vigilant and on
the alert, and he very often was rewarded with a stiff drink of whisky.
If he had no excuse to go in, he used to rattle at the gates to see that
the fastenings were all right, and when the proprietor came out he would
say, "All right, sir! I was just seeing that the gate was fast! Very dry
night, sir!" And this generally ended in a liquid and spirituous manner.
But the system one night resulted in serious damage to the constable
himself, as I shall proceed to explain.

I was reading for an examination and burning the midnight oil; in front
of the house was a small garden, into which an old grey horse that
belonged to an Irishman up the village was constantly straying down the
road and making his way. He could lift the gate catch with his nose, and
many a time in the stilly night I used to hear him rattling at it trying
to get the gate open. Then I would leave my books, and sally out and
drive him away with language and blue metal. Next time he happened to be
loose he would play the same game. He became very crafty too, and would
clear out like lightning the moment he heard anyone stirring in the
house, so that it became a most difficult matter to land a rock on him
at all. Tired of this kind of thing, I one night prepared a little
surprise for him. I got a two-pound dumb-bell, laid it ready in the
balcony overlooking the gate, so that I could rush out and get it the
moment I heard him: and I calculated to give him the hardest knock he
ever had. Then I went back to the books and read on.

The night wore on and midnight approached: it was dark as the inside of
a cow, and a little wind was blowing. Suddenly I heard a faint "rattle,
rattle" down at the gate. I drew a long breath, slipped noiselessly into
the balcony, grasped the dumb-bell and let it go with terrific force
right at a dim object just looming through the pitchy darkness. The
astute reader will, of course, have divined that it was not the old grey
horse this time. It was the policeman. The two-pound iron dumb-bell had
struck him fair on the temple; if it had hit him anywhere else it would
have killed him.

He threw up his hands and fell like a dead man. I rushed to his
assistance. It is useless to try and set out half the things that
flashed through my brain as I rushed downstairs. In my mind's eye I saw
myself before the coroner's jury; I saw myself at the criminal court
with Judge Windeyer trying me; I heard the jury bring in a verdict of
guilty with a strong recommendation to mercy, and I knew that meant
hanging for certain, as people recom-mended to mercy always perish on
the scaffold in Australia. I saw a blotched diagram of the locality
published in the daily papers with a cross to mark the spot where the
policeman fell, and an asterisk to show the position of the murderer
when he hurled the bloodthirsty dumb-bell. I saw my portrait--that of a
dreadful-looking ruffian--in the Town and Country Journal--and then,
having reached the prostrate form of the blue-bottle, I lifted him in my
arms and ascertained that he still lived. With tender care I bathed his
alabaster brow; I watched with eagerness as he slowly came round; as
soon as he was conscious I began to apologise, to explain, to grovel. He
listened for a while and then he said, "Oh, it's all right, Banjo. It
was an unfortnit haccident. Do you happen to have a little whisky in the
house? My tongue is dry enough to strike matches on."

I loaded him up with whisky, gave him a substantial Christmas box and
sent him on his way as good as new. I believe you could shoot him with
dumb-bells every night in the week on the same terms.

The Bulletin, 4 January 1890


IN THE latest volume of the Badminton Library of Sports there is a
description of the way in which wild horses are yarded in Australia.
According to this usually excellent authority on field sports, the
stockmen simply take a promenade up the nearest big plain and "circle
round" the various wild mobs, and gather them and drive them into the
yard. Now, wild horse hunting, or, as it is called in the bush, "running
bush horses", is the grandest sport known in Australia; and to have it
maligned in this way by the leading English authority is rather hard.
But it must be remembered that very few Australians know how it is done,
and a short account of it may be interesting.

The wild horses are not indigenous but are descendants of animals that
escaped from the early settlers. They form into mobs, which always keep
together, and each mob attaches itself to a special piece of country.
When startled they race away to the fastnesses of some favourite range.
If they fail to shake off their pursuers they carry on across country to
some other haunt, always making instinctively for the rockiest and
scrubbiest places. The stockmen try to cut them off from these refuges,
and to wheel them into more open country, or else rush them into a trap
yard. These are strongly built yards, with long V-shaped wings running
out for a mile or more into the bush; but the horses soon get to know
where they are, and steer clear of them. Sometimes a lot of quiet
horses, called "tailers", are left in a likely place, and the wild ones
are driven into them. If the wild mob have had a severe gruelling they
will stay with the quiet horses, and the whole lot can be yarded
together; but generally they rush out as soon as they get their wind,
and charge under the stockwhips and away to the mountains again.

The wild horses are a great nuisance to stock owners, because valuable
animals constantly stray away and join them, and nothing but desperate
riding and great good fortune will get them back. Very often the owner
sells his right, title, and interest in an escaped animal for a few
pounds, and the buyer will probably break down three or four good horses
trying to yard his purchase. Sometimes a reward is offered, and then all
the young colonials in the district will be after the mob, in season and
out of season, riding their horses' heads off, their only tactics being
to "go at them from the jump", and try and run them down. This is very
good fun while it lasts; but the usual result is that, after a
desperately run ten miles or so across rough country, the pursuer's
horse knocks up, and he has to walk home and carry his saddle.
Sometimes, by a dashing bit of riding, he may "cut out" the horse he
wants from the mob, or fate may kindly enable him to wheel the whole lot
into the jaws of a trap yard, in which case he fills the whole district
with his brag for months to come. But to "run horses" properly four or
five splendidly mounted men are required; they must know the country
well, and must know in what direction the mob will run, and when to let
them go and when to wheel them. An outsider can see the sport to
perfection if he is a good bush rider; but he must not flatter himself
that he is any use unless he knows the country. It is the grandest sport
one can imagine flying along through the open bush after a mob of wild
horses. For the first twenty minutes or so the race is apt to be very
merry, and the novice has to come along, because there is no chance of a
check, and anyone losing sight of the mob is out of it for the day.
After the first mad rush they drop to a steady swinging gallop. Soon one
of the stockmen may be seen flitting through the trees, riding for dear
life, and going parallel with the mob. He is the man who is deputed to
take the first turn out of them. After a while his whip rings out
sharply a few times, and the mob swerves a little from their course--not
much, apparently, but it means that they have been headed off from one
refuge and must now make for another. They settle down again and run in
a straight line, perhaps for miles, over all sorts of country, the
stockmen saving their horses as much as possible. Then it is time for
the next wheel, and another man moves forward and sounds his whip.
Sometimes the mob make a determined effort to race past him, and then
there is a gallant set-to, the stockman driving his horse along with the
spurs over the most awful places, for he must at all hazards keep pace
with them, and has no time to choose his ground.

If he can hold his own, the mob wheel away reluctantly, and strike off
again, very likely making back to their original point. After a few
miles the weaker horses in the wild mob, the mares and foals, and so on,
begin to drop out. These strike off by themselves, cantering or trotting
slowly while the main body sweeps on. As the pace begins to tell, more
and more drop out, some quite exhausted; these stand still and come in
for a savage cut or two of the whip as the pursuers come by. The others
keep going, the gallop at length dropping to a swaying canter and then
to a trot. By this time the stock horses are in a pitiable condition,
bloody with spurring, and hardly able to raise a canter; some will have
been crippled by the rough country, and others will have knocked up
altogether and dropped out of the running. Then comes the final charge
of the mob, when they raise a staggering canter to make for some
particular point, and the stockmen plying whip and spur manage to head
them off, and the mob, beaten and downcast, jogs sullenly along, and is
guided towards where the "tailers" have been placed. The man in charge
of the "tailers", hearing the whips in the distance, comes out and takes
the mob in hand, and once among the quiet horses they are glad enough to
stay there. A short respite is given, while the stockmen straggle up,
some leading their horses, others carrying their saddles. The man who
has got through the run from end to end is a hero, or rather his horse
is. Then a start is made for home, and the mob are safely yarded and
left for the night. The wild horses are never much use. They buck like
demons, they are straight-shouldered and badly-ribbed up, and they never
have any courage in captivity. Now and again a good one turns up,
usually the descendant of some animal not long escaped. In the Yass
district many years ago a gentleman had a stud of Timor ponies,
beautiful little animals, and when the diggings broke out in Victoria he
took the whole lot over and sold them to the diggers at big prices. The
diggers used them for racing, but great numbers of them got away and
made their way home again to their native district, where they ran wild.
These ponies and their descendants were well worth yarding, but they had
such speed and endur-ance that any man who could yard them thoroughly
earned his reward. It will readily be understood that although stock
owners are very glad to see the wild mobs yarded, still they have an
intense dislike to risking their own valuable horses after them. The
stock horses love the sport, and become absolutely frantic with
excitement when they hear the rush and rattle of feet of a wild mob; but
it is terribly severe work on them. The desperate pace, the rough
country, and the severe gruellings they get soon tell on all but those
of a cast-iron constitution. Some old warriors there are who have come
safe and sound through numberless runs, and if a man can get one of
these, a few good mates, and a flying mob to go after, he has all the
ingredients of as fine a day's sport as anyone could wish to take part

Written c. 1890


IN WRITING about schools which I have at different periods attended, I
will pass over my infantile experience of an old dame's school in a
suburb of Sydney; also of a small public school to which I crept
unwillingly, like a snail, for a few months. I pass these over because I
don't remember much about them, and what little I do remember is

The first school which I attended in the capacity of a reasoning human
creature was a public school in a tired little township away out in the
bush, at the back of the Never Never, if you know where that is. I lived
on a station four miles from the school, and had to go up paddock every
morning on foot, catch my pony, and ride him down to the house
barebacked, get breakfast, ride the four miles, and be in school by
half-past nine o'clock. Many a time in the warm summer mornings have I
seen the wonderful glories of a bush sunrise, when comes

The still silent change,
When all fire-flushed the forest trees redden
On slopes of the range,
When the gnarl'd, knotted trunks Eucalyptian
Seem carved, like weird columns Egyptian,
With curious device, quaint inscription,
And hieroglyph strange.

I think Australian boys who have never been at school in the bush have
lost something for which town life can never compensate. However, let me
get on to the school, where I mingled with the bush youngsters who, from
huts and selections and homesteads far and near, had gathered there.
They were a curious lot. Perhaps their most striking characteristic was
their absolute want of originality. They had one standard excuse
whenever they were late: "Father sent me after 'orses". They didn't
garnish it with a "Sir", or anything of the sort, but day after day
every boy that was late handed in the same unvarnished statement, and
took his caning as a matter of course. As their parents were largely
engaged in looking after horses, mostly other people's, it had colour of
probability at first, but after a time it wore out and they were too
lazy or too stupid to invent anything to replace it. I thought I could
mend this state of things, having a particularly vigorous and cultivated
imagination, so one day, when a lot were late, I supplied each of them
with a different excuse. One was to have forgotten his book and gone
back for it, another was to have been misled as to the time by the sun
getting up unusually late (not one in fifty had a clock in their house),
another was to have been sent on an errand to the storekeeper's and been
delayed by the clerk, and so forth. I was privileged and licensed to be
late myself, having so far to come, so I simply walked in hurriedly as
though I had done my best to arrive early and went to my seat. Then came
the first of my confederates. "What makes you late, Ryan?" Ryan gasped,
his eyes rolled, his jaw dropped, and then out it came, the old familiar
formula--"Father sent me after 'orses." It was second nature to the boy.
And all the others, one by one, as they faced the music, brought out the
same old story, and took two cuts of the cane on each hand as per usual.
I gave them up after that; my inventive talent was wasted upon such

The visit of the inspector used to be a great event in the school.
Theoretically the inspector was supposed to come unheralded, and to drop
on the master promiscuous-like, and so catch the school unprepared; but
practically, when the inspector was in the town, the master always had a
boy stationed on the fence to give warning of his approach, and by the
time the inspector had toiled up the long hill to the school, that boy
was back in his seat and every youngster was studying for dear life; and
when the inspector asked us questions in arithmetic, the master used to
walk absent-mindedly behind him and hold up his fingers to indicate the
correct answer. Oh, he was a nice pedagogue!

In writing of a school, one ought to say something about the lessons,
but I remember absolutely nothing of the curriculum, except the
"handers" which formed, for the boys at any rate, the one absorbing
interest of each day.

"Handers" were blows on the palm of the hand, administered with a stout
cane. They were dealt out on a regular scale, according to the offence;
not being able to answer a question, one on each hand; late at school,
two on each hand; telling lies, three on each hand, etc., etc. The
school was in a very cold climate, and perhaps the "handers" didn't
sting at all on a cold frosty morning! Oh no, not in the least. We used
to have wild theories that if you put resin on the palm of your hand the
cane would split into a thousand pieces and cut the master's hand
severely, but none of us had ever seen resin, so one's dreams of revenge
were never realised. Sometimes fierce, snorting old Irishwomen used to
come to the school and give the master some first-class Billingsgate for
having laid on the "handers" too forcibly or too frequently on the
hardened palm of her particular Patsy or Denny. We used to sit with open
mouths and bulging eyes, while the dreaded pedagogue cowered before the
shrill and fluent abuse of these ladies. They always had the last word,
in fact the last hundred or more words, as their threats and taunts used
to be distinctly audible as they faded away down the dusty hill.

When the railway came to the town, the children of the navvies came to
the school, and how they did wake it up! Sharp, cunning little imps,
they had travelled and shifted about all over the colony, they had
devices for getting out of "handers" such as we had never dreamt of,
they had a fluency in excuse and a fertility in falsehood which we could
admire but never emulate. Sometimes their parents the navvies used to go
on prolonged drinking bouts, and contract a disease, known to science, I
believe, as "delirium tremens", but in our vocabulary as "the horrors"
or "the jumps". The townsfolk shortened up even this brief nomenclature
--they used simply to say that so-and-so "had 'em" or "had got 'em".
Well do I remember the policeman, a little spitfire of a man about five
feet nothing, coming to the school and stating that a huge navvy named
Cornish Jack had "got 'em", and was wandering about the town with them,
and he called upon the schoolmaster in the Queen's name to come and
assist him to arrest "Cornish Jack". The teacher did not like the job at
all, and his wife abused the policeman heartily, but it ended in the
whole school going, and we marched through the town till we discovered
the quarry seated on a log, pawing the air with his hands. The sergeant
and the teacher surrounded him, so to speak, but to our disgust he
submitted very quietly and was bundled into a cart and driven off to the
lock-up. Such incidents as these formed breaks in the monotony of school
life and helped to enlarge our knowledge of human nature.

There was not wanting some occasional element of sadness too. I remember
one day all the boys were playing at the foot of a long hill covered
with fallen timber; it was after school hours and one of the boys was
given a bridle by his father and told to catch a horse that was feeding
in hobbles on the top of the hill and bring him down. The boy departed,
nothing loath, and caught the animal, a young half-broken colt, and
boy-like mounted him barebacked and started to ride him down. The colt
ran away with him and came sweeping down the hill at a racing pace,
jumping fallen logs and stones, and getting faster and faster every
moment. The boy rode him well, but at length he raced straight at a huge
log, and suddenly, instead of jumping it, swerved off, throwing the boy
with terrific force among the big limbs. His head was crushed in and he
was dead before we got up to him. His people were Irish folk and the
intense, bitter sadness of their grief was something terrible.

I left the bush school soon after that, and went to a private school in
the suburbs of Sydney: a nice quiet institution where we were all young
gentlemen, and had to wear good clothes instead of hobnailed boots and
moleskins in which my late schoolmates invariably appeared. Also we were
ruled by moral suasion instead of "handers"; a thing that I appreciated

Very little of interest occurred there; a sickening round of lessons and
washing. Nobody ever "had 'em", nobody was ever sent after horses;
nobody wore spurs in school; most of the boys learnt dancing and some
could play the piano. Let us draw a veil over it, and hurry on to the
grammar school. But I think the Editor would have to get out an enlarged
edltion of the Sydneian if I opened the floodgates of my memory about
the grammar school, so for the present, farewell.


I AM afraid that the numerous and intelligent readers of the Sydneian
must be getting rather tired of reminiscences from my pen, but the fact
is that the Editor stubbornly refuses to pay for contributions, so one
has simply to write that which comes easiest, and let the Editor take it
or not, as he chooses. For instance, I offered for a trifling
consideration of ten guineas or so to write a Latin poem on the great
boat race between Beach and Hanlan, or a Greek play on the tragic death
of Maloney's Fenian Cat, but he firmly declined to entertain either
proposal; he said the word "Tomki" couldn't possibly be worked into a
Latin poem, and that the name Maloney, though having a distinctly Greek
sound, was undeniably of modern origin; so I fall back once more on

Fights for instance: I remember one fight that lasted all one dinner
hour; in those days we came out at half-past twelve and went in again at
two. It was continued on from four o'clock till after five, and resumed
next day at nine and finished at twenty minutes past. The boys were both
doctors' sons, very evenly matched, and both game to the backbone. The
one that lost owed his defeat to his hands giving way, and even after he
could not strike a blow without great pain to himself he went doggedly
on. He got so exhausted that he kept falling down and thereby avoiding
punishment, so I, and some other choice youths who were seconding the
winner, advised our man to "hold him up and job him", which he did and
so won the fight. I don't know where the moral comes in exactly, except
it be that it is better to let boys have boxing gloves and encourage
their use, as they are the surest thing to keep fights down, besides
giving lessons in coolness, self-reliance and good temper. The sergeant
mostly stopped all fights, and I don't know how this one lasted so long.
There were no prefects in those days. We used to get up bogus fights,
and two boys would make believe to belt each other with great fury, and
the sergeant would charge down to stop the bloody fray, only to be
received with yells of derision. By this means we sometimes brought off
a genuine fight under his very nose, as when he heard the whooping of
the partisans and the cheering, he thought it was another fraud and
stopped away.

One great pastime in the winter was "wallarooing". A herd of boys (I
suppose herd is the correct term to apply to a number of youths hailing
from the lower forms of the school)--this herd, I say, would wander
about the playground in a casual sort of way, and the ring-leaders would
single out some boy, generally a quiet and inoffensive youth, and raise
the cry, "Wallaroo him". Then they ran the fugitive down, rolled him
over, stuffed his mouth full of grass, blocked his hat as flat as a
plate, took off his boots and hurled them to the four winds of heaven,
and finally left him and went for a new victim. The way this pleasant
game came to an end was as follows. One day a boy named Fyffe, good with
his fists and fleet of foot, was selected as the victim; he ran, and the
crowd after him; he kept going till they were straggled out behind him
in a long panting string, and then he suddenly wheeled around and hit
the leader such a beauty in the eye. The fickle crowd, being always
eager to see a fight, at once stopped the chase, and stipulated that
Fyffe should fight the boy he had struck. He was quite agreeable, nay,
even eager; he was always ready to fight anybody, any size, weight, or
colour. The boy who got hit, however, found his courage had oozed out of
him somehow (a thorough good spank in the eye will generally pacify the
most belligerent person), so he declined the combat, amid the jeers of
his late associates, and wallarooing was abandoned as a degraded

I remember, in form 3A, that two of us, who sat in the second row from
the back, estab-lished a vendetta against two boys who sat in the second
row from the front. We used to make single-handed excursions against
them in the following manner. While the master was writing on the
blackboard and had his back turned to the class, one of us would glide
silently out of the seat, drop on all fours and crawl round the desks up
behind the unsuspecting foe. Then for a brief and glorious instant he
would rear himself up behind them, hit each of them an awful blow on the
head with his open hand, of course making as little noise as possible,
and then glide back as silently as he came. They used to do the same
thing to us whenever they got the chance, but, sitting as they did in
front of us, it was very rarely that either of them could manage to drop
out of the seat without us noticing. Sometimes they managed it when we
were talking, which was often enough, goodness knows, and then they
stalked on us like red Indians are supposed to do, and the first we knew
of it was an awful thud on the head, and a smothered chuckle from the
enemy. Of course this was great for the rest of the class, and they used
to watch the stalking with keen interest. I remember one fatal day that
my comrade, having stalked his quarry in a masterly manner, hit them
each such a spank that our form master heard the thud and looked around.
He found all the boys on the broad grin; and all looking at one
particular part of the room, where in fact my partner was crouched,
hiding behind two other boys. The master sternly inquired what was going
on, got no answer, hesitated a moment, and then came down. There on all
fours under the desk was this boy. "What are you doing here?" "Nothing,
sir." "What is your object? What did you come for? Why are you
grovelling about on the floor instead of being in your seat?" "I don't
know, sir." "You must have had some reason for coming here?" "No, sir."
The master gave it up in despair. He didn't even punish the boy. It was
a dark and inexplicable mystery to him, and he left it alone. He thought
it was some form of religious observance, perhaps. Anyhow I wouldn't
advise the present generation to try it on.

The Sydneian, May-August, 1890


THE SPORTING men of Mulligan's were an exceedingly knowing lot: in fact,
they had obtained the name amongst their neighbours of being a little
bit too knowing. They had "taken down" the sporting men of the adjoining
town in a variety of ways. They were always winning maiden plates with
horses which were shrewdly suspected to be old and well-tried performers
in disguise. When the sports of Paddy's Flat unearthed a phenomenal
runner in the shape of a blackfellow called Frying-Pan Joe, the Mulligan
contingent immediately took the trouble to discover a blackfellow of
their own, and they made a match and won all the Paddy's Flat money with
ridiculous ease; then their blackfellow turned out to be a well-known
Sydney performer. They had a man who could fight, a man who could be
backed to jump five feet ten, a man who could kill eight pigeons out of
nine at thirty yards, a man who could make a break of fifty or so at
billiards if he tried; they could all drink, and they all had that
indefinite look of infinite wisdom and conscious superiority which
belongs only to those who know something about horseflesh. They knew a
great many things which they never learnt at a Sunday school; at cards
and such things they were perfect adepts; they would go to immense
trouble to work off a small swindle in a sporting line, and the general
consensus of opinion was that they were a very "fly" crowd at
Mulligan's, and if you went there you wanted to "keep your eyes skinned"
or they'd "have" you over a threepenny bit.

There were races at Sydney one Christmas, and a chosen and select band
of the Mulligan sportsmen were going down to them. They were in high
feather, having just won a lot of money from a young Englishman at
pigeon shooting, by the simple yet ingenious method of slipping blank
cartridges into his gun when he wasn't looking, and then backing the
bird; also they knew several dead certainties for the races. They
intended to make a fortune out of the Sydney people before they came
back, and their admirers who came to see them off only asked them as a
favour to leave money enough among the Sydney crowd to make it worth
while for another detachment to go down later on. Just as the train was
departing a priest came running on to the platform, and was bundled by
the porters into the carriage where our Mulligan friends were, the door
was slammed to, and away they went. His Reverence was hot and
perspiring, and for a few minutes he mopped himself with a handkerchief,
while the silence was unbroken except by the rattle of the train.

After a while one of the Mulligan fraternity got out a pack of cards and
proposed a game to while away the time. There was a young squatter in
the carriage who looked as if he might be induced to lose a few pounds,
and the sportsmen thought they would be neglecting their opportunities
if they did not try and "get a bit to go on with" from him. He agreed to
play, and just as a matter of courtesy, they asked the priest whether he
would take a hand. "What game d'ye play?" he asked, in a melodious
brogue. They explained that any game was equally acceptable to them, but
they thought it right to add that they generally played for money.
"Shure an' it don't matter for wanst in a way," sez he--"Oi'll take a
hand bedad--I'm only going about fifty miles, so I can't lose a
fortune." Then they lifted a light port-manteau onto their knees to make
a table, and five of them--three of the Mulligan's crowd and the two
strangers--started to have a little game of poker. Things looked rosy
for the Mulligan's boys and they chuckled as they thought how soon they
were making a beginning, and what a magnificent yarn they would have to
tell about how they rooked the priest on the way down.

Nothing very sensational resulted from the first few deals, and the
priest began to ask questions of the others. "Be ye going to the races?"
he enquired. They said that they were. "Ah! and I suppose ye'll be
betting with these bookmakers--bettin' on the horses, will yez! They do
be terrible knowing men, these bookmakers, they tell me. I wouldn't bet
much if I was ye," he said, with an affable smile. "If ye go bettin' ye
will be took in with these bookmakers." The boys from Mulligan's
listened with a bored air and reckoned that by the time they parted the
priest would have learnt that they were well able to look after
them-selves. They went steadily on with the game, and the priest and the
young squatter won slightly; this was part of the plan to lead them on
to the plunge. They neared the station where the priest was to get out.
He had won something rather more than they liked, and the signal was
passed round to "put the cross on"--i.e., to manipulate the hands so as
to get back his winnings and let him go. Poker is a game at which a man
need not risk much unless he feels inclined, and on this deal the priest
chose not to risk anything and stood out; consequently when they drew up
at the station he still had a few pounds of their money. He half rose
and then he said: "Bedad, and I don't like going away with yer money.
Oi'll go on to the next station so as ye can have revinge." Then he sat
down again, and the play went on in earnest.

The man of religion seemed to have the Devil's own luck. When he was
dealt a good hand he invariably backed it well, and if he had a bad one
he would not risk anything. The sports grew painfully anxious as they
saw him getting further and further ahead of them, prattling away and
joking all the time like a big schoolboy. The squatter was the biggest
loser so far as they had got, but the priest was the only winner. All
the others were out of pocket. His Reverence played with great dash, and
seemed to know a lot about the game; and when they arrived at the second
station he was in pocket a good round sum. He rose to leave them, with
many expressions of regret at having robbed them of their money, and
laughingly promising full revenge next time. Just as he was opening the
door of the carriage, one of the Mulligan's fraternity said in a stage
whisper, "I thought that was how it would be. He's a sinkpocket, and
won't give us our revenge now. If he can come this far, let him come on
to Sydney and play for double the stakes." The priest heard the remark
and turned quickly round. "Bedad, an' if that's yer talk, Oi'll go on
wid yez and play ye fer double stakes from here to the other side of
glory. Play on, now! Do yez think men are mice because they eat cheese?
It isn't one of the Ryans would be fearing to give any man his revenge!"
He snorted defiance at them, grabbed his cards and waded in. The others
felt that a crisis was at hand and settled down to play in a dead
silence. The priest kept on winning steadily. The gamblers saw that
something decisive must be done, and the leader of the party, the "old
man"--"The Daddy," as they put it--decided to make a big plunge and get
all the money back on one hand. By a dexterous manipulation of the
cards, which luckily was undetected, he dealt himself four kings, almost
the best hand at poker. Then he began with assumed hesitation to bet on
his hand; he kept raising the stake little by little until the priest
exclaimed, "Sure yez are trying to bluff, so ye are!" and immediately
started raising it on his part. The others had dropped out of the game
and watched with painful interest the stake grow and grow. The Mulligan
fraternity felt a cheerful certainty that the "old man" had made
everything secure, and they looked upon themselves as mercifully
delivered from a very unpleasant situation. The priest went on doggedly
raising the stake in response to his antagonist's chal-lenges until it
had attained huge dimensions. Then he said, "Sure, that's high enough,"
and he put into the pool sufficient to entitle him to see his opponent's
hand. The "old man" with great gravity laid down his four kings; the
Mulligan boys let a big sigh of relief escape them; they were saved--he
surely couldn't beat four kings. Then the priest laid down four aces and
scooped the pool.

The sportsmen of Mulligan's never quite knew how they got out to
Randwick to the races. They borrowed a bit of money in Sydney and found
themselves in the saddling paddock in a half-dazed condition trying to
realise what had happened to them. During the afternoon they were up at
the end of the lawn near the Leger stand, and from that enclosure they
could hear the babel of tongues, the small bookmakers, pea-and-thimble
men, confidence men, plying their trades. In the tumult of voices they
heard one which seemed familiar. After a while suspicion became
certainty, and they knew that it was the voice of Father Ryan, who had
cleaned them out. They walked to the fence and looked over. They could
hear his voice distinctly, and this is what he was saying, "Pop it down,
gents! Pop it down! If you don't put down a brick you can't pick up a
castle! I'll bet no one here can find the knave of hearts out of these
three cards. I'll bet half-a-sovereign no one here can find the knave!"
Then the crowd parted a little, and through the opening they could see
him distinctly--a three-card man--doing a great business and showing
wonderful dexterity with the pasteboard.

This was the downfall of Mulligan's. There is still enough money in
Sydney to make it worthwhile for another detachment of knowing sportsmen
to come down from that city; but the next lot will hesitate about
playing cards with strangers in the train.

The Bulletin, 28 February 1891


"GREENHIDE BILLY" was a stockman on a Clarence River cattle station and
admittedly the biggest liar in the district. He had been for many years
pioneering in the Northern Territory, the other side of the sundown--a
regular "furthest-out man"--and this assured his repu-tation among
station hands who award rank according to amount of experience. Young
men who have always hung around the home localities, doing a job of
shearing here or a turn at horse breaking there, look with reverence on
the Riverine or Macquarie River shearers who come in with tales of runs
where they have 300,000 acres of freehold land and shear 250,000 sheep,
and these again pale their ineffectual fires before the glory of the
Northern Territory man who has all corners on toast, because no one can
contradict him or check his figures, except someone from the same
locality. When two such meet, however, they are not fools enough to cut
down quotations and spoil the market; no, they mutually lie in support
of each other, and make all other bushmen feel mean and pitiful and

Sometimes a youngster would timidly ask Greenhide Billy about the (to
him) terra incognita: "What sort of a place is it, Billy--how big are
the properties? How many acres had you in the place you were on?"

"Acres be d---d!" Billy would scornfully reply, "hear him talking about
acres! D'ye think we were blanked cockatoo selectors? Out there we
reckon country by the hundred miles. You orter say, 'How many thousand
miles of country?' and then I'd understand you." Furthermore, according
to Billy, they reckoned the rainfall in the Territory by yards, not
inches; he had seen blackfellows who could jump at least three inches
higher than anyone else had ever seen a blackfellow jump, and every
bushman has seen or personally known a blackfellow who could jump over
six feet. Billy had seen bigger droughts, better country, fatter cattle,
faster horses, and cleverer dogs than any other man on the Clarence
River. But one night when the rain was on the roof, and the river was
rising with a moaning sound, and the men were gathered round the fire in
the hut smoking and staring at the coals, Billy turned himself loose and
gave us his masterpiece.

"I was drovin' with cattle from Mungrybanbone to old Corlett's station
on the Buckatowndown River." (Billy always started his stories with some
paralysing bush names.) "We had a thousand head of store cattle, wild
mountain-bred wretches, they'd charge you on sight, and they were that
handy with their horns they could skewer a mosquito. There was one or
two one-eyed cattle among 'em, and you know how a one-eyed beast always
keeps movin' away from the mob, pokin' away out to the edge of them so
as they won't git on his blind side; and then by stirrin' about he keeps
the others restless. They had been scared once or twice and stamped, and
gave us all we could do to keep them together; and it was wet and dark
and thundering, and it looked like a real bad night for us. It was my
watch, and I was on one side of the cattle, like it might be here, with
a small bit of a fire; and my mate, Barcoo Jim, he was right opposite on
the other side of the cattle, and he had gone to sleep under a log. The
rest of the men were in the camp fast asleep. Every now and again I'd
get on my horse and prowl round the cattle quiet like, and they seemed
to be settled down all right, and I was sitting by my fire holding my
horse and drowsing, when all of a sudden a blessed possum ran out from
some saplings and scratched up a little tree right alongside me. I was
half asleep I suppose, and was startled; anyhow, never thinking what I
was doing, I picked up a firestick out of the fire and flung it at the
possum. Whoop! Before you could say 'Jack Robertson' that thousand head
of cattle were on their feet, and they made one wild, headlong, mad rush
right over the place where poor old Barcoo Jim was sleeping. There was
no time to hunt up materials for the inquest; I had to keep those cattle
together, so I sprang into the saddle, dashed the spurs into the old
horse, dropped my head on his mane, and sent him as hard as he could leg
it through the scrub to get the lead of the cattle and steady them. It
was brigalow, and you know what that is. You know how the brigalow
grows," continued Bill, "saplings about as thick as a man's arm, and
that close together a dog can't open his mouth to bark in 'em. Well,
those cattle swept through that scrub levelling it like as if it had
been cleared for a railway line. They cleared a track a quarter of a
mile wide, and smashed every stick, stump, and sapling on it. You could
hear them roaring and their hoofs thundering and the scrub smashing
three or four miles off. And where was I? I was racing parallel with the
cattle with my head down on the horse's neck, letting him pick his way
through the scrub in the pitchy darkness. This went on for about four
miles, then the cattle began to get winded, and I dug into the old stock
horse with the spurs, and got in front, and then began to crack the whip
and sing out, so as to steady them a little; after a while they dropped
slower and slower, and I kept the whip going. I got them all together in
a patch of open country, and there I rode round and round 'em all night
till daylight. And how I wasn't killed in the scrub, goodness only
knows; for a man couldn't ride in the daylight where I did in the dark.
The cattle were all knocked about--horns smashed, legs broken, ribs
torn; but they were all there, every solitary head of 'em; and as soon
as the daylight broke I took 'em back to the camp--that is, all that
could travel, because a few broken-legged ones I had to leave."

Billy paused in his narrative. He knew that some suggestions would be
made, by way of compromise, to tone down the awful strength of the yarn,
and he prepared himself accord-ingly. His motto was, "No surrender"; he
never abated one jot of his statements, and if anyone chose to remark on
them, he made them warmer and stronger, and absolutely flattened out the

"That was a wonderful bit of ridin' you done, Billy," said one of the
men at last, admiringly. "It's a wonder you wasn't killed. I s'pose your
clothes was pretty well tore off your back with the scrub?"

"Never touched a twig," said Billy.

"Ah!" faltered the enquirer, "then no doubt you had a real ringin' good
stock horse that could take you through a scrub like that full split in
the dark, and not hit you against anything."

"No, he wasn't a good 'un," said Billy decisively, "he was the worst
horse in the camp, and terrible awkward in the scrub he was, always
fallin' down on his knees; and his neck was so short you could sit far
back on him and pull his ears."

Here that interrogator retired hurt; he gave Billy best. Another took up
the running after a pause.

"How did your mate get on, Billy? I s'pose he was trampled to a mummy!"

"No," said Billy, "he wasn't hurt a bit. I told you he was sleeping
under the shelter of a little log. Well, when these cattle rushed they
swept over that log a thousand strong; and every beast of that herd took
the log in his stride and just missed landing on Barcoo Jimmy by about
four inches. We saw the tracks where they had cleared him in the
night--and fancy that, a thousand head of cattle to charge over a man in
the dark and just miss him by a hair's breadth, as you might say!"

The men waited a while and smoked, to let this statement soak well into
their systems; at last one rallied and had a final try to get a
suggestion in somewhere.

"It's a wonder, then, Billy," he said, "that your mate didn't come after
you and give you a hand to steady the cattle."

"Well, perhaps it was," said Billy, "only that there was a bigger wonder
than that at the back of it."

"What was that?"

"My mate never woke all through it."

Then the men knocked the ashes out of their pipes and went to bed.

The Bulletin, 4 April 1891


No. 1 Letter from Joscelyn de Greene, of Wiltshire, England, to college

Dear Gus,

The Governor has fixed things up for me at last. I am not to go to
India, but to Australia. It seems the Governor met some old Australian
swell named Moneygrub at a dinner in the City. He has thousands of acres
of land and herds of sheep, and I am to go out and learn the business of
sheep raising. Of course it is not quite the same as going to India; but
some really decent people do go out to Australia sometimes, I am told,
and I expect it won't be so bad. In India one generally goes into the
Civil Service, nothing to do and lots of niggers to wait on you but the
Australian Civil Service no fellow can well go into--it is awful low
business, I hear. I have been going in for gun and revolver practice so
as to be able to hold my own against the savages and the serpents in the
woods of Australia. Mr Moneygrub says there isn't much fighting with the
savages nowadays; but, he says, the Union shearers will give me all the
fight I want. What is a Union shearer, I wonder? My mother has ordered
an extra large artist's umbrella for me to take with me for fear of
sunstroke, and I can hold it over me while watching the flocks. She
didn't half like my going until Mr Moneygrub said that they always
dressed for dinner at the head station, and that a Church of England
clergyman visits there twice a month. I am only to pay a premium of £500
for the experience, and Mr Moneygrub says I'll be able to make that out
of scalps in my spare time. He says there is a Government reward for
scalps. I don't mind a brush with the savages, but if he thinks I'm
going to scalp my enemies he is mistaken. Anyhow, I sail next week, so
no more from yours, outward bound,

Joscelyn de Greene.

No. 2 Letter from Moneygrub and Co., London, to the manager of the

Drybone station, Paroo River, Australia

Dear Sir,

We beg to advise you of having made arrangements to take a young
gentleman named Greene as colonial experiencer, and he will be consigned
to you by the next boat. His pre-mium is £500, and you will please deal
with him in the usual way. Let us know when you have vacancies for any
more colonial experiencers, as several are now asking about it, and the
premiums are forthcoming. You are on no account to employ Union shearers
this year; and you must cut expenses as low as you can. Would it not be
feasible to work the station with the colonial experience men and
Chinese labour? &c., &c., &c.

No. 3

Letter from Mr Robert Saltbush, of Frying Pan station, to a friend

Dear Billy,

Those fellows over at Drybone station have been at it again. You know it
joins us, and old Moneygrub, who lives in London, sends out an English
bloke every now and again to be a jackaroo. He gets £500 premium for
each one, and the manager puts the jackaroo to boundary ride a
tremendous great paddock at the back of the run, and he gives him a
week's rations and tells him never to go through a gate, because so long
as he only gets lost in the paddock he can always be found somehow, but
if he gets out of the paddock, Lord knows whether he'd ever be seen
again. And there these poor English devils are, riding round the fences
and getting lost and not seeing a soul until they go near mad from
loneliness; and then they run away at last, and old Macgregor, the
manager, he makes a great fuss and goes after them with a whip, but he
takes care to have a stockman pick their tracks up and take them to the
nearest township, and then they go on the spree and never come back, and
old Moneygrub collars the £500 and sends out another jackaroo. It's a
great game. The last one they had was a fellow called Greene. They had
him at the head station for a while, letting him get pitched off the
station horses. He said: "They're awfully beastly horses in this
country, by Jove; they're not content with throwing you off, but they'd
kick you afterwards if you don't be careful." When they got full up of
him at the head station they sent him out to the big paddock to an old
hut full of fleas, and left him there with his tucker and two old screws
of horses. The horses, of course, gave him the slip, and he got lost for
two days looking for them, and his meat was gone bad when he got home.
He killed a sheep for tucker, and how do you think he killed it? He shot
it! It was a ram, too, one of Moneygrub's best rams, and there will be
the deuce to pay when they find out. About the fourth day a swagman
turned up, and he gave the swaggie a gold watch chain to show him the
way to the nearest town, and he is there now--on the spree, I believe.
He had a fine throat for whisky, anyhow, and the hot climate has started
him in earnest. Before he left the hut and the fleas, he got a piece of
raddle and wrote on the door: "Hell. S.R.O.", whatever that means. I
think it must be some sort of joke. The brown colt I got from Ginger is
a clinker, a terror to kick, but real fast. He takes a lot of rubbing
out for half a mile, &c., &c., &c.

No. 4 Letter from Sandy Macgregor, manager of Drybone station, to Messrs
Moneygrub & Co., London

Dear Sirs,

I regret to have to inform you that the young gentleman, Mr Greene, whom
you sent out, has seen fit to leave his employment and go away to the
township. No doubt he found the work somewhat rougher than he had been
used to, but if young gentlemen are sent out here to get experience they
must expect to rough it like other bushmen. I hope you will notify his
friends of the fact: and if you have applications for any more colonial
experiencers we now have a vacancy for one. There is great trouble this
year over the shearing, and a lot of grass will be burnt unless some
settlement is arrived at. &c., &c., &c.

No. 5

Extract from evidence of Senior Constable Rafferty, taken at an inquest
before Lushington, P.M. for the North-east by South Paroo district, and
a jury

I am a senior constable, stationed at Walloopna beyant. On the 5th
instant, I received information that a man was in the horrors at
Flanagan's hotel. I went down and saw the man, whom I recognise as the
deceased. He was in the horrors: he was very bad. He had taken all his
clothes off, and was hiding in a fowl house to get away from the devils
which were after him. I went to arrest him, but he avoided me, and
escaped over a paling fence on to the Queensland side of the border,
where I had no power to arrest him. He was foaming at the mouth and
acting like a madman. He had been on the spree for several days. From
enquiries made, I believe his name to be Greene, and that he had lately
left the employment of Mr Macgregor, at Drybone. He was found dead on
the roadside by the carriers coming into Walloopna. He had evidently
wandered away from the township, and died from the effects of the sun
and the drink.

Verdict of jury: "That deceased came to his death by sunstroke and
exposure during a fit of delirium tremens caused by excessive drinking.
No blame attached to anybody." Curator of intestate estates advertises
for next of kin of J. Greene, and nobody comes forward. Curtain!

The Bulletin, 5 September 1891


WE WERE training two horses for the Buckatowndown races. An old grey
warrior called Tricolour, whom the station boys insisted on calling "The
Trickier", and a mare for the hack race. Station horses don't get
trained quite like Carbine: some days we had no time to give them their
gallops at all, so they had to gallop twice as far the next day to make
up. And one day the boy we had looking after The Trickier fell in with a
mob of sharps who told him we didn't know anything about training
horses, and that what the horse really wanted was "a twicer", that is to
say, a gallop twice round the course. So the boy gave him "a twicer" on
his own responsibility, and when we found out about it we gave the boy a
twicer with the strap, and he left and took out a summons against us for
assault. But somehow or another we managed to get the old horse pretty
fit, and trying him against hacks of different descriptions we persuaded
ourselves that we had the biggest certainty ever known on a racecourse.
When the horses were galloping in the morning the kangaroo dog Victor
used nearly always go down to the course and run round with them. It
amused him apparently and didn't hurt anyone, so we used to let him
race; in fact, we rather encouraged him because it kept him in good trim
to hunt kangaroos. When we were starting the horses away for the
meeting, someone said we had better tie up the dog or he would be
getting stolen at the races. We called and whistled but he had made
himself scarce, and we started off and forgot all about him.

Buckatowndown Races. Red-hot day, everything dusty, everybody drunk and
blasphemous. All the betting at Buckatowndown was double-event. You had
to win the money first and fight the man for it afterwards. The start
for our race, the Town Plate, was delayed for a quarter of an hour,
because the starter flatly refused to leave a fight of which he was an
interested spectator. Every horse, as he did his preliminary gallop, had
a string of dogs after him, and the clerk of the course came full cry
after the dogs with a whip. By and by the horses strung across to the
start at the far side of the course. They fiddled about for a bit, and
then down went the flag and they came sweeping along all bunched up
together, one moke holding a nice position on the inside. All of a
sudden we heard a wild chorus of imprecations--"Look at that dog!" Our
dog had made his appearance and had chipped in with the racehorses and
was running right in front of the field. It looked a guinea to a
gooseberry that some of them would fall on him. The owners danced and
swore in awful style. What did we mean by bringing a something mongrel
there to trip up and kill horses that were worth a paddockful of all the
horses we had ever owned, or ever would breed or own, even if we lived
to be a thousand? We were fairly in it and no mistake. As the field came
past the stand the first time we could hear the riders swearing at the
dog, and a wild yell of execration arose from the public. He had got
right among the ruck by this time, and was racing alongside his friend
The Trickier, thoroughly enjoying himself. After passing the stand the
pace became very merry, and the dog stretched out all he knew, and when
they began to make it too hot for him he cut off corners, and joined at
odd intervals, and every time he made a fresh appear-ance the people in
the stand lifted up their voices and "swore cruel" as the boys phrased
it. The horses were all at the whip as they turned into the straight,
and then old Tricolour and the publican's mare singled out. We could
hear the "chop, chop!" of the whips as they came along together, but the
mare could suffer it as long as the old fellow could, and she swerved
off and he struggled home a winner by a length or so. Just as they
settled down to finish the dog dashed up the inside, and passed the post
at old Tricolour's girths. The populace took to him with stones, bottles
and other missiles, and he had to scratch gravel to save his life. What
was the amazement then of the other owners to learn that the judge had
placed Tricolour first, Victor second, and the publican's mare third?

The publican tried to argue it out with him. He said you couldn't place
a kangaroo dog second in a horserace. The judge said that it was his
(hiccough) business what he placed, and that those who (hiccough)
interfered with him would be sorry for it. Also he expressed the
opinion, garnished with a fusillade of curses and hiccoughs, that the
publican's mare was no rotten good, and that she was the right sort of
mare for a poor man to own, because she would keep him poor. Then the
publican called the judge a cow, and the judge being willing, a rip,
tear and chew fight ensued, which lasted some time and the judge won.
There were fifteen protests lodged against our win, but we didn't have
any fear of these going against us--we had laid the stewards a bit to
nothing. We got away with our horses at once--didn't wait for the hack
race. Every second man we met wanted to run us a mile for £100 aside,
and there was a drunken shearer who was spoiling for a fight, and he
said he had heard we were "brimming over with science", and he had
ridden forty miles to find whether it was a fact or not. We folded our
tents like the Arab and stole away and left the point unsettled. It
remains on the annals of Buckatowndown how a kangaroo dog ran second for
the Town Plate.

The Bulletin, 31 October 1891


THE FIRM of Sloper and Dodge, book publishers and printers, was in great
distress. These two enterprising individuals had worked up an enormous
business in time payment books, which they sold all over Australia by
means of canvassers. They had put a lot of money into the business--all
they had, in fact. And now, just as everything was in thorough working
order, the public had revolted against them. Their canvassers were
ill-treated and molested by the country folk in all sorts of strange
bush ways. One man was made drunk, and then a two-horse harrow was run
over him; another was decoyed out into the desolate ranges on pretence
of being shown a gold mine, and then his guide galloped away and left
him to freeze all night in the bush. In mining localities, on the
appearance of a canvasser, the inhabitants were called together by
beating a camp oven lid with a pick, and the canvasser was given ten
minutes to leave the town alive. If he disregarded the hint he would as
likely as not fall accidentally down a disused shaft. The people of one
district applied to their member of Parliament to have canvassers
brought under the Noxious Animals Act and demanded that a reward should
be offered for their scalps. Reports were constantly published in the
country press about strange, gigantic birds that appeared at remote free
selections, and frightened the inhabitants to death--these were Sloper
and Dodge's sober and reliable agents, wearing the neat, close-fitting
suits of tar and feathers with which their enthusiastic yokel admirers
had presented them. In fact, it was too hot altogether for the
canvassers, and they came in from north and west and south, crippled and
disheartened, and handed in their resignations. To make matters worse,
Sloper and Dodge had just got out a map of Australasia on a great scale,
and if they couldn't sell it, ruin stared them in the face; and how
could they sell it without canvassers!

The two members of the firm sat in their private office. Sloper was a
long, sanctimonious individual, very religious and very bald--"beastly,
awfully bald". Dodge was a little, fat American, with bristly black hair
and beard, and quick, beady eyes. He was eternally smoking a reeking
black pipe, and swallowing the smoke, and then puffing it out through
his nose in great whiffs, like a locomotive on a steep grade. Anybody
walking into one of those whiffs incautiously was likely to get
paralysed, the tobacco was so strong.

As the firm waited, Dodge puffed nervously at his pipe and filled the
office with noxious fumes. The two partners were in a very anxious and
expectant condition. Just as things were at their very blackest, an
event had happened which promised to relieve all their difficulties. An
inventor, a genius, had come forward, who offered to supply the firm
with a patent cast-iron canvasser, a figure which he said when wound up
would walk about, talk by means of a phonograph, collect orders, and
stand any amount of ill usage and wear and tear. If this could indeed be
done, then they were saved. They had made an appointment with the genius
to inspect his figure, but he was half an hour late, and the partners
were steeped in gloom.

Just as they despaired of his appearing at all, a cab rattled up to the
door, and Sloper and Dodge rushed unanimously to the window. A young
man, very badly dressed, stepped out of the cab, holding over his
shoulder what looked like the upper half of a man's body. In his
disengaged hand he held a pair of human legs with boots and trousers on.
Thus equipped he turned to the cabman to ask his fare, but the man with
a yell of terror whipped up his horse, and disappeared at a hand gallop,
and a woman who happened to be going by went howling down the street,
saying that "Jack the Ripper" had come to town. The man bolted in at the
door, and toiled up the dark stairs, tramping heavily under his hideous
load, the legs and feet which he dragged after him making an unearthly
clatter. He came in and put his burden down on the sofa.

"There you are, gents," he said. "There's your canvasser."

Sloper and Dodge recoiled in horror. The upper part of the man had a
waxy face, dull, fishy eyes, and dark hair; he lounged on the sofa like
a corpse at ease, while his legs and feet stood by, leaning stiffly
against the wall. The partners looked at him for a while in silence, and
felt like two men haunted by a cast-iron ghost.

"Fix him together, for God's sake," said Dodge. "Don't leave him like
that--he looks awful."

The genius grinned, and soon fixed the legs on.

"Now he looks better," said Dodge, poking about the figure. "Looks as
much like life as most--ah, would you, you brute!" he exclaimed,
springing back in alarm, for the figure had made a violent La Blanche
swing at him.

"That's all right," said the genius, "that's a notion of my own. It's no
good having his face knocked about, you know--lot of trouble to make
that face. His head and body are all full of concealed springs, and if
anybody hits him in the countenance, or in the pit of the stomach
--favourite place to hit canvassers, the pit of the stomach--it sets a
strong spring in motion, and he fetches his right hand round with a
swipe that'll knock them into the middle of next week. It's an awful
hit. Griffo couldn't dodge it, and Slavin couldn't stand against it. No
fear of any man hitting him twice. And he's dog-proof too. His legs are
padded with tar and oakum, and if a dog bites a bit out of him, it will
take that dog the rest of his life to pick his teeth clean. Never bite
anybody again, that dog won't. And he'll talk, talk, talk, like a pious
confer-ence gone mad; his phonograph can be charged for 100,000 times,
and all you've got to do is to speak into it what you want him to say,
and he'll say it. He'll go on saying it till he talks his man silly, or
gets an order. He has an order form in his hand, and as soon as anyone
signs it and gives it back to him, that sets another spring in motion,
and he puts the order in his pocket, turns round, and walks away. Grand
idea isn't he? Lor' bless you, I fairly love him."

Evidently he did, for as he spoke the genius grinned affectionately at
his monster.

"What about stairs?" said Dodge.

"No stairs in the bush," said the inventor blowing a speck of dust off
his apparition; "all ground floor houses. Anyhow, if there were stairs
we could carry him up and let him fall down afterwards, or get flung
down like any other canvasser."

"Ha! Let's see him walk," said Dodge.

The figure walked all right, stiff and erect.

"Now let's hear him yabber," was the next order.

Immediately the genius touched a spring, and a queer, tin-whistly voice
issued from the creature's lips, and he began to sing, "Little Annie

"Good!" said Dodge, "he'll do. We'll give you your price. Leave him here
tonight, and come in tomorrow, and we'll start you off to some place in
the back country with him. Have a cigar."

And Mr Dodge, much elated, sucked at his pipe, and blew out through his
nose a cloud of nearly solid smoke, which hung and floated about the
door, and into which the genius walked as he sidled off. It fairly
staggered him, and they could hear him sneezing and choking all the way
downstairs. Then they locked up the office, and made for home, leaving
the figure in readiness for his travels on the ensuing day.

Ninemile was a quiet little place, sleepy beyond description. When the
mosquitoes in that town settled on anyone, they usually went to sleep,
and forgot to bite him. The climate was so hot that the very
grasshoppers used to crawl into the hotel parlours out of the sun. There
they would climb up the window curtains and go to sleep, and if anybody
disturbed them they would fly into his eye with a great whizz, and drive
the eye clean out at the back of his head. There was no likelihood of a
public riot at Ninemile. The only thing that could rouse the inhabitants
out of their lethargy was the prospect of a drink at somebody else's
expense. And for those reasons it was decided to start the canvasser in
this forgotten region; and then move him on to more populous and active
localities if he proved a success. They sent up the genius, and a
companion who knew the district well. The genius was to manage the
automaton, and the other was to lay out the campaign, choose the
victims, and collect the money, if they got any, geniuses being
notoriously unreliable and loose in their cash. They got through a good
deal of whisky on the way up, and when they arrived at Ninemile, they
were in a cheerful mood, and disposed to take risks.

"Who'll we begin on?" said the genius.

"Oh, d--it," said the other, "let's start on Macpherson."

Macpherson was the big bug of the place. He was a gigantic Scotchman,
six feet four in his socks, freckled all over with freckles as big as
half-crowns. His eyebrows would have made decent-sized moustaches even
for a cavalryman, and his moustaches looked like horns. He was a
fighter, from the ground up, and, moreover, he had a desperate "down" on
canvassers generally and on Sloper and Dodge's canvassers in particular.
This eminent firm had once published a book called Remarkable Colonials,
and Macpherson had written out his own biography for it. He was
intensely proud of his pedigree, and his grand relations, and in his
narrative made out that he was descended from the original Pherson or
Fhairshon who swam round Noah's Ark with his title deeds in his teeth.
He showed how his people had fought under Alexander the Great and
Timour, and had come over to England some centuries before the
Conqueror. He also proved that he was related in a general way to one
emperor, fifteen kings, twenty-five dukes, and earls and lords and
viscounts innumerable. He dilated on the splendour of the family estates
in Scotland, and the vast wealth of his relatives and progenitors. And
then, after all, Sloper and Dodge managed to mix him up with some other
fellow, some low-bred Irish ruffian who drove a corporation cart!
Macpherson's biography gave it forth to the astonished town that he was
born in Dublin of poor but honest parents, that his father when a youth
had lived by selling matches, until one day he chanced to pick up a
cigar end, and, emboldened by the possession of so much capital, had got
married, and the product was Macpherson.

It was a terrible outrage. Macpherson at once became president for the
whole of the western districts of the Remarkable Colonials Defence
League, the same being a fierce and homicidal association got up to
resist, legally and otherwise, paying for the books. Also, he has sworn
by all he held sacred that every canvasser who came to harry him in
future should die, and he had put up a notice on his office door,
"Canvassers come in here at their own risk". He had a dog which he
called a dog of the "hold 'em" breed, and this dog could tell a
canvasser by his walk, and would go for him on sight. The reader will
understand, therefore, that when the genius and his mate proposed to
start on Macpherson, they were laying out a capacious contract for the
cast-iron canvasser, and were taking a step which could only have been
inspired by a morbid craving for excitement, aided by the influence of
backblock whisky.

The genius wound the figure up in the back parlour of the pub. There
were a frightful lot of screws to tighten before the thing would work,
but at last he said it was ready, and they shambled off down the street,
the figure marching stiffly between them. It had a book stuck under its
arm and an order form in its hand. When they arrived opposite
Macpherson's office (he was a land agent and had a ground-floor room)
the genius started the phonograph working, pointed the figure straight
at Macpherson's door and set it going, and then the two conspirators
waited like Guy Fawkes in his cellar.

The figure marched across the road and in at the open door, talking to
itself loudly in a hoarse, unnatural voice.

Macpherson was writing at his table and looked up.

The figure walked bang through a small collection of flower-pots, sent a
chair flying, tramped heavily in the spittoon, and then brought up
against the table with a loud crash and stood still. It was talking all
the time.

"I have here," it said, "a most valuable work, a map and geography of
Australia, which I desire to submit to your notice. The large and
increasing demand of bush residents for time payment works has induced
the publishers of this--"

"My God!" said Macpherson, "it's a canvasser. Here, Tom Sayers, Tom
Sayers!" and he whistled and called for the dog. "Now," he said, "will
you go out of this office quietly, or will you be thrown out? It's for
yourself to decide, but you've only got while a duck wags his tail to
decide in. Which'll it be?"

--"works of modern ages," said the canvasser. "Every person subscribing
to this invaluable work will receive, in addition, a flat-iron, a
railway pass for a year, and a pocket compass. If you will please sign
this order--"

Just here Tom Sayers, the bulldog, came tearing through the office, and,
without waiting for orders, hitched straight onto the calf of the
canvasser's leg. To Macpherson's intense amazement the piece came clear
away, and Tom Sayers rolled about the floor with his mouth full of some
sticky substance which seemed to surprise him badly.

The long Scotchman paused awhile before this mystery, but at last he
fancied he had got the solution. "Got a cork leg, have you?" said
he.--"Well, let's see if your ribs are cork, too," and he struck the
canvasser a terrific blow on the fith button of the waistcoat.

Quicker than the lightning's flash came that terrific right-handed
cross-counter. It was so quick that Macpherson never even knew what
happened to him. He remembered striking his blow, and afterwards all was
a blank. As a matter of fact, the canvasser's right hand, which had been
adjusted by the genius for a high blow, landed just on the butt of
Macpherson's ear and dropped him like a fowl. The gasping and terrified
bulldog fled from the scene, and the canvasser stood over his fallen foe
and droned on about the virtues of his publication, stating that he had
come there merely as a friend, and to give the inhabitants of Ninemile a
chance to buy a book which had already earned the approval of Dan
O'Connor and the Earl of Jersey.

The genius and his mate watched this extraordinary drama through the
window. They had kept up their courage with whisky and other stimulants,
and now looked upon the whole affair as a wildly hilarious joke.

"By Gad! he's done him," said the genius as Macpherson went down, "done
him in one hit. If he don't pay as a canvasser I'll take him to town and
back him to fight Joe Goddard. Look out for yourself; don't you handle
him!" he continued as the other approached the figure. "Leave him to me.
As like as not, if you get fooling about him, he'll give you a smack in
the snout that'll paralyse you."

So saying, he guided the automaton out of the office and into the
street, and walked straight into--a policeman.

By a common impulse the genius and his mate at once ran rapidly away in
different directions, and left the figure alone with the officer.

He was a fully ordained sergeant, by name Aloysius O'Grady; a squat,
rosy little Irishman. He hated violent arrests and all that sort of
thing, and had a faculty of persuading drunks and disorderlies and other
fractious persons to "go quietly along with him", that was little short
of marvellous. Excitable revellers, who were being carried along by
their mates, struggling violently, would break away from their
companions, and prance gaily along to the lock-up with the sergeant,
whom, as likely as not, they would try to kiss on the way. Obstinate
drunks who would do nothing but lie on the ground and kick their feet in
the air, would get up like birds, serpent-charmed, and go with him to
durance vile. As soon as he saw the canvasser, and noted his fixed,
unearthly stare, and listened to his hoarse, unnatural voice, he knew
what was the matter--it was a man in the horrors, a common enough
spectacle at Ninemile. The sergeant resolved to decoy him into the
lock-up, and accosted him in a friendly and free-and-easy way.

"Good day rye," he said.

"--Most magnificent volume ever published, jewelled in fourteen holes,
working on a ruby roller, and in a glass case," said the book canvasser.
"The likenesses of the historical person-ages are so natural that the
book must not be left open on the table, or the mosquitoes will ruin it
by stinging the faces of the portraits."

It then dawned on the sergeant that he was dealing with a book

"Ah, sure," he said, "what's the use of tryin' to sell books at all, at
all, folks does be peltin' them out into the street, and the nanny-goats
lives on them these times. I sent the childher out to pick 'em up, and
we have 'em at my place now--barrowloads of 'em. Come along wid me now,
and I'll make you nice and comfortable for the night," and he laid his
hand on the outstretched palm of the figure.

It was a fatal mistake. By so doing he set in motion the machinery which
operated the figure's left arm, and it moved that limb in towards its
body, and hugged the sergeant to its breast, with a vice-like grip. Then
it started in a faltering, and uneven, but dogged way to walk towards
the steep bank of the river, carrying the sergeant along with it.

"Immortal Saints!" gasped the sergeant, "he's squazin' the livin' breath
out of me. Lave go now loike a dacent sowl, lave go. And oh, for the
love of God, don't be shpakin' into my ear that way"; for the figure's
mouth was pressed tight against the sergeant's ear, and its awful voice
went through and through the little man's head, as it held forth about
the volume. The sergeant struggled violently, and by so doing set some
more springs in motion, and the figure's right arm made terrific swipes
in the air. A following of boys and loafers had collected by this time.
"Bly me, how he does lash out!" was the admiring remark they made. But
they didn't altogether like interfering, notwithstanding the sergeant's
frantic appeals, and things would have gone hard with him had his
subordinate Constable Dooley not appeared on the scene.

Dooley, better known to the town boys as the "Wombat", from his sleepy
disposition, was a man of great strength. He had originally been
quartered at Redfern, Sydney, and had fought many bitter battles with
the Bondi Push, the Black Red Push, and the Surry Hills Push. After this
the duty at Ninemile was child's play, and he never ran in less than two
drunks at a time; it was beneath his dignity to be seen capturing a
solitary inebriate. If they wouldn't come any other way, he would take
them by the ankles and drag them after him. The townsfolk would have
cheerfully backed him to arrest John L. Sullivan if necessary; and when
he saw the sergeant in the grasp of an inebriate he bore down on the
fray full of fight.

"I'll soon make him lave ye go, sergeant," he said, and he tried to
catch hold of the figure's right arm, to put on the "police twist".
Unfortunately at that exact moment the sergeant's struggles touched one
of the springs in the creature's breast with more than usual force. With
the suddenness and severity of a horse kick, it lashed out with its
right hand, catching the redoubtable Dooley a regular thud on the jaw,
and sending him to grass, as if he had been shot. For a few minutes he
"lay as only dead men lie". Then he got up bit by bit, and wandered off
home to the police barracks, and mentioned casually to his wife that
John L. Sullivan had come to town, and had taken the sergeant away to
drown him. After which, having given orders that if anybody called that
visitor was to be told he had gone out of town fifteen miles to serve a
summons on a man for not registering a dog, he locked himself into a
cell for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, the canvasser, still holding the sergeant tightly clutched to
its breast, was marching straight towards the river. Something had
disorganised the voice arrangements, and it was now positively shrieking
at the sergeant's ear, and, as it yelled, the little man yelled louder,
"I don't want yer accursed book. Lave go of me, I say!" He beat with his
fists on its face, and kicked at its shins without the slightest avail.
A short, staggering rush, a wild shriek from the officer, and the two of
them toppled over the steep bank and went souse into the bottomless
depths of the Ninemile Creek.

That was the end of the whole matter. The genius and his mate returned
to town hurriedly, and lay low, expecting to be indicted for murder.
Constable Dooley drew up a report for the Chief of Police, which
contained so many strange and unlikely statements that the department
concluded the sergeant must have got drunk and drowned himself, and that
Dooley saw him do it, but was too drunk to pull him out. Anyone
unacquainted with Ninemile would have expected that a report of the
occurrence would have reached the Sydney papers. As a matter of fact the
storekeeper did think about writing a report, but decided that it was
too much trouble. There was some idea of asking the Government to fish
the two bodies out of the river, but about that time an agitation was
started in Ninemile to have the Federal capital located there, and the
other thing was forgotten. The genius drank himself to death; the
"Wombat" became Sub-Inspector of Police; and a vague tradition about "a
bloke who came up here in the horrors, and drownded poor old O'Grady",
is the only memory that remains of that wonderful creation, the
cast-iron canvasser.

As for the canvasser himself there is a rusted mass far down in the
waters of the creek, and in its arms it holds a skeleton dressed in the
rags of what was once a police uniform. And on calm nights the
passers-by sometimes imagine they can hear, rising out of the green and
solemn depths, a husky, slushy voice, like that of an iron man with mud
and weeds and dishcloths in his throat, and that voice is still urging
the skeleton to buy a book in monthly parts. But the canvasser's
utterance is becoming weak and used up in these days, and it is only
when the waters are low and the air is profoundly still that he can be
heard at all.

The Bulletin, 19 December 1891


THE FIRST night of the Tug-of-War at Darlinghurst Hall, Sydney, was a
great affair. There was a big crowd, mostly Irishmen and what are called
"foreigners". The tugs took place on a long narrow platform, having
stout battens nailed across it; the men laid their feet against these
battens and lay right down to their pull. It was a straight-out test of
strength and endurance; but it was whispered about the hall that the
Irishmen and the West Indian darkies had not room for their feet between
the battens. This should be seen to. There was a parading of teams for a
start, and a very fine-looking lot of men they were. Then the Italians
came out to pull the Norwegians. The Italian team were mostly fishermen;
their rivals were sailors and wharf labourers. It looked any odds on the
Norsemen, who were a long way the heavier team, and they won the pull.
But the children of Garibaldi fought firmly for every inch, and stuck to
it for half and hour. It was a desperate struggle. The crowd were very
facetious, and yelled much good advice to the fair-haired men--"Now
boys, don't let the ice-cream push beat you," "Pull the organ-grinders
over," "Go it, Macaroni,"--and so forth. An interval for drinks--here,
the referee took a drink--and the Denmark team had a walk-over, the
Welshmen having scratched. The Taffies had not time to get a team
together. Then another walk-over, France failing to appear against
Sweden. The frog-eaters rely mainly on style and deportment in
everything they do, and there are no points given for style in

Then came what was supposed to be the tug of the evening, Australia v
Ireland. As the teams took their places, you could feel the electricity
rising in the atmosphere. The Irish were a splendid team, a stone a man
heavier than their opponents all round, but the latter looked, if
anything, harder and closer-knit. As they took their places the warning
bells rang out all over the building: "Now, boys, Sunny N.S.W., for it!"
"Go it, Australia!" And from the Irish side came a babel of broad, soft,
buttery brogue: "Git some chark on yer hands, Dinny," "Mick, if yez
don't win, niver come back to the wharf no more," "For the love o' God
and my fiver, bhoys, pull together!" It was a national Irish team right
through--regular Donegal and Tipperary bhoys. The Swedes might have been
Swedes from Surry Hills, the Russians might have first seen the light at
Cockatoo Island, but there was no gammon about the Irish. They were
genuine; every other man answered to the name of Mike. They wore orange
and green colours, to give the Pope and the Protestants an equal show.
Then they spat on their enormous hands, planted their brogues against
the battens, and at the sound of the pistol, while every Australian's
heart beat high with hope, the Mickies simply gave one enormous dray
horse drag and fetched our countrymen clean away hand over hand, pulling
them about ten feet more than was necessary before they could be
stopped. How did their supporters cheer! Ahoo! Ahoo! The building rang
again with wild shouts of exultation. It was a great day for Donegal
entirely, likewise for Cork and Killarney. The Australians present
pulled their hats down over their eyes and looked at their toes. One man
wanted to back a team of lightweight jockeys to pull anything anybody
would fetch, but this pleasantry could not avert the sting of defeat.
There was no disguising it--the Australians were "beat bad", and the
glory of Woolloomooloo had departed.

Next came the West Indies versus Maoriland, which was a very funny
business. The Maorilanders were small and weedy compared to their sable
opponents, but they hung on gamely. The coloured gentlemen, as seen from
the M.L. end, presented a most remarkable sight. Firstly the eye caught
the soles of their huge, flat feet, sticking up in the air like so many
shovels; their feet hid their bodies altogether, and only allowed their
heads to be seen. The heads were all as round as apples, black as ink,
and each one had in it two white dots--the glaring eyeballs of the
owner. As these remarkable people swayed in unison behind the ramparts
of their feet, they looked like--well, it's no good trying to say what
they looked like. There is nothing in heaven above, or the earth
beneath, or the water under the earth, that will furnish the feeblest
comparison. They pulled like good 'uns, and amid loud yells of, "Go it,
Snowball!" the Maorilanders were pulled over, fighting hard to the last.

Then "Rule Britannia" from the band, and the English team marched on to
the platform--all very neatly dressed, neatly shaven, moving with great
precision. "What are they at all?" "A team of marines from the
men-of-war." They looked fit to pull a house down. Then the squawk of
the band changed to "The Watch on the Rhine", and the sons of the
Fatherland came up to do or die for the country of sauerkraut. It looked
any odds on the English. But they were white-skinned and flaccid, while
the deep, sunburnt hue of the other arms told of hard, toughening work.
Bang went the pistol, and after a terrible tussle the Rhinelanders
fairly wore out the Britishers and scored a gallant win. There was a
strong British section present, and their disappointment was intense. A
man-o'-war's man was with difficulty stopped from climbing onto the
platform and offering to pull the heads off the whole blanky Dutch team.
This win was a surprise, but a bigger surprise was in store when the
Russians met the Scotch. Where they found a team of ten Russians in
Sydney goodness only knows, but they were gaunt, wiry, hard-featured
men--some of them obviously Russian Finns, than whom the earth produces
no stronger or more resolute race. Their opponents had a smug,
comfortable look, and seemed a long way the stouter men. The Russians
were all seamen and seafaring men of some sort. At the signal to go, the
Russians gained a little, and then began a tremen-dous wavering pull,
each side alternately gaining and losing. The Scotch supporters cheered
their men on with wild cries. The Australians impartially barracked both
sides. First they would give the Scotch a turn--"Go it, Donald!" "Haul
away Sandy!" "Go it, Burgoo!" Then they would turn their attention to
the Russians: "Go it, Siberia!" "We'll have to get the knout to you
fellows," and so on. But all the foreign nations seemed to form a sort
of Mafia to encourage the Russians against the Scotch. Norseman, Dane,
and Dago joined in the wild chorus of encouragement. An old man,
apparently the father of one of the Russian team, danced alongside the
platform shrieking in every language under the sun. The man he was
cheering was a great broad-chested giant who threw his mighty strength
on to the rope in tremendous surges, and at every pull the old man would
howl--"Go on, Manuel, you're doing splendid." Then he would sing out
something like "Kyohjnoo," and Manuel would give another heave that
would fetch the Scotch team another two or three inches at least. He was
a magnificent man, was Manuel. The great wiry muscles stood out on his
arms like knotted ropes. And when at last it only wanted six inches more
for a win, Manuel lifted his head and gave the old sailor-cry that the
men of the sea know so well and respond to--"Yo, heave-ho-o-o-o-o," and
the subjects of the Great White Czar gave one mighty lift that fetched
the Scotchmen away as if they had been children. It was a grand pull,
and one's sympathies went with the little band of Russians, because if
they are really Russians (their faces seemed Slavonic) there must have
been very few men to pick from, whereas here every third man is a
Scotchman. It will be seen, therefore, that the Germans beat the
English, the Russians beat the Scotch, and the West Indian blacks beat
the Maorilanders. Perhaps (whisper it softly)--perhaps the British and
the Australians are not the only strong and determined races on the face
of the earth after all.

The Irish on the first night certainly looked like winning. It is said
that the team has been carefully picked--that scores of men were tried
and rejected before the team was formed. The Continental nations have
very few men to choose from. The Australians ought to go and practise
pulling the hair off a pound of butter before they compete. They may do
better later on. We intend to be there again for a good long evening
when the black men meet the Irish. And if you want to get your two eyes
knocked straight into one, go and "barrack" against the land of Erin.

In Australia, however, nothing is complete without a strike, and on
Monday the teams mostly struck. They wanted a total sum of £156 a night,
and the management didn't see it. Then the Italian gentlemen, full of a
desire to recover their lost glory, offered to throw themselves into the
gap, and were set down as "scabs". By and by a compromise was arrived
at, and the show began forty-five minutes late. Scotland and Norway took
the rope and in six minutes the former went under amid the ruins of the
thistle and the haggis, while a spectral voice in kilts groaned over
their discomfiture. Russia, with the potent Manuel on deck, broke
Germany up in about twelve minutes, and the signs, at time of writing,
seem to be that the sons of the Great White Czar will come out on top.
Manuel--we are not quite sure that his name is Manuel, but it doesn't
matter--is an awful snag to strike, especially when his aged father
barracks for him and urges him on. The longest pull of the evening was
between the Englishmen and the West Indies darkies, and here for the
first time the Anglo-Saxon race got a show. It took them over an hour to
do it, but at the end of that time Ham went under. He deserved better
luck, did Ham, especially as he is the lightest team in the show.
Australia again had the distinction of knocking under in shorter time
than anybody else; he was a disgraced kangaroo in just thirty-three
seconds, the Maorilanders bolting with him as if they intended to rush
down to Circular Quay. Ireland also went under to Sweden, which was a
painful surprise to many individuals named Mick, Terence, and Dinny.
Last of all, Italy came on to give a mighty heave for the honour of the
banana-vending industry. Denmark took the other end of the rope and held
it for thirty-three minutes, and then the stupendous efforts of the
fallen Romans carried the day. France and Wales both failed to turn up.

After Monday night's proceedings, Norway, Sweden and Russia were ahead
with two wins each, and Ireland, West Indies, Italy, England, Denmark,
Germany and Maoriland had one apiece. France and Wales have been on
strike since the start, and Scotland and Australia come in dejectedly at
the tail with two blanks. If Manuel's boiler doesn't burst, or his
father doesn't break a blood vessel while howling for him, Russia should
win the big prize; and Italy, if only on account of the demoniac energy
of the hulking gentleman with the large feet who pulls at the extreme
end of the rope, should be close up. The Bulletin suggests that that
huge Roman and Manuel should pull each other single-handed at the close
of the proceedings. It would be a gaudy spectacle. The Roman's name, we
believe, is Julius Caesar.

The Bulletin, 20 February 1892


THERE is an old, furthest-out bushman who comes to Sydney once every
year and always calls upon certain members of the staff of this paper.
He seems to regard himself as an ambassador from the backblocks, and he
lays down the law on all bush subjects in great style. He is a bearded,
freckled old pirate, with a bald head. His hands are scarred with
"Barcoo rot". There are not many parts of Australia that the ancient
doesn't know; and to hear him chin off the old bush names is a perfect
treat. He has a slightly Scotch accent, and he was at first suspected of
being "Scotty the Wrinkler" in disguise, come "to take a rise" out of
us. He always has a backblock story or two which he thinks would be
highly suitable for publication. They never are. They mostly consist of
yarns about the things which some renowned bullock driver said to his
bullocks when he was fast in a river with a flood coming down. Or else
he tells how, out in the far back country, the supplies got low and the
only flour available was full of weevils and other livestock, and the
storekeeper used to classify the flour according to the condition of the
creeping things which inhabited it. The fatter the crawlers were, the
better quality the flour was held to be, so that "prime fat flour" sold
at a considerable advance over that which was only in "store condition".
His great idea is to have these stories illustrated, a process to which
they do not lend themselves readily. But when he came to town this last
time he was so genuinely distressed at none of his previous yarns having
appeared that he was promised faithfully that "Sharp Practice on the
Darling" should be published, even if the editor had to be knocked on
the head.

"I've just come in from the Paroo," he said, "with cattle. And comin'
down in the camp, the fellers was sayin' I ought to come and tell you
some of the things as is happenin' up our way now. There's some
tremenjus funny things in the bush, you know."

"Yes," we said. "What is the funniest thing that has happened lately?"

"'Well," he replied, "we reckoned this was the funniest. We talked over
a crowd of things in the camp, but we reckoned this was the best. It
would make good pictures, too," he said, earnestly. "We call it sharp
practice on the Darlin' River just now, and if a man has a fi' pun'-note
he can't get past a public house with his life, you know. They'll get
that fiver out of him, somehow. But there was a mate of mine that took
'em down all right"--and the old man chuckled at the remembrance.

"How did he take 'em down? Did he swallow the fiver and then cough it up
after he got past the hotel?" we enquired.

"No," he said. "When he went to the pub, he had three fivers, and he
gave the landlord two of 'em, and started a spree. So I come along and
was havin' a drink with him, and he showed me the other fiver. 'I'm
goin' to get away with this one,' says he. 'Does the publican know
you've got it?' says I. 'Yes,' says he. 'Well, he'll have it off you
somehow,' I says. 'There's no publican on the Darlin' River has let a
man with five pounds get past him this seven years,' I says, 'and you
ain't goin' to be the fust man to do it.' 'Won't I?' says he. 'You see,
now, I'll get away with it all right.'

"So, when he'd about cut out his ten pounds, he slips down to the river
one day, and takes the canoe, and paddles across, and makes off down the
river to strike the coach road. The publican come out and 'Where's
Hazard gone?' says he. Hazard was the name this mate of mine went by,
and he was a tremenjus clever fellow--a real larrikin. 'I don't know,'
says I, 'where he's gone.'

"'Well,' says the publican, 'he owes me some money and I must have him
back.' So he calls two chaps he had there, and he sends one to swim the
river with a horse and go down the further side, and the other to go
down the near side, and they was bound to have him that way. So Hazard,
he was makin' down the river and he saw this cove cross over after him,
and just then there was a steamer coming up the river. And he didn't
want to go up the river, you know, but it was any port in a storm with
him, so he runs to the bank and waves his swag, and the steamer sent a
boat and took him off. And as he sent up past the public house he saw
the landlord standing there, and he ran to the stern of the steamer and
waves the fi-pun note at him. 'Ha! ha! old man,' he says, 'this is sharp
practice on the Darling!'"

We agreed that this story would appeal strongly to bush readers. We also
took notes of another narrative about a publican and a boozer. In this
case the boozer had some pound notes and he let them blow out of his
hand in the yard on a windy day, and then he, and the publican, and a
retriever pup, were down on all fours together in the dirt grabbing at
the notes as they blew about. The puppy secured the bulk of the capital.
The old man pointed out that this would make a spirited illustration,
and we promised to have a full-page drawing made of it when the artists
had time. He went on to chat about things in general.

"About this Argentina scheme, now," he said, "you fellows in Sydney
don't think that the bushmen are in earnest over that."

"Well, are they?" we enquired. "It doesn't look a very good game to
leave this country and go to a strange place where they'll get potted
like possums in the first revolution."

"Ah, well, they're in earnest about it," he said. "I'm not going myself,
but there was six men at the last shed I was at that are going, and they
have put down their stuff, too. It seems a pity, don't it, for them to
go away. Fine strappin' young fellows as the sun ever shone on! But it's
terrible hard to get a livin' these times," he said, "if you go shearing
and get one shed it's all you'll do. And in the old times they was glad
to get shearers. If it wasn't for the rabbits there'd be no work at all
on a lot of the runs."

"Do the rabbits make much work?" we asked.

"Yes, they're too clever for men to keep out," he answered. "They
burrows under the wire netting, and they can't be suffocated in their
burrows nohow, 'cos they camp out under the saltbush these times. And
they crosses the Murray River where it's a quarter of a mile wide."

"Oh, come! that's too stiff. You don't tell us the rabbits can swim a
quarter of a mile?"

"In corse they don't," he said. "They burrows underneath it!"

After that we took him out and stood him a drink, and sent him on his
way rejoicing.

The Bulletin, 4 February 1893


DOG FIGHTING as a sport is not much in vogue nowadays. To begin with, it
is illegal. Not that that matters much, for Sunday drinking is also
illegal, yet flourishes exceedingly. But dog fighting is one of the
cruel sports which the united sense of the community has decided to put
down with all the force of public opinion. Nevertheless, a certain
amount of dog fighting is still carried on around Sydney, and very
neatly and scientifically carried on, too--prin-cipally by gentlemen who
follow the occupation of slaughterers, and who live out Botany way and
do not care for public opinion.

The grey dawn was just breaking over Botany when we got to the meeting
place. It was Sunday morning, and all the respectable, non-dog fighting
population of that stinking suburb were sleeping the heavy, Sunday
morning sleep. Away to the east the stars were paling at the first faint
flush of the coming dawn and over the sandhills came the boom of the
breakers. An intense stillness was over everything, and the white-walled
cottages of Botany were shrouded in a faint mist. Some few people,
however, were astir. In the dim light, hurried pedestrians might be seen
plodding their way over the heavy road towards the sandhills. Now and
then a van, laden with about ten or eleven of "the talent", and drawn by
a horse that cost fifteen shillings at auction, rolled softly along in
the same direction. These were dog fighters who had got "the office",
and knew exactly where the chewing match was to take place.

The "meet" was on a main road, about half a mile from town, and here
some two hundred people had assembled, and hung up their horses and
vehicles to the fence without the slightest concealment. They said the
police would not interfere with them, and, in truth, they did not seem a
nice crowd to interfere with. One dog was on the ground when we arrived.
He had come out in a hansom cab with his trainer, and was a white bull
terrier, weighing about forty pounds, "trained to the hour", with the
muscles standing out all over him. He waited in the cab, and licked his
trainer's face at intervals to reassure that individual of his
protection and support. The rest of the time he glowered out of the cab
and eyed the public scornfully. He knew as well as any human being that
there was sport afoot, and he looked about eagerly and wickedly to see
what he could get his teeth into. Then a messenger came running up to
the cab and demanded to know, with a variety of expletives, whether they
meant to sit in the cab till the police came: also, he said that the
other dog had arrived and all was ready. The trainer and dog got out of
the cab, and we followed through a fence and over a rise, and there,
about two hundred yards from the main road, was a neatly pitched
enclosure like a prize ring--i.e. a thirty-foot-square enclosure formed
with stakes and ropes. About a hundred people were at the ringside, and
in the far corner, in the arms of his trainer, was the other dog, a

It was wonderful to see the two dogs when they caught sight of each
other. The white dog came up to the ring straining at his leash, nearly
dragging his trainer off his feet in his efforts to get at the enemy. At
intervals he emitted a hoarse roar of challenge and defiance. The
brindled dog never uttered a sound. He fixed his eyes on his adversary
with a look of intense hunger, of absolute yearning for combat. He never
for an instant shifted his unwinking gaze. He seemed like an animal who
saw the hopes of years about to be realised. With painful earnestness he
watched every detail of the other dog's toilet; and, while the white dog
was making fierce efforts to get at him, he stood Napoleonic, grand in
his courage, waiting for the fray.

All details were carefully attended to, and all rules strictly observed.
Most people think a dog fight is a go-as-you-please outbreak of
lawlessness, but there are rules and regulations--simple, but
effective. Possibly one could even buy a book containing the rules of
dog fighting. There were two umpires, a referee, a timekeeper and two
seconds for each dog. The stakes were said to be ten pounds a side.
After some talk, the dogs were carried to the centre of the ring by
their seconds and put on the ground. Like a flash of lightning they
dashed at each other, and the fight began. Nearly everyone has seen dogs
fight;--"It is their nature to," as Dr Watts puts it. But an ordinary
worry between (say) a retriever and a collie, terminating as soon as one
or other gets his ear bitten, gives a very faint idea of a real dog
fight. These bull terriers are the gladiators of the canine race. Bred
and trained to fight, carefully exercised and dieted for weeks
beforehand, they come to the fray exulting in their strength and each
determined to win. Each is trained to fight for certain holds, a grip of
the ear or the back of the neck being of very slight importance. The
foot is a favourite hold; the throat is, of course, fashionable--if they
can get it. These dogs sparred and wrestled and gripped and threw each
other, fighting grimly, and disdaining to utter a sound under the most
severe punishment. Their seconds dodged round them unceasingly, giving
them encourage-ment and advice. "That's the style, Boxer--fight for his
foot." "Draw your foot back, old man", and so on. Now and again one dog
got a grip of the other's foot and chewed savagely, and the spectators
danced with excitement. The moment the dogs released hold of each other
they were snatched up by their seconds and carried to their corners, and
a minute's time was allowed, in which their mouths were washed out and a
cloth rubbed over their bodies. Then came the ceremony of "coming to
scratch". After the first round, on time being called, the brindled dog
was let loose in his own corner of the ring, and he was required by the
rules to go across the ring (some thirty feet) of his own free will and
attack the other dog. If he failed to do this, he would lose the fight.
The white dog, meanwhile, was held in his corner waiting the attack.
After the next round it was the white dog's turn to make the attack, and
so on alternately. It, therefore, became evident that the animals need
not fight a moment longer than they chose, as either dog could abandon
the fight by failing to go across the ring and attack his enemy. While
their condition lasted they used to dash across the ring at full run,
but, after a while, when the punishment got severe and their "fitness"
began to fail, it became a very exciting question whether or not a dog
would "come to scratch". The brindled dog's condition was not so good as
the other's, and he used to lie on his stomach between the rounds to
rest himself, and it several times looked as if he would not cross the
ring when his turn came. But as soon as time was called, he would start
to his feet and come limping slowly across glaring steadily at the other
dog; then, as he got nearer, he would quicken his pace and at last make
a savage rush, and in a moment they would be locked in combat. So they
battled on for fifty-six minutes till the white dog (who was apparently
having all the best of it), on being called on to cross the ring, only
went halfway across and stood there growling savagely till a minute had
elapsed, and so he lost the fight.

No doubt it was a brutal exhibition. But it was not cruel to the animals
in the same sense that pigeon shooting or hare hunting is cruel. The
dogs are born fighters, anxious and eager to fight, desiring nothing
better. Whatever limited intelligence they have is all directed to this
one consuming passion. They could stop when they liked, but anyone
looking on could see that they gloried in the combat. Fighting is like
breath to them--they must have it. Nature has implanted in all animals a
fighting instinct for the weeding out of the physically unfit, and these
dogs have an extra share of that fighting instinct. Of course, now that
the world is going to be so good, and we are all to be teetotal and only
fight in debating societies, and the women are to wear the breeches,
these nasty, savage animals are out of date, and we will not be allowed
to have anything more quarrelsome than a poodle about a house--though
even poodles will fight like demons when they feel like it. And the
gamecock and the steeplechase horse and all animals with sporting or
fighting instincts must be done away with. Guinea pigs will, perhaps, be
safe to keep, though even they have a go-in at one another occasionally.

And the man of the future, the New Man, whose fighting instincts are not
quite bred out of him, will, perhaps, be found at grey dawn of a Sunday
morning with a crowd of other unregenerates in some backyard frantically
cheering on two determined buck guinea pigs to mortal combat.

The Bulletin, 18 May 1895


THE PROSPERITY OF Australia is absolutely based on a beast--the merino
sheep. If all the sheep in the country were to die, the big banks would
collapse like card houses, the squatting securities, which are their
backbone, being gone. Business would perish, and the money we owe to
England would be as hopelessly lost to that nation as if we were a South
American state. The sheep, and the sheep alone, keeps us going. On the
back of this beneficent creature we all live. Knowing this, people have
got the impression that the merino sheep is a gentle, bleating animal
that gets its living without trouble to anybody, and comes up every year
to be shorn with a pleased smile upon its amiable face. It is my purpose
here, as one having experience, to exhibit the merino sheep in its true
light, so that the public may know what kind of brute they are depending

And first let us give him what little credit is his due. No one can
accuse him of being a ferocious animal. No one could ever say that a
sheep attacked him without provocation, though there is an old bush
story of a man who was discovered in the act of killing a neighbour's
wether. "Hullo," said the neighbour. "What's this? Killing my sheep!
What have you got to say for yourself?" "Yes," said the man, with an air
of virtuous indignation. "I am killing your sheep. I'll kill any man's
sheep that bites me!" But as a rule the merino refrains from using his
teeth on people, and goes to work in another way.

The truth is that the merino sheep is a dangerous monomaniac, and his
one idea is to ruin the man who owns him. With this object in view, he
will display a talent for getting into trouble and a genius for dying
that are almost incredible. If a mob of sheep see a bushf ire closing
round them, do they run away out of danger? Not at all; they rush round
and round in a ring till the fire burns them up. If they are in a river
bed, with a howling flood coming down, they will stubbornly refuse to
cross three inches of water to save themselves. Dogs and men may bark
and shriek, but the sheep won't move. They will wait there till the
flood comes and drowns them all, and then their corpses go down the
river on their backs with their feet in the air. A mob of sheep will
crawl along a road slowly enough to exasperate a snail, but let a lamb
get away from the mob in a bit of rough country, and a racehorse can't
head him back again. If sheep are put into a big paddock with water in
three corners of it, they will resolutely crowd into the fourth corner
and die of thirst. When sheep are being counted out at a gate, if a
scrap of bark be left on the ground in the gateway, they will refuse to
step over it until dogs and men have sweated and toiled and sworn and
"heeled 'em up", and "spoke to 'em", and fairly jammed them at it. Then
the first one will gather courage, rush at the fancied obstacle, spring
over it about six feet in the air and dart away. The next does exactly
the same, but jumps a bit higher. Then comes a rush of them following
one another in wild bounds like antelopes, until one "over-jumps
himself" and alights on his head, a performance which nothing but a
sheep could compass.

This frightens those still in the yard, and they stop running out, and
the dogging and shrieking and hustling and tearing have to be gone
through all over again. This on a red-hot day, mind you, with clouds of
blinding dust about, with the yolk of wool irritating your eyes, and
with, perhaps, three or four thousand sheep to put through. The delay
throws out the man who is counting, and he forgets whether he left off
at 45 or 95. The dogs, meanwhile, take the first chance to slip over the
fence and hide in the shade somewhere. Then there are loud whistlings
and oaths, and calls for Rover and Bluey, and at last a dirt-begrimed
man jumps over the fence, unearths a dog and hauls him back to work by
the ear. The dog sets to barking and heeling 'em up again, and pretends
that he thoroughly enjoys it, but he is looking out all the time for
another chance to "clear". And this time he won't be discovered in a

To return to our muttons. There is a well-authenticated story of a
shipload of sheep being lost once, because an old ram jumped overboard
into the ocean, and all the rest followed him. No doubt they did, and
were proud to do it. A sheep won't go through an open gate on his own
responsibility, but he would gladly and proudly follow another sheep
through the red-hot portals of Hades: and it makes no difference whether
the leader goes voluntarily or is hauled struggling and kicking and
fighting every inch of the way. For pure, sodden stupidity there is no
animal like the merino sheep. A lamb will follow a bullock dray drawn by
sixteen bullocks and driven by a profane "colonial" with a whip, under
the impression that this aggregate monstrosity is his mother. A ewe
never knows her own lamb by sight, and appar-ently has no sense of
colour. She can recognise her own lamb's voice half a mile off among a
thousand other voices apparently exactly similar, but when she gets
within five yards of her lamb she starts to smell all the lambs in
reach, including the black ones, though her own may be a white lamb. The
fiendish resemblance which one sheep bears to another is a great
advantage to them in their struggles with their owners. It makes them
more difficult to draft out of a strange flock, and much harder to tell
when any are missing.

Concerning this resemblance between sheep, there is a story told of a
fat old Murrumbidgee squatter who gave a big price for a famous ram
called, say, Sir Oliver. He took a friend out one day to inspect Sir
Oliver, and overhauled that animal with a most impressive air of sheep
wisdom. "Look here," he said, "at the fineness of the wool. See the
serrations in each thread of it. See the density of it. Look at the way
his legs and belly are clothed--he's wool all over, that sheep. Grand
animal, grand animal!" Then they went and had a drink, and the old
squatter said, "Now, I'll show you the difference between a champion ram
and a second-rater". So he caught a ram and pointed out his defects.
"See here--not half the serrations that other sheep had. No density of
fleece to speak of. Bare-bellied as a pig, compared with Sir Oliver. Not
that this isn't a fair sheep, but he'd be dear at one-tenth Sir Oliver's
price. By the way, Johnson" (to his overseer) "what ram is this?" "That,
sir" replied the astounded functionary, "that's Sir Oliver, sir!" And so
it was.

There is another kind of sheep in Australia, as great a curse in his own
way as the merino--namely, the cross-bred or half-merino-half-Leicester
animal. The cross-bred will get through, under or over any fence you
like to put in front of him. He is never satisfied on his owner's run,
but always thinks other people's runs must be better, so he sets off to
explore. He will strike a course, say, south-east, and so long as the
fit takes him he will keep going south-east through all obstacles,
rivers, fences, growing crops--anything. The merino relies on passive
resistance for his success; the cross-bred carries the war into the
enemy's camp, and becomes a living curse to his owner day and night.
Once there was a man who was induced in a weak moment to buy twenty
cross-bred rams, and from that hour the hand of fate was upon him. They
got into all the paddocks they shouldn't have been in. They scattered
themselves all over the run promiscuously. They got into the cultivation
paddock and the vegetable garden at their own sweet will. And then they
took to roving. In a body they visited the neighbouring stations, and
played havoc with the sheep all over the district. The wretched owner
was constantly getting fiery letters from his neighbours: "Your . . .
rams are here. Come and take them away at once", and he would have to go
off nine or ten miles to drive them home. Any man who has tried to drive
rams on a hot day knows what purgatory is. He was threatened with
actions for trespass for scores of pounds damages every week. He tried
shutting them up in the sheep yard. They got out and went back to the
garden. Then he gaoled them in the calf pen. Out again and into a
growing crop. Then he set a boy to watch them, but the boy went to
sleep, and they were four miles away across country before he got on to
their tracks. At length, when they happened accidentally to be at home
on their owner's run, there came a huge flood. His sheep, mostly
merinos, had plenty of time to get on to high ground and save their
lives, but, of course, they didn't, and they were almost all drowned.
The owner sat on a rise above the waste of waters and watched the dead
animals go by. He was a ruined man. His hopes in life were gone. But he
said, "Thank God, those rams are drowned, anyhow." Just as he spoke
there was a splashing in the water, and the twenty rams solemnly swam
ashore and ranged themselves in front of him. They were the only
survivors of thousands of sheep. He broke down utterly, and was taken to
an asylum for insane paupers. The cross-breds had fulfilled their

The cross-bred drives his owner out of his mind, but the merino ruins
his man with greater celerity. Nothing on earth will kill cross-breds,
while nothing will keep merinos alive. If they are put on dry saltbush
country they die of drought. If they are put on damp, well-watered
country they die of worms, fluke, and foot rot. They die in the wet
seasons and they die in the dry ones. The hard, resentful look which you
may notice on the faces of all bushmen comes from a long course of
dealing with the merino sheep. It is the merino sheep which dominates
the bush, and which gives to Australian literature its melancholy tinge,
and its despairing pathos. The poems about dying boundary riders and
lonely graves under mournful she-oaks are the direct outcome of the
author's too close association with that soul-destroying animal, the
merino sheep. A man who could write anything cheerful after a day in the
drafting yards would be a freak of nature.

The Bulletin, 14 December 1895


OF ALL the ways in which men get a living there is none so hard and so
precarious as that of steeplechase riding in Australia. It is bad enough
in England, where steeplechases only take place in winter, when the
ground is soft, and where the horses are properly schooled before being
raced, and where the obstacles for the most part will yield a little if
struck and give a horse a chance to blunder over safely. In Australia
the men have to go at racing speed on very hard ground, over the most
rigid and uncompromising obstacles--ironbark rails clamped into solid
posts with bands of iron. No wonder they are always coming to grief, and
are always in and out of hospital in splints and bandages. Sometimes one
reads that a horse has fallen and the rider has "escaped with a severe
shaking". That "shaking", gentle reader, would lay you or me up for
weeks, with a doctor to look after us and a crowd of sympathetic friends
calling to know how our poor back was. But the steeplechase rider has to
be out and about again, "riding exercise" every morning, and "schooling"
all sorts of cantankerous brutes over the fences. These men take their
lives in their hands and look at grim death between their horses' ears
every time they race or "school".

The death-record among Australian cross-country jockeys and horses is
something awful: it is a curious instance of how custom sanctifies all
things that such horse and man slaughter is accepted in such a calm,
callous way. If any theatre gave a show at which men and horses were
habitually crippled and killed in full sight of the audience, the
manager would be tried for manslaughter in no time. But the racetracks
use up their yearly average of horses and men without attracting remark.
One would suppose that the risk being so great the profits were
enormous; but they are not--quite otherwise, in fact. In "the game" as
played on our racecourses, there is just a bare living for a good
capable horseman while he lasts, with the certainty of an ugly smash if
he keeps at it long enough.

And they don't need to keep at it very long. After a few good "shakings"
they begin to "take a nip or two" to put heart into them before they go
out, and after a while they have to increase the dose. So that at last
they cannot ride at all without a regular cargo of alcohol on board, and
they are either "half muzzy" or shaky, according as they have taken too
much or too little. And then they commence to fall--it is an old axiom
that as soon as a man begins to funk he begins to fall. The reason is
that a rider who has lost his nerve is afraid of his horse making a
mistake, and takes a pull or urges him onward just at the critical
instant--the one crucial moment when the horse is rattling up to his
fence and judging his distance so as to make his spring. And the little
pull at his head or the little touch of the spur takes his attention
from the fence, with the result that he makes his spring a foot too far
off or a foot too close in, and--smash! And then the loafers who hang
about the big fences rush up to see if the jockey is killed or stunned,
and, if so, they dispose of any jewellery he may have about him--they
have been known to almost tear off a finger in their endeavours to
secure the ring. And the ambulance clatters up at a canter, the poor
rider is pushed in out of sight, and the ladies in the stand say how
unlucky they are--that brute of a horse falling after they backed him.
And a wolfish-eyed man in the Leger stand shouts to a wolfish-eyed pal,
"Bill, I believe that jock was killed when the chestnut fell", and Bill
replies, "Yes, damn him, I had five bob on him." And the rider, gasping
like a crushed chicken, is carried into the casualty room and laid on a
little stretcher, while outside the window the bookmakers are roaring
"Four to one bar one", and the racing is going on merrily as ever.

Which remarks may serve to introduce one of the fraternity who may be
considered as typical of all. He was a small, wiry, hard-featured
fellow, the son of a stockman on a big cattle station, and began life as
a horse breaker--he was naturally a horseman, and able and willing to
ride anything that could carry him. Then he left the station to go with
cattle on the road, and, having picked up a horse that showed pace,
amused himself by jumping him over fences. Then he went to Wagga and
entered the horse in a steeplechase, rode him himself, won handsomely,
sold the horse at a good price to a Sydney buyer, and went down to ride
the horse in his Sydney races. Did very well in Sydney and got a name as
a fearless and clever rider, and was offered several mounts on fine
animals, so he pitched his camp in Sydney and became a fully enrolled
member of the worst profession in the world--that of steeplechase rider.
I had known him in the old days on the road, and when I met him on the
course one day I enquired how he liked the new life.

"Well, it's a livin'," he said, "but it's no great shakes. They don't
give steeplechase riders a chance in Sydney" (which is true enough).
"There is very few races, and the big sweepstakes keep horses out of the

"Do you get a fair share of the riding?" I asked.

"Oh, yes; I get as much as anybody. But there's a lot of 'em got a
notion I won't take hold of a horse when I'm told (i.e., pull him to
prevent him winning), but some of these days I'll take hold of a horse
when they don't expect it."

I smiled as I thought there was probably a sorry day in store for some
backer when the jockey "took hold" unexpectedly.

"Do you have to pull horses, then, to get employment?"

"Oh, well, it's this way," he said, rather apologetically, "if an owner
is badly treated by the handicapper and is just giving his horse a run
to get weight off, then it's right enough to catch hold a bit. But when
a horse is favourite and the public are backing him it isn't right to
take hold of him then. I would not do it." This was his whole code of
morals--not to pull a favourite; and he felt himself very superior to
the scoundrel who would pull favourites or outsiders indiscriminately.

"What do you get for riding?" I asked him.

"Well," he said, looking about uneasily, "we're supposed to get a fiver
for a losing mount and ten pounds if we win, but such a lot of the
steeplechase owners are what I call 'battlers'--men who have no money
and get along by owing everybody money. They promise us all sorts of
money if we win but they don't pay if we lose. I only got two pounds for
that last steeplechase."

Two pounds! I made a rapid mental calculation. He had ridden over
eighteen fences for two pounds--had chanced his life eighteen times at
less than half a crown a time.

"Good heavens," I said, "that's a poor game. Wouldn't you be better back
on the station?"

"Oh, I don't know--sometimes we get laid a bit to nothing and do well
out of a race. And then, you know, a steeplechase rider is somebody--not
like an ordinary fellow that is just working." I realised that I was an
"ordinary fellow that was just working" and felt small accordingly.

"I'm just off to weigh now," he said--"I'm riding Contractor, and he'll
run well, but he always seems to fall at those logs. Still, I ought to
have luck today. I met a hearse as I was coming out. I'll get him over
the fences, somehow."

"Do you think it lucky, then, to meet a hearse?"

"Oh, yes", he said, "if you meet it. You mustn't overtake it--that's
unlucky. So is a cross-eyed man unlucky. Cross-eyed men ought to be kept
off racecorses." And away he went, followed by a little knot of
hungry-looking men who were beseeching him for a "tip" for the race.

When he reappeared he was clad in racing rig, and we set off to see the
horse saddled. We found the owner in a great state of excitement. It
seemed he had no money, absolutely none whatever, but had borrowed
enough to pay the sweepstakes and stood to make some-thing if the horse
won and lose nothing if he lost, as he had nothing to lose. My friend
the rider insisted on being paid two pounds before he would mount, and
the owner nearly had a fit in his efforts to persuade him to ride on
credit. At last a backer of the horse came forward who agreed to pay two
pounds ten, win or lose, and the rider was to get twenty-five pounds out
of the prize if he won. So up he got, and as he and the others walked
the big muscular horses round the ring, nodding gaily to friends in the
crowd, I thought of the gladiators going out to fight in the arena with
the cry of, "Hail, Caesar, those about to die salute thee!"

The story of the race is soon told. My friend went to the front at the
start and led nearly all the way, and "Contractor!" was on everyone's
lips as the big horse sailed along in front of his field. He came at the
log fence full of running, and it looked certain that he would get over.
At the last stride he seemed to falter, then plunged right in to the
fence, striking it with his chest and turning right over it, landing on
his unfortunate rider. Evidently meeting the hearse had not brought him

Man and horse lay still, and there was silence in the stand, broken only
by a few audible curses from those who had backed the horse. A crowd
clustered round and hid horse and rider from view, and I ran down to the
casualty room to meet him when the ambulance came in. The gay silks and
colours were all mud-spattered and bloodstained as the limp form was
carefully taken out and laid on a stretcher while a doctor examined the
crushed ribs, the broken arm, and all the havoc that the horse's huge
weight had made. There was no hope from the first. My poor friend, who
had so often faced death for two pounds, lay very still awhile, gasping
and quivering slightly. Then he began to talk, wandering in his mind.
"Where were the cattle"--he had lost the cattle--his mind evidently
going back to the old days on the road. Then he spoke quickly, "Look out
there--give me room!" and again wandered off: "Five-and-twenty pounds,
Mary, and a sure thing if he don't fall at the logs". And "Mary" was
sobbing beside the bed, cursing the fence and the money that had fetched
him to grief. At last, in a tone of satisfaction, he said, quite clear
and loud, "I know how it was--there couldn't have been any dead man in
that hearse!"

And so, having solved the mystery to his own satisfaction, he again
drifted away into unconsciousness, and woke somewhere on the other side
of the big fence that we can neither see through nor over, but all have
to face sooner or later.

The Bulletin, 12 December 1896


Buckalong was a big freehold of some 80,000 acres, belonging to an
absentee syndicate, and therefore run in most niggardly style. There was
a manager on two hundred pounds a year, Sandy McGregor to wit--a
hard-headed old Scotchman known as "four-eyed McGregor", because he wore
spectacles. For assistants, he had half-a-dozen of us--jackaroos and
colonial experiencers--who got nothing a year, and earned it. We had, in
most instances, paid premiums to learn the noble art of squatting, which
now appears to me hardly worth studying, for so much depends on luck
that a man with a head as long as a horse's has little better chance
than the fool just imported. Besides the manager and the jackeroos,
there were a few boundary riders to prowl round the fences of the vast
paddocks. This constituted the whole station staff.

Buckalong was on one of the main routes by which stock were taken to
market, or from the plains to the tablelands, and vice versa. Great mobs
of travelling sheep constantly passed through the run, eating up the
grass and vexing the soul of the manager. By law sheep must travel six
miles per day, and they must keep within half a mile of the road. Of
course, we such hapless wretches as did venture through Buckalong used
to try hard to stray from the road We kept all the grass near the road
eaten bare, to discourage travellers from coming that way, and pick up a
feed, but old Sandy was always ready for them, and would have them
dogged right through the run. This bred feuds, and bad language, and
personal combats between us and the drovers, whom we looked upon as
natural enemies. Then the men who came through with mobs of cattle used
to pull down the paddock fences at night, and slip the cattle in for
refreshments; but old Sandy often turned out at 2 or 3 a.m. to catch a
big mob of bullocks in the horse paddock, and then off they went to
Buckalong pound. The drovers, as in duty bound, attributed the trespass
to accident-broken rails, and so on--and sometimes they tried to rescue
the cattle, which again bred strife and police court summonses.

Besides having a particular aversion to drovers, old McGregor had a
general "down" on the young "colonials", whom he comprehensively
described as a "feckless, horse-dealin', horse-stealin', crawlin' lot o'
wretches". According to him, a native would sooner work a horse to death
than work for a living, any day. He hated any man who wanted to sell him
a horse. "As ah walk the street," he used to say, "the folk disna stawp
me to buy claes nor shoon, an' wheerfore should they stawp me to buy
horses? It's 'Mister McGregor, will ye purrchase a horrse?' Let them
wait till I ask them to come wi' theer horrses."

Such being his views on horseflesh and drovers, we felt no little
excitement when one Sunday, at dinner, the cook came in to say there was
a "drover chap outside wanted the boss to come and have a look at a
horse". McGregor simmered awhile, and muttered something about the
"Sawbath day"; but at last he went out, and we filed after him to see
the fun.

The drover stood by the side of his horse, beneath the acacia trees in
the yard. He had a big scar on his face, apparently the result of
collision with a tree; and seemed poverty-stricken enough to disarm
hostility. Obviously, he was "down on his luck". He looked very thin and
sickly, with clothes ragged and boots broken. Had it not been for that
indefinable self-reliant look which drovers--the Ishmaels of the
bush--always acquire, one might have taken him for a swagman. His horse
was in much the same plight. A ragged, unkempt pony, pitifully poor and
very footsore--at first sight, an absolute "moke", but a second glance
showed colossal round ribs, square hips, and a great length of rein, the
rest hidden beneath a wealth of loose hair. He looked like "a good
journey horse", possibly something better.

We gathered round while McGregor questioned the drover. The man was
monosyllabic to a degree, as real bushmen generally are. It is only the
rowdy and the town-bushy that is fluent of speech.

"Good morning," said McGregor.

"Mornin', boss," said the drover, shortly.

"Is this the horrse ye have for sale?"


"Aye", and McGregor looked at the pony with a businesslike
don't-think-much-of-him air; ran his hand lightly over the hard legs and
opened the passive creature's mouth. "H'm," he said. Then he turned to
the drover. "Ye seem a bit oot o' luck. Ye're thin, like. What's been
the matter?"

"Been sick with fever--Queensland fever. Just come through from the
north. Been out on the Diamantina last."

"Aye. I was there mysel'," said McGregor. "Have ye the fever on ye

"Yes--goin' home to get rid of it."

It should be explained that a man can only get Queensland fever in a
malarial district, but he can carry it with him wherever he goes. If he
stays, it will sap all his strength and pull him to pieces; if he moves
to a better climate, the malady moves with him, leaving him only by
degrees, and coming back at regular intervals to rack, shake, burn, and
sweat its victim. Queensland fever will pull a man down from fifteen
stone to nine stone faster, and with greater certainty, than any system
of dosing yet invented. Gradually it wears itself out, often wearing its
patient out at the same time. McGregor had been through the experience,
and there was a slight change in his voice as he went on with the

"Where are ye makin' for the noo?"

"Monaro--my people live in Monaro."

"How will ye get to Monaro if ye sell the horrse?"

"Coach and rail. Too sick to care about ridin'," said the drover, while
a wan smile flitted over his yellow-grey features. "I've rode him far
enough. I've rode that horse a thousand miles. I wouldn't sell him, only
I'm a bit hard up. Sellin' him now to get the money to go home."

"How old is he?"


"Is he a good horse on a camp?" asked McGregor.

"No better camp horse in Queensland," said the drover. "You can chuck
the reins on his neck, an' he'll cut out a beast by himself."

McGregor's action in this matter puzzled us. We spent our time crawling
after sheep, and a camp horse would be about as much use to us as side
pockets to a pig. We had expected Sandy to rush the fellow off the place
at once, and we couldn't understand how it was that he took so much
interest in him. Perhaps the fever-racked drover and the old camp horse
appealed to him in a way to us incomprehensible. We had never been on
the Queensland cattle camps, nor shaken and shivered with the fever, nor
lived the roving life of the over-landers. McGregor had done all this,
and his heart (I can see it all now) went out to the man who brought the
old days back to him.

"Ah, weel," he said, "we hae'na much use for a camp horrse here, ye ken;
wi'oot some of these lads wad like to try theer han' cuttin' oot the
milkers' cawves frae their mithers." And the old man laughed
contemptuously, while we felt humbled and depraved in the eyes of the
man from far back. "An' what'll ye be wantin' for him?" asked McGregor.

"Reckon he's worth fifteen notes," said the drover.

This fairly staggered us. Our estimates had varied between thirty
shillings and a fiver. We thought the negotiations would close abruptly,
but McGregor, after a little more examination, agreed to give the price,
provided the saddle and bridle, both grand specimens of ancient art,
were given in. This was agreed to, and the drover was sent off to get
his meals in the hut before leaving by the coach.

"The mon is verra hard up, an it's a sair thing that Queensland fever,"
was the only remark that McGregor made. But we knew that there was a
soft spot in his heart somewhere.

And so, next morning, the drover got a crisp-looking cheque and departed
by coach. He said no word while the cheque was being written, but, as he
was going away, the horse happened to be in the yard, and he went over
to the old comrade that had carried him so many miles, and laid a hand
on his neck. "He ain't much to look at," said the drover, speaking
slowly and awkwardly, "but he's white, when he's wanted." And just
before the coach rattled off, the man of few words lent down from the
box and nodded impressively, and repeated, "Yes, he's white when he's

We didn't trouble to give the new horse a name. Station horses are
generally called after the man from whom they are bought. "Tom Devine",
"the Regan mare", "Black McCarthy", and "Bay McCarthy" were amongst the
appellations of our horses at that time. As we didn't know the drover's
name, we simply called the animal "the new horse" until a still newer
horse was one day acquired. Then, one of the hands being told to take
the new horse, said "D'yer mean the new new horse or the old 'new
horse'?" "No," said the boss, "not the new horse--that bay horse we
bought from the drover. The one he said was white when he was wanted."

And so, by degrees, the animal came to be referred to as the horse
that's white when he's wanted, and at last settled down to the definite
name of "White-when-he's-wanted".

White-when-he's-wanted didn't seem much of an acquisition. He was sent
out to do slavery for Greenhide Billy, a boundary rider who plumed
himself on having once been a cattle man. After a week's experience of
"White", Billy came in to the homestead disgusted--the pony was so lazy
that he had to build a fire under him to get him to move, and so rough
that it would make a man's nose bleed to ride him more than a mile. "The
boss must have been off his head to give fifteen notes for such a cow."

McGregor heard this complaint. "Verra weel, Mr Billy," said he, hotly,
"ye can just tak' one of the young horrses in yon paddock, an' if he
bucks wi' ye, an' kills ye, it's yer ain fault. Ye're a cattle man--so
ye say--dommed if ah believe it. Ah believe ye're a dairy farmin' body
frae Illawarra. Ye don't know neither horrse nor cattle. Mony's the time
ye never rode buck jumpers, Mr Billy," and with this parting shot the
old man turned into the house, and White-when-he's-wanted came back to
the head station.

For a while he was a sort of pariah. He used to yard the horses, fetch
up the cows, and hunt travelling sheep through the run. He really was
lazy and rough, and we all decided that Billy's opinion of him was
correct, until the day came to make one of our periodical raids on the
wild horses in the hills at the back of the run. Every now and again we
formed parties to run in some of these animals, and, after nearly
galloping to death half a dozen good horses, we would capture three or
four brumbies, and bring them in triumph to the homestead. These we
would break in, and by the time they had thrown half the crack riders on
the station, broken all the bridles, rolled on all the saddles and
kicked all the dogs, they would be marketable (and no great bargains) at
about thirty shillings a head.

Yet there is no sport in the world to be mentioned in the same volume as
"running horses", and we were very keen on it. All the crack nags were
got as fit as possible, and fed up beforehand, and on this particular
occasion White-when-he's-wanted, being in good trim, was given a week's
hard feed and lent to a harum-scarum fellow from the upper Murray who
happened to be working in a survey camp on the run. How he did open our
eyes. He ran the mob from hill to hill, from range to range, across open
country and back again to the hills, over flats and gullies, through hop
scrub and stringybark ridges; and all the time White-when-he's-wanted
was on the wing of the mob, pulling double. The mares and foals dropped
out, then the colts and young stock pulled up deadbeat, and only the
seasoned veterans of the mob were left. Most of our horses caved in
altogether; one or two were kept in the hunt by judicious nursing and
shirking the work, but White-when-he's-wanted was with the quarry from
end to end of the run, doing double his share; and at the finish, when a
chance offered to wheel them into the trap yard, he simply smothered
them for pace and slowed them into the wings before they knew where they
were. Such a capture had not fallen to our lot for many a day, and the
fame of White-when-he's-wanted was speedily noised abroad.

He was always fit for work, always hungry, always ready to lie down and
roll, and always lazy. But when he heard the rush of the brumbies' feet
in the scrub, he became frantic with excitement. He could race over the
roughest ground without misplacing a hoof or altering his stride, and he
could sail over fallen timber and across gullies like a kangaroo. Nearly
every Sunday we were after the brumbies until they got as lean as
greyhounds and as cunning as policemen. We were always ready to back
White-when-he's-wanted to run down single handed, any animal in the bush
that we liked to put him after--wild horses, wild cattle, kangaroos,
emus, dingoes, kangaroo rats--we barred nothing, for, if he couldn't
beat them for pace, he would outlast them.

And then one day he disappeared from the paddock, and we never saw him
again. We knew there were plenty of men in the district who would steal
him, but, as we knew also that there were plenty more who would "inform"
for a pound or two, we were sure that it could not have been the local
"talent" who had taken him. We offered good rewards and set some of the
right sort to work, but we heard nothing of him for about a year.

Then the surveyor's assistant turned up again after a trip to the
interior. He told us the usual string of backblock lies, and then wound
up by saying that out on the very fringe of settlement he had met an old

"Who was that?"

"Why, that little bay horse that I rode after the brumbies that time.
The one you called White-when-he's-wanted."

"The deuce you did! Are you sure? Who had him?"

"Sure? I'd swear to him anywhere. A little drover fellow had him. A
little fellow, with a big scar across his forehead. Came from Monaro
way, somewhere. He said he bought the horse from you for fifteen notes."

And then there was a chorus about the thief getting seven years.

But he hasn't so far, and, as the Queen's warrant doesn't run much out
west of Boulia, it is not at all likely that any of us will ever see the
drover again, or will ever again cross the back of "White-when-he's-wanted".

The Bulletin, 12 December 1896


"You SEE, it was this way," said Bill reflectively, as we sat on the
rails of the horse yard, "me and Jim was down at Buckatowndown show with
that jumpin' pony Jim has, and in the high jump our pony jumped seven
foot, and they gave the prize to Spondulix that only jumped six foot
ten. You know what these country shows are; a man can't get no sort of
fair play at all. We asked the stooards why the prize was give to
Spondulix, and they said because he jumped better style than the pony.
So Jim he ups and whips the saddle and bridle off the pony, and he says
to the cove at the jump, 'Put the bar up to seven foot six,' he says,
and he rides the pony at it without saddle or bridle, and over he goes,
never lays a toe on it, and Spondulix was frighted to come at it. And we
offered to jump Spondulix for a hundred quid any time. And I went to the
stooards and I offered to back the pony to run any horse on the ground
two miles over as many fences as they could put up in the distance, and
the bigger the better; and Jim, he offered to fight as many of the
stooards as could get into a room with him. And even then they wouldn't
give us the prize--a man can't ever get fair play at a country show. But
what I wanted to tell you about was the way we almost got took down
afterwards. By gum, it was a near thing!

"We went down from the show to the pub, and there was a lot o' toffs at
the pub was bettin' Jim a pound here and a pound there that he wouldn't
ride the pony at this fence and at that fence, and Jim picked up a few
quid jumpin' 'em easy, for most of the fences weren't no more than six
foot six high and, of course, that was like drinkin' tea to the pony.
And at last one cove he points to a big palin' fence, and he says; 'I'll
bet you a fiver your horse won't get over that one safely.' Well, of
course, it was a fair-sized fence, being seven feet solid palin's, but
we knew the pony could do it all right, and Jim wheels round to go at
it. And just as he sails at it, I runs up to the fence and pulls myself
up with my hands and looks over, and there was a great gully the other
side a hundred feet deep and all rocks and stones. So I yelled out at
Jim to stop, but it was too late, for he had set the pony going, and
once that pony went at a fence you couldn't stop him with a block and
tackle. And the pony rose over the fence, and when Jim saw what was the
other side, what do you think he did! Why, he turned the pony round in
the air, and came back again to the same side he started from! My oath,
it astonished those toffs. You see, they thought they would take us down
about getting over safely, but they had to pay up because he went over
the fence and back again as safe as a church. Did you say Jim must have
been a good rider--well, not too bad, but that was nothin' to--hello,
here comes the boss; I must be off. So long!"

The Bulletin, 3 April 1897


SCENE: Office of High Official in charge of Colonial affairs in London.
High Official discovered glaring at table covered with lists of visiting
potentates, programmes of amusements, lists of precedence, cablegrams,
&c., &c. A waste-paper basket full of K.C.M.G. ribbons and orders stands
by the table. On the table a handbag full of Privy Councillorships. High
Official rings bell angrily. To him enters subordinate official, the
Honourable Somebody, a very tired-looking youth.

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Look here, this is a nice state of things. I'm only just
back from Monte Carlo, and I've got to set to work and clear up all this
business. Now, have you got a list of the people we are responsible

TIRED YOUTH: "Ya-a-as."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Well, who is there? There's the Indian Viceroy, of
course, and the Premier of Canada--we know all about them. And then
there's the chappie from China, my brother-in-law, he's all right. But
what about these Australian brutes? How many are there? Two, I
suppose--Premier of South Australia and Premier of North Australia--eh?
there must be a North Australia if there's a South Australia! Where's
your list--how many are there?"

TIRED YOUTH: "There's seven."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Seven! Good God, are the whole population Premiers over
there? There's not seven places for them to be Premiers of! You must
have made a mistake. Get the map!" (They get the map and pore over it

HIGH OFFICIAL (triumphantly): "There you are! What did I tell you!
There's only five colonies, even if each place has a Premier, which I
don't believe. There's Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South
Australia and West Australia. Now, how the devil do you make seven out
of that?"

TIRED YOUTH: "I don't know. One of the clerks made out the beastly

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Which clerk?"

TIRED YOUTH: "I don't know. How should I know one beastly clerk from

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Well, you must find out. Seven! There must be two frauds
among 'em. Nice we'll look if we let two infernal pickpockets loose
among those Indian Rajahs all over diamonds. How are you going to
identify 'em when they come? There's one fellow I could swear to,
anyhow--a big, hairy, orang-outang of a man about seven feet high. He
was here before. I'll swear to him anywhere. What was his name again?
Gibbs or Gibson, or something like that."

TIRED YOUTH: "Dibbs, I think. Always reminded me of money, I know."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Well, perhaps it was, but I think it was Gibbs. Anyhow,
is he coming?"

TIRED YOUTH: "I don't know. How should I know? I suppose he is."

HIGH OFFICIAL (at his wits' end): "Well, for goodness sake send someone
here that does know. You'll get me into nice trouble, going on like
this. Send for a clerk that knows about it, and, meanwhile, we'll have a
go at this list of precedence." (Tired youth rings bell for clerk, and
returns to table to look over list of precedence.)

HIGH OFFICIAL: "See here, the truth's this. We've got orders from
headquarters to soap these confounded self-governing colonies all we
can. But, if we send their Premiers in to a function before the Indian
Princes--my goodness, the Indians will stick 'em in the back with a
tulwar, or something. Then there's the Indian, China, Straits
Settlement, African, and Crown colonies' lot. Which is to come first,
and which last? Have you any idea?"

TIRED YOUTH: "I don't know. There's a clerk knows all these things."
(Enter clerk.)

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Look here, is there any table of precedence in the

CLERK: "Yes, my Lord."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Thank God! Who made it out?"

CLERK: "Lord Titmarsh, when he was in office, my Lord."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Bless him and praise him! See that it is followed with
literal accuracy; literal accuracy, you understand--and I'll take all
the credit if it goes right, and Titmarsh can take all the blame if it
goes wrong. So far, so good. Now there's another thing. How many
Premiers are coming from Australia?"

CLERK: "Seven, my Lord!"

HIGH OFFICIAL (to Tired Youth): "See! He's made the same mistake you
did. If I wasn't here to look after you fellows you'd run the empire to
the devil. Seven, indeed!" (To Clerk): "Do you know, sir, there are only
five colonies in Australia? Look at the map."

CLERK: "Yes, my Lord; but there's a Premier of Tasmania and a Premier of
New Zealand."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Oh, good gracious! They say America is mostly colonels;
this place appears to be mostly Premiers. Now, what do you know about
'em? How are you going to be sure that some fraud doesn't pass himself
off as a Premier--some anarchist, with a bomb in his trousers pocket,
and blow us all kite-high?"

CLERK: "We have photographs of them all, sir, and a private and
confidential cipher report from the Governor of each colony as to their
political leanings."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Let's have a look. Who's this fat, bald-headed man, that
looks like a tallow-merchant?"

CLERK: "The Hon. G. H. Reid, my Lord, Premier of New South Wales."

HIGH OFFICIAL (angrily): "There you go again! I tell you a man named
Gibbs is Premier of New South Wales--great, long, hairy man, quite
different from this fellow. I met Gibbs often. This is a fraud, I'll
take my oath. Don't he look it--look at his face, all jowl and jelly."

CLERK: "There has been a change of Ministry, my Lord, and this is the
present Premier."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "Well, he's not much to look at, anyhow. What does his
Governor say about him? Who is his Governor, anyhow? Hampden--Oh, I was
in the House with Hampden. Dry sort of fellow, not such a fool as he
looked. What does he say about him? Let's have a look. (Reads report
mumblingly.) Truckles to Labor Party...time server...not last long...
change may be for the force of character...afraid of the
Labor Party...dare not take K.C.M.G...better be bought with a P.C.-ship.
I like that--a P.C.-ship indeed for a ruffian like this--an anarchist
without the courage of his villainy. We bought Gibbs with a K.C.M.G. Let
this ruffian have a K.C.M.G. or nothing."

TIRED YOUTH (waking to interest in proceedings): "I read those reports.
There's one chappie there rather a good sort. All the rest are awful
rotters. Read his report. Nelson I think was the name." (High Official
mumbles over Nelson's report.) "Fights Labor Party. . . fearless...can't
last long . . . has worked well for Imperialistic ideas ... very
courageous man ... will support Anglo-Japanese treaty. Ah! that's the
sort of man. What's he to get?"

TIRED YOUTH: "Headquarters say they are all to get P.C.-ships."

HIGH OFFICIAL: "All! Good heavens. Well, if we can't degrade that man
Reid in any way, see that he gets the suite of rooms in the worst part
of the hotel, and give him a hard seat at all functions. And, by the by,
what about taking them round? Who's to do it? You'll have to do it: I've
got the Canadian and Indian lot to look after."

TIRED YOUTH: "Oh, I'll send one of the clerks and get them tickets for
everything that is going in the way of concerts and public receptions
and so on. I suppose they can't go to anything really select."

HIGH OFFICIAL (very slowly and deliberately): "I should think not. Take
'em to the British Museum and the waxworks, and see that the name of
some unattached lord or other is always associated with theirs. It will
be put in their cables, and help to damn Reid in the eyes of his
friends--and that's about all, isn't it?"

TIRED YOUTH: "And supposing they kick up a row, don't you know, if
they're not asked to any of the really swaggah things?"

HIGH OFFICIAL: "My dear boy, if they try anything of that sort on, have
them bayoneted by the soldiers the moment they show their noses at the
gate. Fill up these P.C. forms, and see that you don't fill 'em up
wrong. And now I'm off to the Club. Just be decently civil to these
people, but don't go too far, because, you know, by this time next year
they will probably be back in their shops selling sugar--I'm certain
that man Reid sells sugar, by the look of him. Au revoir!"

Cable item: All preparations have been made for the reception of the
Australian Premiers in London, and they will be the principal items of
the Jubilee.

The Bulletin, 17 July 1897



The latest edition to Australian literature comes to us in the form of a
volume entitled, Where the Dead Men Lie and Other Poems, by Barcroft
Henry Boake, published by Messrs Angus and Robertson of Sydney. The book
comprises about thirty short pieces of verse, and a memoir of the life
of the writer, containing extracts from letters written by Boake at
various periods of his career and various details of his life, supplied
by friends.

Before dealing with Boake's work, it is advisable to glance at the
memoir and see by what manner of man, and under what circumstances that
work was done. Boake's letters show us his temperament--very variable,
as the artistic temperament always is, but on the whole despondent and
sensitive; and it is no wonder that his hard life--that of a surveyor's
assistant and drover, spent among the rugged mountains of Kiandra, and
the plains and sandhills of the far west--in time worked on that
temperament, till, in a fit of depression, he committed suicide.

The bush is not a good home for melancholiacs. In the long days in the
saddle, and the silent lonely watches by the camp fire, queer impulses
and thoughts come to a man. Life, human and otherwise, seems of so
little account in the bush. Where the sheep and cattle perish by
hundreds in hopeless misery, where accident and sickness lie in wait for
the strong man, it is not wonderful that a man of morbid temperament at
last regards his life as a matter of little value, and ends it on slight
provocation. And yet Boake loved the bush, and when in good spirits
could appreciate it to the full. He says, "I might have been jogging
along in monotonous respectability as a civil servant: but they don't
live, these men, they only vegetate. We have a pleasure and excitement
in our work that they never feel." In another letter he gives the
following beautiful pen picture of cattle in camp: "There is pleasure in
the dead of night to find yourself alone with the cattle; all the camp
asleep, perhaps, only a red spark betokening the camp. I always, when I
think of it, find something unearthly in this assemblage of huge
animals, ready at any moment to burst forth like a pent-up torrent, and
equally irresistible in their force. When every beast is down, asleep or
resting, just pull up and listen. You will hear a low, moaning sound,
rising to a roar, then subsiding to a murmur, like a distant surf--or,
as I fancy, the cry of the damned in Dante's Inferno. When the cattle
are like that, it is a good sign. But in the moonlight, this strange
noise, the dark mass of cattle with the occasional flash of an, eye, or
a polished horn catching the light, it always conjures up strange
feelings in me; I seem to be in some other world. If I could only write
it, there is a poem to be made out of the back country. Some man will
come yet who will be able to grasp the romance of western Queensland,
and all that equally mysterious country in central and northern
Australia. For there is a romance, though a grim one--a story of drought
and flood, fever and famine, murder and suicide, courage and endurance."

This letter was written before Boake had done any noticeable literary
work; later on he himself, in the poem, "Where the Dead Men Lie", wrote
the romance of that "mysterious country" in lines that simply startle
the reader with their vivid word painting and depth of feeling.

Such, then, was the author of this book--a moody, thoughtful, despondent
man, moving among the solitudes of the Australian bush, feeling to the
full at once their eerie charm and their grim desolation. This
appreciation of the romance of the bush is not a rare gift, though,
strangely enough, the man who could have made best use of it, Henry
Lawson, seems to be absolutely without it. Most bushmen feel the
influence of the intense stillness of a night out on the plains when the
tropical stars blaze overhead, and the dimly seen clumps of saltbush and
low scrub look like the encampment of a mighty army; but to very few is
it given to express their feelings in such words as came with the poetic
inspiration to Barcroft Henry Boake. It is necessary to say "with the
poetic inspiration", because without it Boake sank to a very medium
level. In fact, his work is so uneven that on reading over the various
pieces, it would be difficult to believe that they are all one man's
work, if one did not fully realise that in his best pieces the spirit of
the bush took hold of him, and he spoke as one possessed. In his
uninspired work he was rather a poor literary craftsman, writing without
any of the vigour and dash that might have atoned for other
shortcomings. For instance, what could be feebler than such work as

How well I remember the Fifth of November,
 When Jack and his little mare Vanity fell;
On the Diamantina there never was seen a
 Pair who could out a beast half as well.

Or this again:

He asks if I knew little Poll! Why, I missed her
 As often, I reckon, as old Mother Brown,
When they lived at the Flats, and old Sam went a burster
 In Chinaman's Gully, and dropped every crown.

The book abounds in narrative verse dealing with bush incidents; but as
a rule this work is flat, dull, and unprofitable. The two examples given
above are, perhaps, of the worst; but in very few of the narrative
pieces do any thrilling or dashing lines occur. It is strange that an
excitable, emotional man, as Boake evidently was, should have failed to
convey any excitement or emotion in such verses. For instance, here is a
description of how a child rode a racehorse:

 Oh! Gaylad was a beauty,
 For he knew and did his duty,
Though his reins were flying loosely, strange to say, he never fell:
 But he held himself together,
 For his weight was but a feather
Bob Murphy when he saw him, murmured something like, "Oh, Hell!"

Very much better in style are "Featherstonhaugh" and "Jack Corrigan", in
both of which pieces some really spirited lines occur, and a fairly high
level is maintained throughout; but as a whole, the narrative verse, of
which the bulk of the book consists, is not by any means good, though
there is one notable exception, "'Twixt the Wings of the Yard",
mentioned hereafter.

Of purely imaginative verse there is little. "A Song" contains some
pretty, though not very new lines:

She lay and laughed on a lazy billow,
 Far away on the deep,
Who had gathered the froth for my lady's pillow,
 Gathered a sparkling heap.
And the ocean's cry was the lullaby
That cradled my love to sleep.

In the verses, "A Wayside Queen", there occur some beautiful lines
recalling Swinburne:

She is sweet as white peppermint flowers,
And harsh as red gum when it drips
From the heart of a hardwood, that towers
Straight up: she hath marvellous powers
To draw a man's soul through his lips
With a kiss like the stinging of whips.

Once only does our writer drop into humour, and in the story of Josephus
Riley, from the "North Countree", he has told the history of a bush joke
in such splendid style that one wisheshe had more often risen from the
depths of his narrative verse, or descended from the heights he had more
often risen from the depths of his narrative verse, or descended from
the heights of his true poems, and written a little more of this kind of
thing. It is not a very high classof verse, but if it is well done, it
is better than bad description and unpathetical pathos. He of verse, but
if it is well done, it is better than bad description and unpathetical
pathos. Hetells us how tells us how

The rum was rich and rare,
There were wagers in the air,
The atmosphere was rosy and the tongues were wagging free;
But one was in the revel,
Whose occiput was level
Plain Josephus Riley, from the North Countree.
The conversation's flow
Was not devoid of blow,
And neither was it wanting in the mild, colloquial D.
With a most ingenious smile:
"This here is not my style,"
Said plain Josephus Riley, from the North Countree.
"And I wouldn't be averse
To emptying my purse,
And laying some small wager with the present companee.
To cut the matter short,
Foot-racing is my forte,"
Said plain Josephus Riley, from the North Countree.

Josephus backed himself to run 300 yards against a horse whose rider had
to drink a cup of tea before starting; but how Josephus won it the
reader should find out for himself.

The really first-class work in the book consists of three pieces,
"'Twixt the Wings of the Yard", "At the J.C.", and "Where the Dead Men

The first is a wonderfully vivid and swinging description of a mob of
cattle crowding their way into a stockyard. Every incident is true to
nature, and thoroughly well told.

Hear the loud swell of it, mighty pell-mell of it,
Thousands of voices all blent into one.
See hell-for-leather now, trooping together now,
Down the long slope of the range at a run.
Dust in the wake of 'em, see the wild break of 'em,
Spearhorned and curly, red, spotted and starred.
See the lads bringing 'em, blocking 'em, ringing 'em,
Fetching 'em up to the wings of the yard.

That is a splendid description of the din and tumult of a big mob of
cattle. Read this also:

Watch the mad rush of 'em, raging and crush of 'em,
See when they struck, how the corner post jarred.
What a mad chasing, and wheeling, and racing, and
Turbulent talk 'twixt the wings of the yard.

"At the J.C.", is a poem founded on the discovery of a dead man in the

None ever knew his name,
Honoured, or one of shame,
High-born or lowly.
Only upon that tree,
Two letters, J. and C.,
Carved by him, mark where he
Lay dying slowly.
Were Fate and he at war?
Was it a penance, or
Is it a glad release?
Has he at length found peace,
Now death has bid him cease
Now, wind across the grave,
Tuning a sultry stave,
Drearily whistles;
Stirring those branches where,
Two silent ciphers stare,
Two letters of a prayer--
God's Son's initials.

This is fine verse, and in the final poem, "Where the Dead Men Lie", the
writer reaches his highest level. Everyone who knows the desolation of
the central Australian country, the sense of loneliness that weighs upon
the heart of the traveller, and remembers the occasional rude of
loneliness that weighs upon the heart of the traveller, and remembers
the occasional rudegraves by the wayside where men have died of thirst,
will appreciate this poem. It embodies graves by the wayside where men
have died of thirst, will appreciate this poem. It embodies in a
marvellous way the whole soul and feeling of that lonely land.

These are some of the verses.

Out on the wastes of the Never Never,
That's where the dead men lie.
There where the heatwaves dance for ever,
That's where the dead men lie.
That's where the earth's loved sons are keeping
Endless tryst. Not the west wind, sweeping
Feverish pinions, can wake their sleeping,
Out where the dead men lie.

Where brown summer and death have mated,
That's where the dead men lie.
Loving with fiery lust unsated,
That's where the dead men lie.
Out where the grinning skulls bleach whitely,
Under the saltbush, sparkling brightly,
Out where the wild dogs chorus nightly,
That's where the dead men lie.

Only the hands of Night can free them;
That's when the dead men fly!
Only the frightened cattle see them--
See the dead men go by!
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
Bidding the stockman know no leisure,
That's when the dead men take their pleasure,
That's when the dead men fly!

Ask, too, the never-sleeping drover:
He sees the dead pass by;
Hearing them call to their friends--the plover,
Hearing the dead men cry;
Seeing their faces stealing, stealing,
Hearing their laughter pealing, pealing,
Watching their grey forms wheeling, wheeling,
Round where the cattle lie.

In this poem, to use his own words, Boake has "grasped the romance of
the mysterious country", and embodies it in words of marvellous beauty
and power.

What Boake might have done, had he lived, is a matter for conjecture.
The fact remains that in the short space of eighteen months, he produced
this poem and at least three others of more than average merit, while
turning out a lot of hack work. The death of such a man is a loss to our
scanty roll of writers.

The book is well got up, and is admirably illustrated by local artists;
but the illustrations lose much of their value by being so reduced in
size that all detail is lost. The "Memoir of Boake's Life" is compiled
by Mr A. G. Stephens, and Mr W. H. Ogilvie furnishes a set of
introductory verses of considerable merit.

The Review of Reviews, 15 September 1897


Far in the north of Australia lies a little-known land, a vast
half-finished sort of region, wherein Nature has been apparently
practising how to make better places. This is the Northern Territory of
South Australia. Britain, it is said, thinks of establishing an Imperial
naval station at Port Darwin. But let Britain beware! The Northern
Territory has "broke" everybody that ever touched it in any shape or
form, and it will break Britain if she meddles with it. The decline and
fall of the British Empire will date from the day that Britannia starts
to monkey with the Northern Territory.

This vast possession, which extends halfway down the continent of
Australia, is not, strictly speaking, a part of the S.A. province. It is
a Crown possession, handed over to the Adelaide folk to manage and work
for their own loss, and for years they have poured their capital like
water into this huge sink. And still, after swallowing two and a half
millions of Government money, and Heaven only knows how much private
capital, the place is steadily going seventy thousand a year to the bad.
Year after year the South Australians have swallowed the same old wheeze
about the immense undeveloped resources of "our magnificent Northern
Territory", and have hung on pluckily, in the hope of one day getting
some of their money back--and possibly also in the fear of the N.T.'s
resumption as a Crown colony, an event which would at once be followed
by an influx of cheap Asiatics from Britain's Eastern possessions. And,
in fact, the Territory itself is now clamouring for the introduction of
the cheap and nasty Chow, notwithstanding that it is breeding its own
Chinky fast enough, in all conscience. The Territory people want more
Chows, and would gladly cut loose from South Australia to get them. As
for the trifle of two and a half millions that they owe, they would
attend to that small matter after the wet season. In the Territory
everything good is always going to happen after the wet season.

The capital of the Northern Territory is Palmerston on Port Darwin, a
harbour little, if at all, inferior to Port Jackson. Palmerston is
unique among Australian towns, inasmuch as it is filled with the
boilings over of the great cauldron of Oriental humanity. Here comes the
vagrant and shifting population of all the Eastern races. Here are
gathered together Canton coolies, Japanese pearl divers, Malays,
Manilamen, Portuguese from adjacent Timor, Cingalese, Zanzibar niggers
looking for billets as stokers, frail (but not fair) damsels from Kobe;
all sorts and conditions of men. Kipling tells what befell the man who
"tried to hustle the East", but the man who tried to hustle Palmerston
would get a knife in him quick and lively. The Chow and the Jap and the
Malay consider themselves quite as good as any alleged white man. In
Japtown (the Easterner's quarters) Chinese children by the dozen play
about all day long in the dusty streets; gaily dressed cheerful little
barbarians, revelling in the heat. The gold-fields are all worked by
Chinese labour; hundreds of Chinese fossick about the old alluvial
claims; fifty pearling tuggers go out every tide, carrying seven hands
each, practically all coloured men--350 yellow, brown, and brindled
vagrants moving backwards and forwards with the tide. And more boats
building and more brindle-coloured Japanese arriving every month. To
supply the needs of all these, there are stores of every kind in
Japtown, and the storekeepers all deal with the East for their supplies.
There is an Eastern flavour over every-thing; when the Palmerstonians
want to gamble at the annual races they do it by Calcutta sweeps, an
Eastern form of betting little known or practised elsewhere in

Palmerston is supported by the pearlers, the gold mines, and the
Government officials. The Overland Telegraph ends at Palmerston and
employs a large staff known as the O.T. men; and the Singapore cable
which there leaves Australia, also employs a large staff of British and
Australasian Telegraph ("B.A.T.") officials. These, with a publican or
two, the Government Resident (always referred to as "the G.R."), a
couple of lawyers, a doctor, a few storekeepers, customs and railway
officials and Paddy Cahill, the buffalo shooter, pretty well make up the
white population of a place upon which the Government has nevertheless
squandered money madly. The huge jetty cost £70,000 and ere it was well
finished the teredo had eaten the piles away, and a gigantic crane, that
had just been erected, fell into the water with a mighty splash. It is
there still, but they will get it out "after the wet season". Also, the
little tin-pot railway to Pine Creek cost a million and doesn't pay
working expenses; and yet S.A. Parlia-ment talks of spending nine
millions in prolonging this useless railway down the centre of the

There's a curse on all N.T. undertakings. Private enterprise, as
represented by Fisher and Lyons, Dr Brown, and many other "big" men of
the past, has poured into it hundreds of thousands of pounds in cattle
stocking and so on. What is there to show for it all? When not dead, the
cattle are unsaleable, because there are no markets. Not a station in
the Territory today would fetch at auction half the money it cost; not a
mine in the Territory pay steady interest on its capital. Sugar planting
and quinine planting have failed; the blacks now hunt for wild goose
eggs on the lagoons at Sergison's abandoned sugar plantation and the
wild buffaloes wallow in the swamps below Beatrice Hills where the
quinine was. Once, though, a ray of hope broke the gloom when ruby-like
gems were discovered in the MacDonnell ranges. These stones look exactly
like rubies, which at their best are far more valuable than diamonds,
and as they lay about in any quantity it was thought for a while that
the Territory was Saved. A few three-bushel bags were hastily filled
with "rubies" and sent to England. Alas, the curse of the Territory was
on those stones--the English experts on examination pronounced them no
more than worthless natural simulacra of the ruby. The gold mines were
rich down to water level; but there the ore became refractory, and now
all the mining is surface. A few market riggers bought a lot of mines
from the Chinese for about £17,000 and then subdivided these properties,
and watered the capital till it now stands at about £90,000 nominal
value. But subdivide and water as they like, they are still the same
£17,000 worth of Chinese gold mine and apparently not likely to pay
interest on even that modest capital. Out in the ranges are all sorts of
prospectus claims--some of them good shows; but no one does any work in
the Territory. They put everything off till "after the wet season". It
is the land of Later On. If a Northern Territory man knew that his mine
was full of gold, he would not dig it out. He would sit down and wait
for a Chinaman to come along and take it on tribute. If no Chinaman
came, he would "send it Home to float". Said one miner, "I'd sooner be
in W.A. on one feed a day than be on good gold here. They don't 'elp a
man to do nothin' here. If the G.R. would only let us have a Guv'ment
battery we might get some stone out and have a crushin'." And there he
sat waiting for a Government battery. Waiting--always waiting, that is
the typical Northern Territory attitude. The old brisk days have gone;
the pushing men have departed; and those who have stayed have got the
white-ant in their systems. There is always a wet season just past or
coming. If it is past, they wait "till the ground dries"; and by the
time it is dry they think the next wet season might come early, and

The Government sent up a buoy to mark a dangerous reef. The buoy was
taken out with great ceremony, and anchored over the reef, and
immediately sank. They didn't get it up again. It is at the bottom of
the sea now, and the reef is unmarked. Another buoy got adrift from a
dangerous reef; this buoy was cruising Vernon Straits for some time, but
no one fetched it back. When some lepers were discovered at Palmerston
once, a leper station was formed at a little island in the harbour, and
the lepers were landed there with great precaution, but as soon as the
tide went down (it falls 24 feet) the lepers calmly waded ashore and
returned to town. Nobody bothered any more about them.

There is only one great landmark in Palmerston history--the cyclone
which some years ago blew the town down. A lot of it isn't rebuilt yet.
This atmospheric disturbance, locally known as "the cycloon" is one of
the three topics of conversation in Palmerston; the second is the
Government Resident (the G.R.). He is an English barrister, and, in his
own person, Supreme Court, Head of the Mining Jurisdiction, Protector of
Blacks, and Police Magistrate. No wonder they talk about him. Good man
for the position too as he doesn't care a damn for anybody, and,
starting from that safe basis, discharges his varied duties with a light
heart. The third subject of discussion is Paddy Cahill, the buffalo
shooter; he is popularly reported to pursue the infuriated buffalo at
full gallop, standing on his saddle, and dressed in a towel and a
diamond ring, and yelling like a wild Indian. The trinity of the N.T.;
the cycloon, the G.R., and Paddy Cahill! The inhabitants sit about the
shady verandahs and drink, and talk about one or all of these three.
They start drinking square gin immediately after breakfast, and keep it
up at intervals till midnight. They don't do anything else to speak of,
yet they have a curious delusion that they are a very energetic and
reckless set of people. But it's all talk and drink. Palmerston is the
city of booze, blow, and blasphemy. There is an Act compel-ling a
publican to refuse drink to an habitual inebriate. This is locally known
as the "Dog Act" and to be brought under the Dog Act is a glorious
distinction, a sort of V.C. of Northern Territory life.

To sum up, the Northern Territory is a vast, wild land, full of huge
possibilities, but, up to now, a colossal failure. She has leagues and
leagues of magnificent country--with no water. Miles and miles of
splendidly watered country--where the grass is sour, rank, and
worthless. Mines with rich ore--that it doesn't pay to treat. Quantities
of precious stones--that have no value. The pastoral industry and the
mines are not paying, and the pearling, which does, is getting too much
into Jap hands. The hordes of aliens that have accumulated are a menace
to the rest of Australia. Nevertheless, the white folk there are
hospitable to a fault. The strangers within their gates never have a
dull moment--nor a sober one--if the inhabitants can help it. And, after
all the hard things I have written about it, I would give "my weary
soul" to be back in Palmerston in that curious lukewarm atmosphere and
watch the white-sailed pearling boats beating out; to see the giant form
of Barney Flynn, the buffalo shooter, stalking emu-like through the
dwarfish crowd of Japs and Manilamen; to be back once more with the
B.A.T. and the O.T. and Paddy Cahill and the G.R., while the Cycloon
hummed and buzzed on the horizon; or to be in the buffalo-camp with Rees
and Martin, shooting big, blue bulls at full gallop, or riding home in
the cool moonlight with the packhorses laden with hides.

If you've heard the East a'callin' you don't never heed naught else.

And the man who once goes to the Territory always has a hankering to get
back there. Some day it will be civilised and spoilt; but up to the
present it has triumphantly overthrown all who have attempted to improve
it. It is still "the Territory". Long may it wave!

The Bulletin, 31 December 1898


Very few people in Australia know anything about the buffalo shooting to
be had in that great tract of country to the north of South Australia
known as the Northern Territory. Many people profess to know all about
it and are very free with most extraordinary information on the subject.
For instance, many will tell you that the buffaloes are not real
buffaloes at all, but simply cattle gone wild; that they are Indian
Brahmin cattle, very small and quiet; that there are no buffaloes at
all, they were all shot out long ago; that the buffaloes are in myriads,
but that they retreat to the dense jungles, where no one can follow
them; that they are water buffalo, and never leave the water, and can
only be captured by an expert swimmer; that they are land buffalo and
are shot on foot, and are no sport at all, as one cannot well miss them,
they being as big as haystacks; that they are always shot from
horseback, the buffaloes preferring that method, and that the whole
business is so rough and dangerous that no one but a lunatic would
attempt it. Among these various statements one soon gets confused, and
reference to the literature on the subject does not make matters much
more cheerful. Rudyard Kipling describes the wild buffalo as "the
nastiest tempered animal in the jungle", while Lydekker's Natural
History states that "buffaloes are by far the boldest and most savage of
the Indian Bovidae, and a bull not infrequently attacks without
provocation. A wounded animal of either sex often charges, and has
occasionally been known to knock an elephant down"; and the Badminton
Library of Sport states that a buffalo would "charge an elephant before
or after being wounded". Fortified and cheered by these assurances, I
went to Port Darwin per s.s. Guthrie to make the closer acquaintance of
these formidable animals, and to see what sport buffalo shooting could

The Indian buffalo is the animal which is hunted in our Northern
Territory. They were brought from the island of Timor to the settlement
on Melville Island about 1829. This island is close to the northern
shore of Australia. Later on, that settlement was abandoned and a fresh
settlement was made at Port Essington, on the mainland of Australia, and
at this settle-ment also a few pairs of buffaloes were introduced from
Timor. Both settlements were aban-doned and the buffaloes were left to
their own devices and they ran wild. The country must have suited them,
as both on Melville Island and the mainland they increased at an amazing

They are ungainly, savage-looking brutes, having a dull, bluish-coloured
hide and enormous horns. They have little affinity to domestic cattle,
and will not inter-breed with them. They are almost hairless, and the
hide is enormously thick. The place where they are found is a tract of
coast country on the extreme northern shore of Australia. Here are vast
rolling plains, very little higher than sea level, covered with coarse
jungle grass, reeds and bamboos. For three or four months of the year in
the wet season the whole of the plains are under water, and in this
swamp and quagmire the buffaloes make their home. They eat, and thrive
on, any kind of green thing--grass, reeds, rushes, bamboos, water
lilies, even mangrove leaves, all come alike to the buffaloes. The
country is too sour and washy for cattle, but these animals are just
suited by it. They are built very much like pigs, being tremendously
deep in the body and broad in the back, with short powerful legs. They
stand as high as a bullock and are much more solid. It was some years
before anyone discovered that their hides were of any value, and during
those years they throve and multiplied unmolested. The stockmen on the
cattle camps used to see them walk right in among a mob of cattle, give
a snort or two and a threatening shake of their huge horns and stroll
out again unconcerned. They were then perfectly fearless of men or
horses. Later on, the cattle stations were abandoned, and the country
given up to the buffaloes, which then numbered thousands. It was
ascertained that their skins had a market value of about fifteen
shillings for large hides, and a few men began to shoot them for the
hides. At first the shooting was done on foot, but this was found too
slow, too unprofitable, and too dangerous, and soon some of the dashing
cattle men of the Territory took the matter up in earnest and started
shooting from horseback, which is the plan that now prevails. It was
found that the strength of the buffaloes was so great and their vitality
so wonderful that half a dozen bullets would not stop them, but at last
the shooters discovered that a bullet fired into the loins from above
would paralyse the hindquarters, and cause the animal to drop in his
tracks. This was the only method of shooting them that could be made to
pay. If the beasts were shot anywhere else they would not fall at once,
but would stop and charge, and, while the shooters were reloading to
despatch a wounded animal, the rest of the herd would be making the best
of their way to cover, and would ultimately escape. Even if mortally
wounded, a buffalo will usually struggle on for half a mile or so before
he drops, and in the long jungle grass the skinners could not find the
carcase. So that it became evident, if the shooters wished to get a
living at the business, they had to be prepared to race right alongside
the buffalo and shoot downwards into the loins alongside the spine. This
particular part of the animal can only be reached from above, as the
high hips and croup protect the loins from any bullet fired from behind.
Thus there was evolved the present method of buffalo shooting, where the
shooter, holding the carbine in one hand like a pistol, races right
alongside the buffalo and fires at full gallop, taking his chance of the
animal wheeling and attacking him either before or after he fires. If
the shot is properly placed, the buffalo drops as if struck by
lightning, and the shooter races on after the flying herd, reloading as
rapidly as he can for his next victim. An expert shooter will drop
buffalo after buffalo at an average distance of two hundred yards apart,
never needing more than one bullet to each, while a novice, not knowing
the correct place to fire at, may shoot eight or nine bullets into a
buffalo without bringing him down.

It is easy to understand that there is great danger in racing up
alongside an animal that can "knock over an elephant", and firing at him
at such very close quarters. Still, if the men wish to get a living they
have to do it, and it is marvellous how expert both men and horses

Having dealt so far with the buffaloes, it is only right to introduce
the reader to the shooters and their horses. The shooters are, as a
rule, men who have been stockmen--bold, fearless riders, with any amount
of nerve; men who undertake the riding of unbroken horses, and the
management of vindictive wild cattle, as a regular part of their lives.
Usually a couple of men go into partnership as shooters, taking their
buffalo horses and some twenty or thirty pack horses. They set out to
the great coast plains and pitch their camp alongside the local blacks'
camp, and enlist all the able-bodied blacks of the tribe in their
service. Their stores consist of flour, tea, sugar, Worcester sauce,
salt, and arsenic for the hides, and unlimited cartridges. For meat they
eat buffalo beef, which is first-class, especially the tongues and
tails. They use a small tent for the stores, but always sleep out in the
open themselves, with no shelter except their mosquito nets. On these
low-lying plains, amid the swamps and reed beds, the mosquitoes are
something to shudder at. I have seen and felt mosquitoes at Port
Hacking, the Hawkesbury, Hexham (where the famous Hexham greys come
from), on the Castlereagh, in Gippsland, on the Diamantina and the
Dawson River in Queensland, but all these places put together could not
furnish enough mosquitoes to act as trumpeters for the vast mosquito
army that every night spreads itself over the whole face of nature in
the buffalo country. A stout cheese cloth mosquito net is the first and
indispensable requisite of every man's outfit in this country. It never
rains in the dry season, and, winter or summer alike, the temperature,
day or night, is always blazing hot. The shooters make little or no
pretence at camp, simply rigging their mosquito nets on a couple of
sticks and spreading their blankets on the hard ground. The black gins
do the cooking, such as it is.

From this it may be gathered that a buffalo shooter's life is not one of
refinement and luxury. Hard and dangerous work and hard living make the
men rough and ready, but they are genuinely good sportsmen and
hospitable as Arabs. Their horses are a queer mixture. It is only one
horse in a hundred that will make a buffalo horse. In addition to
needing a lot of pace and determination, the horse has to be courageous
enough to race right up alongside the formidable buffalo bulls and cool
enough to dodge their onslaught if they wheel and charge without any
warning, as they have a nasty way of doing. Added to this, the constant
roar of the carbine close to their ears makes some horses timid and
unmanageable. So that the shooters have to weed out the cowardly horses,
the hot-headed, excitable ones, the lazy slow ones, and the timid
gun-shy horses, and those that survive the ordeal are not selected for
their style or quality, but simply because they have the requisite
coolness and courage. These qualities are found to exist in most
unlikely animals, and the crack buffalo horses of a camp comprise all
sorts, shapes, and sizes, it being of course necessary that they are all
fairly fast and up to weight. It is wonderful how clever they get. They
watch every movement of the buffalo, being on the alert to swing off to
one side at any moment if he wheels. If the ground is broken and cracked
with great fissures, or crossed with water courses, they bide their time
and rush up alongside the quarry with a great dash the moment they feel
good ground under their feet again. And some of the older hands among
the horses are cunning enough to tell at once a formidable old bull from
a timid, frightened young cow, and they will race up alongside the cow
boldly enough, but insist on running wide of the bull, causing the
shooter to waste valuable cartridges and still more valuable time in his

Let us now give a description of a day's shooting from the point of view
of a stranger. Let us suppose our stranger has arrived in the camp
overnight, with no experience--with nothing but a hopeful mind and a
well-oiled rifle. He finds that the camp consists of a smal tent full of
stores, while behind it are a few low rails that do duty as a catching
place for the horses, and on which are deposited pack saddles, saddle
cloths, bridles, riding saddles, hobbles and all manner of gear. Close
round the tent are grouped the mosquito nets and blankets a the
shooters, in close proximity to the nets and blankets of the black gins
who do the cooking A rough slab table with log seats occupies the
foreground. A Chinaman, employed to skit buffalo, has his net and
blankets a few yards away. Some pots, buckets, and cooking utensil; are
scattered around. A few yards off in a clear space are stretched dozens
of buffalo hides drying in the sun, and smelling villainously. And back
of all, through the corkscrew palms and tree trunks, may be seen the
small fires of the blacks' camp, where the sable chieftain! and
chieftainesses are sleeping off the effects of their daily gorge of
buffalo meat. At bedtime the stranger crawls in under his mosquito net
and tucks it well in under his blanket. His saddle does duty for a
pillow. And so, on the hard ground, he lies awake and listens to the
dull booming roar of the mosquitoes as they hustle each other in myriads
round his resting place and the choking snores of the Chinese skinner
who is sleeping in the next blankets. Fron away in the distance comes
the howl of a dingo and the clink, clink of the horse bells; from a tree
overhead a mopoke calls in wearisome iteration. And over all and above
all is the are out after the horses, the gins are building the fire and
frying buffalo steaks and boiling steady, persistent stench of the
drying buffalo hides. At dawn the camp is astir. The blacks tea. The
hooters emerge from their blankets yawning and stretching. Breakfast is
soon despatched--buffalo beef, damper, and strong, black, well-stewed
tea. The buffalo shooters, the Chinese skinner, and the stranger all
feed together, each airing his views on any subject that occurs to him,
while the gins sit silently by the fire and kill mosquitoes on their
bare legs, By the time breakfast is over the horses are brought up by
the blacks. The crack buffalc horses are usually given a nosebagful of
much-cherished oats. The gins attend to this, and they are very
solicitous that their pets get their full allowance and are not worked
too many days consecutively. The Chinese skinner sharpens his knives to
a razor-like keenness on an oilstone. The pack horses are first caught
and saddled--some eight or nine of them. Then the black boys, or rather
black men, catch their horses and mount, their clothing being limited to
a very brief loincloth and a stick through their nose. The Chinese
skinner climbs onto his quiet old nag. The shooters get their carbines
out of the tent and strap on their belts filled with cartridges, and so
they mount and away across the sunny plains at a slow jog, the pack
horses, the blacks, and the Chinaman stringing slowly along in the rear.
The sun is blazing down and the great plain dances and quivers in the
heat as the procession straggles across it. In front the plain extends
to the horizon, with never a tree to break the view--a vast, silent
expanse of waving jungle grass, crossed here and there with watercourses
and scarred with bare patches where fires have been. The procession
moves along the edge of the plain, which is bordered by open paperbark
forests, clumps of corkscrew palms, or dense jungles, where all sorts of
tropical trees, creepers, and shrubs make a retreat impracticable to
any animal except the thick-hided, heavy-horned buffalo. After riding
perhaps a couple of hours one of the shooters says, "There's buffalo!"
The stranger sees far away on the plain some things that look like seven
or eight large black mounds standing out solid against the back-ground
of jungle grass. A hurried consultation is held. The animals are rather
near the edge of the plain, and it all depends on the start they get
whether the shooters can get to them before they reach cover. Girths are
tightened, hats firmly jammed on, and the novice, with beating heart,
rides steadily off with the two shooters towards the unsuspecting herd.
The pack horses with their attendants pull up and watch the chase.
Slowly and quietly the shooters approach the herd, the novice getting
many whispered instructions on the way--to be sure and not fire till he
can fire downwards into the loin, never to let his horse stand still
when near a wounded buffalo lest the beast's sudden charge take him by
surprise, not to pull his horse about in broken ground, and so on and so
on. Steadily they draw nearer the herd, until, when they are about three
hundred yards off, one of the mounds suddenly lifts up a huge,
black-muzzled, bull-like head, decorated with immense sickle-shaped
horns, reaching right back to the animal's shoulders. Instantly all the
others throw up their heads, and stare for a few seconds with sullen
fierce eyes at the intruders. Great ungainly brutes they look with their
heavy shoulders and quarters. Suddenly they wheel and dash off at a
lumbering canter towards the timber. "Come on", yell the buffalo
shooters, setting their horses at full speed, and the novice finds that
his horse needs no urging once the game is afoot. Away they dash after
the buffaloes, the horses making great springs through the long rank
grass, exactly as if they were racing through a high and heavy crop of
wheat. Under the crop of grass are all sorts of hidden dangers--great
cracks in the ground made by the dry weather, huge circular holes where
the buffaloes have wallowed, now overgrown and hidden with grass,
patches of boggy ground where the water has lain. Over all these
difficulties the horses go full speed with a cleverness really
marvellous, every now and again "pecking" almost on to their knees, but
recovering themselves smartly and racing on, always with their eyes
fixed on the flying mob. The buffaloes settle to a slogging, clumsy
gallop, and the novice expects to run up to them easily, especially as
the shooters are riding desperately, just as if finishing a race, urging
the horses to their very utmost, as the cover is very close, and if once
the mob reach the shelter of the corkscrew palms they will be lost. The
novice finds his carbine a terrible weight on one hand while galloping,
and the occasional stumbles of his horse almost jerk it out of his
grasp, and for all their hard riding they do not seem to be gaining much
on the buffaloes. Suddenly they reach a patch of short grass and firm
ground, where the horses are better suited, and they draw up close to
the mob. The buffaloes scatter slightly, and the novice, now thoroughly
winded with his gallop, holds the carbine out ready to fire and urges
his horse after the nearest buffalo. Half-wild with excitement he tries
to remember all the injunctions he got about firing, but the springing
of the horse and the rolling gallop of the buffalo make it no easy
matter to hold the carbine straight with one hand, more especially as
the place to be fired at is not painted on the buffalo. His carbine
points anywhere except the right place, and then, just as he intends to
fire, the buffalo suddenly dodges to one side and makes for the timber
at redoubled speed, while our hero pulls his horse round in pursuit. On
they go, the novice having but one aim and object in life--to get the
muzzle of the rifle up against that broad blue back. Suddenly, with
sickening anxiety, he notices that the timber is very close, and without
more ado he holds out the carbine and fires at about a dozen yards'
range. The quarry goes on with the same determined rolling gallop,
giving no sign whether the shot lever of his carbine, ejects the
cartridge, fumbles wildly in his belt for another, and jams it home just
as the buffalo passes the first few outlying screw palms. Then there is
a whiz and a rush of hoofs, and one of the professional shooters,
sitting square in his saddle, dashes past the novice, shaves a palm tree
or two by a hair's breadth, and swoops down on the buffalo has hit or
missed, and the novice, with a dismal feeling of failure, clutches
frantically at the like a hawk on a pigeon. He has no trouble in
managing his rifle and his horse, recognising the urgency of the case,
brings him alongside the quarry in three or four bounds. The buffalo
swerves at once, but the trained horse follows his every movement. The
shooter leans forward holding out his rifle, elbow up and muzzle down,
exactly like a man going to spear pig. Bang! goes the carbine, and
through the jet of white smoke the novice sees the buffalo sink to the
ground paralysed, shot through the loins, while the horse swings clear
of his falling victim, and "I'm sorry to rob you of him, mister," says
the shooter apologetically, "but he would have got away in these palms."
The novice swallows his mortification, and asks how the two men got on.
"Shot every one of the mob", is the answer. And, sure enough, outside
the palms lie all the rest of the herd, still kicking in the agonies of
death. The skinners come up and the hides are soon stripped off by the
blacks and Chinaman and fastened on the pack saddles.

After a short rest to breathe the horses, another start is made out into
the plain, and for an hour or two they jog on slowly, seeing no game
until they have got right out into the solitude of the plain, and the
nearest timber is a dim black line on the horizon. Suddenly, out of a
mud hole, where he has been rolling, there rises a huge blue bull
buffalo, a vast monster that glares fiercely at them and then turns to
run. This is the novice's opportunity--there is no cover for the animal
to get into, and jamming his hat down and sending the spurs home he
starts off alone in pursuit of the monster. So they tear across the
plain, pursuer and pursued. How the wind whistles past! The horse gains
slowly--he will not go as confidently with a strange rider as with his
own master--and the novice, as he draws near, has plenty of time to note
the fierce backward glances of the buffalo and the ominous swing, swing
of those terrific horns as the bull labours along in his swaying gallop.
The novice fully intends to race right alongside, but somehow, each time
that he draws near either the bull swerves and gains a little, or the
horse loses ground on some rough going, and the result is that when he
does fire he is not quite close enough, and instead of hitting the loin
the bullet buries itself in the buffalo's massive hindquarters. Whoof!
With a snort like a grizzly bear the bull wheels and charges his
assailant, and all the rider's previous efforts are as nothing compared
to the dash he puts into his riding while urging his horse out of harm's
way. The bull follows for a hundred yards or so, and then, finding
himself outpaced, wheels suddenly off and resumes his dogged canter. The
novice canters after him, reloading as he goes, and then goes up for a
second shot. The horse will not draw up close to a wounded bull; he
knows too much for that. He swings off, and our hero gets a broadside
shot, a red spurt of blood showing where the bullet has struck just
behind the shoulders. Round comes the bull for another charge, and again
the wary horse takes his rider out of harm's way. The bull stands for a
while, then pretends to retreat, but wheels suddenly round and charges
again, and this time the novice really thinks he is caught, so rapid is
the onset. A slip or stumble would be fatal, but the horse draws away,
and the bull "bails up", charging everyone that comes near. Another
bullet or two tell their tale, and soon the large creature sinks to the
ground and expires without a sound. The novice receives the
congratulations of the shooters on getting his first buffalo, but he
feels in his heart that it was a case of buffalo assassination rather
than legitimate shooting, and he resolves to do better in future. So the
day wears on, small mobs being met with and shot right out, the patient
skinners following up and getting the hides. Incidents there are in
plenty. A buffalo swerves so suddenly that the man's boot brushes
against the animal's fore-head as the horse springs clear of the charge.
A bull bails up in a patch of bamboo and makes sallies out of it and
hurried retreats into it, trying to draw his foe in after him. Once he
gets in, instead of running away he craftily hides behind a patch of
thick bamboo and waits for someone to follow him. More and more hides
are got, and the novice feels a glow of pride as he gets his first clean
shot home in the loins, and sees his buffalo fall to one bullet. The
pack horses are loaded until each has as much as he can stagger under.
The sun sinks low, and a start is made for home, the shooters riding
slowly on in front, the pack horses stringing after them, and the blacks
silently smoking in the rear. The sun goes down and the moon rises,
flooding the plain with a glorious golden light. A few wild buffaloes
come sniffing up to the procession and bolt away again into the
darkness. Far away is the glow of the campfire, and when the shooters
reach it they have to unload the hides, eat their rough food in the
smoke of the fire to protect themselves from mosquitoes, and so straight
off to bed. There is no such thing as sitting about and talking in the
camp where the mosquitoes make life outside the mosquito nets an
absolute purgatory.

Such is life in a buffalo camp--about the last remaining relic of the
old wild days. It is life as it was in the beginning of things. Risk and
roughness there no doubt are. Sometimes the horses are killed by
charging buffaloes and the riders seriously hurt. One of the Melville
Island shooters was speared through the shoulder by a wild black, and
the man who wants his sport combined with luxury had better leave
buffalo shooting alone. But it is a rare experience to anyone who is not
afraid of roughing it a little. Besides the buffalo shooting there is
any amount of other game--alligators, dingoes, wild fowl and ducks, and
pigeon and quail and snipe in thousands. But this sort of shooting is
tame after the rushing gallop alongside the fierce buffalo bull. And it
is satisfactory to know that the supply of buffaloes shows no signs of
diminishing. In the visit that I have endeavoured to record here, which
took place in September 1898, our camp shot 100 buffalo in a week. The
two professional shooters had got 700 in three and a half months'
shooting, and this sort of thing has been going on for years. Anyone
intending to go up may be sure of getting plenty of game, and the
shooters will be glad to take anybody into the camp who cares to go, but
as the men are shooting for a living they would have to be paid for the
use of their horses and their loss of time. A party going up could make
quite a comfortable trip of it by going round by sea from Port Darwin,
but the intending visitor must remember that the Northern Territory is a
"land of lots of time", and he cannot plan his trip (like the Americans
planned their war) to get his buffalo and be back for lunch. All
arrangements take time to make, and anyone desiring to go up should make
inquiries long beforehand as to means of transport, etc., from the
Eastern and Australian Steamship offices, on whose ships most of the
hides come down.

(Since the above article was written news has reached Sydney of the
murder of two buffalo shooters by the blacks. No details are to hand,
but it will probably be found that drink had a good deal to do with it,
as the blacks are quiet enough unless interfered with. Still, our black
brother in the north is a child of impulse, and there is no saying how
small a matter may have caused the attack. It was hard that, after
finishing their season's shooting safely, these men should be killed by
their own blacks. But it is all in the season's risk--the man who goes
buffalo shooting has to reckon this chance in with his other risks. And
it speaks well for the men and their management of the blacks that
casualties are so few.)

The Sydney Mail, 7 January 1899


The town of Kiley's Crossing was not exactly a happy hunting ground for
lawyers. The surrounding country was rugged and mountainous, the soil
was poor, and the inhabitants of the district had plenty of ways of
getting rid of their money without spending it in court.

Thus it came that for many years old Considine was the sole
representative of his profession in the town. Like most country
attorneys, he had forgotten what little law he ever knew, and, as his
brand of law dated back to the very early days, he recognised that it
would be a hopeless struggle to try and catch up with all the modern
improvements. He just plodded along the best way that he could with the
aid of a library consisting of a copy of the Crown Lands Acts, the
Miner's Handbook and an aged mouse-eaten volume called Ram on Facts that
he had picked up cheap at a sale on one of his visits to Sydney. He was
an honourable old fellow, and people trusted him implicitly, and if he
did now and then overlook a defect in the title to a piece of
land--well, no one ever discovered it, as on the next dealing the title
always came back to him again, and was, of course, duly investigated and
accepted. But it was in court that he shone particularly. He always
appeared before the police magistrate who visited Kiley's once a month.
This magistrate had originally been a country storekeeper, and had been
given this judicial position as a reward for political services. He knew
less law than old Considine, but he was a fine, big, fat man, with a lot
of dignity, and the simple country folk considered him a perfect
champion of a magistrate. The fact was that he and old Considine knew
every man, woman, and child in the district; they knew who could be
relied on to tell the truth and whose ways were crooked and devious, and
between them they dispensed a very fair brand of rough justice. If
anyone came forward with an unjust claim, old Considine had one great
case that he was supposed to have discovered in Ram on Facts, and which
was dragged in to settle all sorts of points. This, as quoted by old
Considine, was "the great case of Dunn v. Dockerty--the 'orse outside
the 'ouse". What the 'orse did to the 'ouse or vice versa no one ever
knew; doubts have been freely expressed whether there ever was such a
case at all, and certainly, if it covered all the ground that old
Considine stretched it over, it was a wonderful decision.

However, genuine or not, whenever a swindle seemed likely to succeed,
old Considine would rise to his feet and urbanely inform the bench that
under the "well-known case of Dunn v. Dockerty--case that Your Worship
of course knows--case of the 'orse outside the 'ouse", this claim must
fail; and fail it accordingly did, to the promotion of justice and
honesty. This satisfactory state of things had gone on for years, and
might be going on yet only for the arrival at Kiley's of a young lawyer
from Sydney, a terrible fellow, full of legal lore; he slept with
digests and law reports; he openly ridiculed old Considine's opinions;
he promoted discord and quarrels, with the result that on the first
court day after his arrival, there was quite a little crop of cases,
with a lawyer on each side--an unprecedented thing in the annals of
Kiley's Crossing. In olden days one side or the other had gone to old
Considine, and if he found that the man who came to him was in the
wrong, he made him settle the case. If he was in the right, he promised
to secure him the verdict, which he always did, with the assistance of
Ram on Facts and "the 'orse outside the 'ouse". Now, however, all was
changed. The new man struggled into court with an armful of books that
simply struck terror to the heart of the P.M. as he took his seat on the
bench. All the idle men of the district came into court to see how the
old man would hold his own with the new arrival. It should be explained
that the bush people look on a law case as a mere trial of wits between
the lawyers and the witnesses and the bench; and the lawyer who can
insult his opponent most in a given time is always the best in their
eyes. They never take much notice of who wins the case, as that is
supposed to rest on the decision of that foul fiend the law, whose
vagaries no man may control nor understand. So, when the young lawyer
got up and said he appeared for the plaintiff in the first case, and old
Considine appeared a verdict for the defendant, there was a pleased sigh
in court, and the audience sat back contentedly on their hard benches to
view the forensic battle.

The case was simple enough. A calf belonging to the widow O'Brien had
strayed into Mrs Rafferty's back yard and eaten a lot of washing off the
line. There was ample proof. The calf had been seen by several people to
run out of the yard with a half-swallowed shirt hanging out of its
mouth. There was absolutely no defence, and in the old days the case
would have been settled by payment of a few shillings, but here the
young lawyer claimed damages for trespass to realty, damages for trover
and conversion of personalty, damages for detinue, and a lot of other
terrible things that no one had ever heard of. He had law books to back
it all up, too. He opened the case in style, stating his authorities and
defying his learned friend to contradict him, while the old P.M.
shuffled uneasily on the bench, and the reputation of old Considine in
Kiley's Crossing hung trembling in the balance.

When the old man rose to speak he played a bold stroke. He said,
patronisingly, that his youthful friend had, no doubt, stated the law
correctly, but he seemed to have overlooked one little thing. When he
was more experienced he would no doubt be more wary. (Sensation in
court.) He relied upon a plea that his young friend had no doubt
overlooked--that was that plea of "cause to show". "I rely upon that
plea," he said, "and of course Your Worship knows the effect of that
plea." Then he sat down amid the ill-suppressed admiration of the

The young lawyer, confronted with this extraordinary manoeuvre, simply
raged furiously. He asserted (which is quite true) that there is no such
plea known to the law of this or any other country as an absolute
defence to claim for a calf eating washing off a line, or to any other
claim for that matter. He was proceeding to expound the law relating to
trespass when the older man interrupted him.

"My learned friend says that he never heard of such a defence," he said,
pityingly. "I think that I need hardly remind Your Worship that that
very plea was successfully raised as a defence in the well known case of
Dunn v. Dockerty, the case of the 'orse outside the 'ouse." "Yes," said
the bench, anxious to display his legal knowledge, "that case--er--is
reported in Ram on Facts, isn't it?" "Well, it is mentioned there, Your
Worship," said the old man, "and I don't think that even my young
friend's assurance will lead him so far as to question so old and
well-affirmed a decision!" But his young friend's assurance did lead him
that far, in fact, a good deal further. He quoted decisions by the score
on every conceivable point, but after at least half an hour of spirited
talk, the bench pityingly informed him that he had not quoted any cases
bearing on the plea of "cause to show", and found a verdict for the
defendant. The young man gave notice of appeal and of prohibitions and
so forth, but his prestige was gone in Kiley's.

The audience filed out of court, freely expressing the opinion that he
was a "regular fool of a bloke; old Considine stood him on his head
proper with that plea of 'cause to show', and so help me goodness, he'd
never even heard of it!"

The Australasian Pastoralists' Review, 15 June 1899


THE GAME of polo is of Indian origin, and has been played for countless
years by the hill tribes in the north of India. These wild fellows play
on very small ponies, and under a code of rules which never appears to
be thoroughly understood by Europeans. A big drum accompaniment and a
Nautch dance appear to be the leading features of the game, but for
riding and hard hitting they are said to be unequalled by any players in
the world. From those natives the game spread to the Indian Army, where
it was taken up by the officers, and has become practically the main
amusement of Indian cantonment life. Influenced possibly by the fact
that the Indians used ponies of very small size, the Englishmen in India
began with an absurd rule that no animal over thirteen hands three
inches in height should be used in a game. This was supposed to ensure
safety for the players, but as a matter of fact had the very opposite
effect, as few ponies of that size can be got to carry heavy men without
great risk of falling. The result, as might be supposed, was that severe
accidents were very common. The players managed to raise the standard of
height by a loose system of measurement, but even this did not give them
the necessary scope in selection of horse flesh; and as the severe and
sometimes fatal accidents still continued, the Commander-in-Chief
published a regulation, which Kipling would call "a Solomon of a
regulation", to the effect that no ponies over the absolute standard
height should be used. One hears from Indian traders that this
regulation, is gradually being defied, and larger and larger ponies are
being used; and some day they may come to the wisdom of using horses
better able to cope with the weight on their backs. In England, on the
other hand, the tendency of the game has always been to increase the
size of the ponies, as the heavy riders find themselves unable to get
safe mounts among the small ponies. The result is that fourteen hands
two inch ponies are now used there, and severe accidents are very rare.
It is of course only fair to say that the harder grounds of India make
any fall a fairly serious matter, while in England a tumble on the soft
turf does not mean much. In Australia, the height has been fixed at
fourteen hands one inch, but it is practically certain that the English
standard will be adopted, as our local players are hoping some day to
sell their ponies in the English market, where as much as seven hundred
guineas has been given for a well-trained pony. Merely to send rough,
untrained ponies over would be very little use; these great prices are
only fetched by animals that show first-class form in matches, and the
buyers fondly imagine that by getting one of these ponies they are
qualifying themselves to display championship form--forgetting that they
are not buying the seat and hands of the man who has trained the pony.

It is hard to institute any comparison between Australian and English or
Indian polo. As regards Australian polo, the Adelaide players for many
years were the strongest team, and some great battles were played
between them and the western districts of Victoria, a team that is now
quite at the top of the tree. The Manifold brothers, having played
together for many years, are now one of the strongest teams in
Australia; yet last year, when they met a scratch English team (composed
of the Hon. Arthur Brand, Captain Haigh, Major Bryan, and H. J. Hill),
they were hard put to it to hold their own, each side winning a match,
which shows that our standard of polo is not equal to the English form.
Certainly Captain Haigh and Captain Brand are two players who would be
equal to any two in England, but their comrades were not so strong, and
the team had never played any matches together. The fact of a scratch
four showing such form is convincing proof that a practised four of
their class would over-match the Australian players. The Australian
riding and hitting could not much be improved on, but there is a
tremendous lot to learn in the matter of combination and skill.

The New Zealand players have brought their game to a great pitch of
excellence, and a visiting team from that colony recently gave the
Victorian champions some hard battles, the latter winning mainly through
their skill in combination. The climate of New Zealand is very
favourable to the breeding of a good class of pony. The mares are never
starved, and the foals are always well looked after, the result being
that New Zealand ponies are a well-rounded, well-furnished, sturdy lot
of animals, and make New South Wales-bred ponies look quite weedy. Many
of the New Zealand ponies are sold at large prices over here, averaging
quite fifty guineas.

Polo in New South Wales has never been quite the success that it has in
other colonies. The Hunter River players were the first to make a strong
team, and for a while they were certainly the strongest players in New
South Wales, Messrs White, Shannon, Shaw and Campbell being their
possibly strongest players. The best Sydney four that has played were
Messrs Watson, Hill, Paterson and Forrest. The Camden team, of whom
Messrs Mackellar and Bell are shining lights, has always been a fast and
dashing team. But at present the honours, so far as New South Wales is
concerned, certainly rest with the Tamarang Club, a hard-riding,
well-mounted team from some place at the back of Coonabarabran, or some
other equally unpronounceable locality. At time of writing, they have
just achieved a sensational win over the Manifolds' team, beating them
by five goals to four after a desperate game. The Manifolds' team were
thought so certain to win that a wager of a hundred pounds to twenty
pounds was actually laid on them before the game started, and duly paid
afterwards. The winners were much the lighter team, and their riding was
a treat to witness. They owed their success to a dashing "number one",
and an exceedingly hard-hitting and accurate back. It was a great
triumph for New South Wales, as the Manifolds' team has not been
defeated by any Australian team for many seasons.

Polo in England is mainly a military game, and no better training for
riding, coolness, and dash could be found for a young officer. It is a
pity that in Australia the military forces are hardly able, as a rule,
to afford the expense of the game; indeed, all over the colonies it is
the factor of expense which has kept the game confined to a select few,
and hindered its growth.

In New Zealand and Victoria, where farming is gone in for and properties
are small, it is easy for a team of young fellows living on their own
properties to meet together for polo practice, and to work up quite a
strong team. It is surprising what a number of really good teams there
are in New Zealand, and this works up a healthy rivalry which keeps the
game alive. In New South Wales, where squattages are forty miles apart,
it is next thing to imposs-ible to get up a team to practise together;
in consequence country polo is very spasmodic, and the stimulus of
matches against other clubs is lacking. Also the crucial question of
£ s d is a large factor in keeping down the standard of play in this
colony. Those who have the money to purchase first-class horses cannot
ride them, and those who can ride them have not got the money.

It would be a good speculation to send to England a team of good players
with well-trained ponies, as the latter would be certain of sale at good
prices, provided they were well ridden. In fact sufficient profit should
be made to almost cover the expenses of the trip. But it is a game that
there is no gate money in, and among the class who play in England a
five-pound note is less thought of than five shillings here; and any
team going from here would need to be prepared to live at a pace that
might shock our slower-going ideas on what expenditure should be. Some
years ago all arrangements were completed for the visit of an Indian
team to Australia. The team was to consist of officers of the army,
under the leadership of the Maharajah of Cooch Behar, but there again
the £ s d question nipped the project in the bud. It was intended that
the teams should bring their own ponies, but as these would be at least
two inches lower in height than the Australian ponies, the game could
hardly have been a fair test. It is most probable that before long an
Indian team will be got together to come down and play in Australia on
ponies obtained locally. A good man can soon make a pony play, even
though the pony is trained by another person. The last Indian team would
have been a great attraction if the Maharajah had come with them, but it
is understood that the British authorities thought it unwise for him to
leave his own state at that time, owing to the unsettled state of
affairs. Later on we may have the chance of seeing him and his team, and
may then state of affairs. Later on we may have the chance of seeing him
and his team, and may then hope to learn a few wrinkles in the game of
polo, which is so old that its origin is, according to the leading
authorities on the subject, "shrouded in the hoary mists of centuries".
It is, perhaps, too much to hope that our players would hold their own
with a really good, well-drilled Indian team; but in the matter of
riding and hitting there is no fear that a team like the Tamarangs would
not give a good account of themselves in any company.

The Australian Magazine, 6 July 1899


SCENE: War Office, London. Telephones are ringing, typewriters clicking,
clerks in dozens rushing hither and thither at express rate. An
atmosphere of feverish unrest hangs over everything. In the passages and
lobbies crowds of military contractors, officials, newspapermen and
inventors of patent guns have been waiting for hours to get a few
minutes' interview with those in authority. Mounted messengers dash up
to the door every few seconds. In the innermost room of all, a
much-decorated military veteran with a bald head, a grizzled moustache
and an eyeglass is dictating to three shorthand writers at once, while
clerks rush in and out with cablegrams, letters and cards from people
waiting. On the table are littered a heap of lists of troops,
army-contracts, and tenders for supplies, all marked "Urgent". A clerk
rushes in.

CLERK: "Cablegram from Australia offering troops, sir!"

MILITARY VETERAN: "No! Can't have 'em. It has been decided not to use
blacks, except as a last resource."

CLERK: "But these are white troops, sir--the local forces. It is
officially desired that they be taken if possible."

MILITARY VETERAN: "Who is the Australian Commander-in-Chief? I didn't
know they had an army at all. I knew they had police, of course!"

CLERK: "There are seven distinct cablegrams, sir; seven distinct
Commanders-in-Chief all offering troops."

M.V. (roused to excitement): "Great Heavens! are they going to take the
war off our hands? Seven Commanders-in-Chief! They must have been
quietly breeding armies all these years in Australia. Let's have a look
at the cables. Where's this from?" C: "Tasmania, sir. They offer to send
a Commander-in-Chief and" (pauses, aghast) "and eighty-five men!"

M.V. (jumping to his feet): "What! Have I wasted all this time talking
about eighty-five men! You must be making a mistake!"

C: "No, sir. It says eighty-five men!"

M.V.: "Well I am damned! Eighty-five men! You cable back and say that
I've seen bigger armies on the stage at Drury Lane Theatre. Just wire
and say this isn't a pantomime. They haven't got to march round and
round a piece of scenery. Tell 'em to stop at home and breed!" (Resumes
dictation.) "At least five thousand extra men should be sent from India
in addition to--"

C: "Cabinet instructions are to take these troops, whether they're any
good or not, sir. Political reasons!"

M.V. (with a sigh): "Well, let 'em come. Let 'em all come--the whole
eighty-five! But don't let it leak out, or the Boers will say we're not
playing 'em fair. Tell 'em to send infantry, anyhow; we don't want
horses eating their heads off."

C. (interrupts again): "These other colonies, sir--are we to accept 'em

M.V.: "Yes. Didn't I say let 'em all come? There'll be plenty of room
for 'em in South Africa. They won't feel crowded." (Resumes dictation.)
"The expenditure of a hundred thousand pounds at least will be needed

C: "They want to know, if they pay the men's fares over, will the
British Government pay their return fares?"

M.V.: "Yes, I should think we would. We'll put 'em in the front and
there won't be so many of 'em left to go back. If the colonies had any
sense they'd have paid the return fares. Now, please go away and let me
get to work".

(Ten minutes later, clerk timidly reappears.)

C: "If you please, sir, another cable from New South Wales. They say
they would sooner send artillery!"

M.V.: "Oh, blast it all! What does their artillery amount to?"

C: "One battery, sir".

M.V.: "One battery! Well, they've got to come, I suppose. 'Cry havoc and
let slip the dogs of war. Stop their one battery if you can; but if not,
let it come. And now go, and don't let me have any more of you."
(Resumes dictation, and has just got to "the purchase of ten thousand
horses" when the Clerk reappears.)

C: "Fresh cable, sir! Two circus proprietors in Sydney have presented
six circus horses--"

M.V.: "Shivering Sheol! This is the climax! Six circus horses! Didn't
they say anything about a clown and pantaloon? Surely they wouldn't see
the Empire hurled to ruin for want of a clown. Perhaps they could let us
have a few sword-swallowers to get off with the Boers' weapons? Look
here, now--hand the whole thing over to one of the senior clerks, and
tell him to do exactly what he d well pleases in the matter, but that if
he comes in here to ask any questions about it, I'll have him shot! Now
go, and don't you come here any more, or I'll have you shot too. Take
this cheque for a hundred thousand to the petty cash depart-ment, and
tell that contractor outside that his tender is two millions over the
estimate, and don't let me hear any more of this blessed Australian

Cable message: Some difficulty exists in ascertaining from the War
Office whether the colonial troops will be expected to take their own
saddles or not, and whether the officer commanding shall take one horse
or two. It is not definitely known whether the offer of Fitzgeralds' six
circus horses will be accepted. Great enthusiasm prevails.

The Bulletin, 4 November 1899



ALL THROUGH THE Transvaal war, the attitude of the Basutos has been a
matter of great interest. They were described as being in "a state of
unrest", and only kept from joining in the strife by the exertions of
the English commissioner, Sir Godfrey Lagden. From reading the reports
one got the idea that there were about ten thousand raging savages
rushing up and down along the border, dressed in war-paint and feathers,
and brandishing assegais and knob-kerries, and only waiting an excuse to
hurl themselves over the border and wade in blood. After General Hunter
had captured Prinsloo, on the Basuto border, I came through Basutoland
to have a look at those warlike people. We had some little experience of
them during the war, as plenty of Basutos were working for the army as
mule drivers and ox conductors, and so on. One black man was very
impudent to an English officer, and when told that he must not speak in
an impudent way he said, "Oh, I'm a Basuto! We always speak to white men
that way in my country." Whereupon the Englishman, in defiance of army
rules, hit the Basuto a smashing blow in the face, knocking him off his
feet, just to show him that he wasn't in his own country, and couldn't
be impudent to his superiors with impunity.

While Hunter's column was fighting in the Caledon Valley it was close on
the edge of Basutoland, and the nearest civilian telegraph line
available was in that country, so all the war correspondents used to try
to get their messages over to Seribe, in Basutoland, because a long
message could go from there quicker than a short message on an army
line. One day two correspondents, of whom I was one, left Hunter's
column and rode down to the Basuto border, only about eight miles off,
to see if we could get anyone to send down to the river with messages.
We half expected to find the border lined with armed savages, ready to
shoot at anything that moved, and we kept a sharp lookout as we rode
down through the big bare hills that overlook the Caledon River, which
forms the Basuto border. The river is only a mountain stream, and we
could see across into Basutoland as we rode down to the border, but we
saw no savages, nor any sign of life, except two little white tents on
the river bank. At the crossing place we came unexpectedly on a little
stone store, and the storekeeper (an Englishman) told us that the tents
belonged to the Basuto Police, who were watching the border to prevent
the Boers coming into Basutoland. He also explained that the police had
orders to arrest all strangers, and bring them before the local
magistrate. This put a sudden stop to all our flights of imagination
about the Basutos and their savagery. Here we were threatened with
arrest by a common policeman and with trial by a magistrate, when we had
expected to meet assegais and other uncivilised weapons.

We had to get the messages away somehow, so we decided to chance being
arrested, and rode up to the tents. Two English officers came out--a
sub-inspector of Basuto Police, and a resident magistrate. They had been
living for eight months in these tents with a staff of about 10 black
policemen to prevent an army of 20,000 men coming over the river. The
police were all fine, big blackfellows, dressed in a kind of drab
uniform. They were all mounted police--in fact, all Basutos are mounted;
never walk any distance. By the tents they had rigged up a sort of rough
shelter for the men, and the horses were picketed in military fashion at
the back. The officer in charge was very anxious to know all about the
war. We asked him what good he expected to do with 10 men if the Boers
had tried to cross the border. He said, "Oh, the police couldn't do
anything, but we could soon raise the villagers. The Basutos are all
ready to fight, but they aren't any too good with a rifle. They mostly
have Martinis." We asked him if the Basutos could shoot at all well, and
he said, "Well, there's one man here might hit a barn if he got inside
it before he fired, but the others aren't up to much." These heroes were
walking about very proud of their uniforms, and very military in their
movements. They halted and wheeled sharply on being spoken to, and
saluted very formally every time they addressed the officer. They were
all fine, big men, black as the ace of spades, with tremendous chests
and shoulders.

They were all fat and sleek, which the sub-inspector explained was owing
to their living mostly on Kaffir beer--a rather venomous fluid according
to European ideas, but it agrees with these men. It is made from Kaffir
corn, and is a thin, washy liquor, about as strong as German lager, and
the way these Basutos could drink it would have opened the eyes of any
beer champion of a German University. We saw--but a truce to beer for
the present, till we describe the country and the people a little. It
doesn't look well to rush onto the subject of beer the moment one is in
a foreign country. Well, the sub-inspector said he could get us a
messenger to go down to the telegraph station, 35 miles, for 5s, and one
of the police went out in front of the tents, and lifted up his voice,
and proceeded to "raise" a village about a mile and a half distant. He
put his hands to his mouth and emitted a series of roars like a healthy
bull, and soon from the little collection of red earth beehives on the
far distant hillside there came an answering bellow, and for a few
minutes they fog-horned to each other. Then the policeman turned and
saluted formally, and said, "Man come soon." We found that this shouting
business is a great characteristic of the Basutos.

The country is all bare mountains with broad valleys between, and they
call to each other across the valleys. The whole plateau is 5,000 feet
above the sea, while the hills run up another 3,000 feet or so, and at
that height the voice carries wonderfully through the thin air. They all
have tremendous voices, and they think nothing of talking to a man a
mile off. We waited for the messenger to come along, and soon he
appeared--a tall, grim-visaged Basuto clad in a pair of tattered tweed
pants, and a scarlet blanket wrapped round his body. He was riding a
very fine, well-built pony. He took the telegrams and the 5s and
disappeared on his 35-miles ride. Then, out of the red earth beehives,
we saw the Basutos coming down to the camp to see the strangers. These
were the "rude forefathers of the hamlet"--the leading citizens of the
village of Matela's Drift, which was the name of the crossing place
where we came over the Caledon. The two white police officers went off
to see General Sir Archibald Hunter, and we waited to interview the
Basutos, and find out what they thought of the war, and what chance
there was of their rising. The men who came down were all six-footers,
at least, big black men with fine presence and great natural dignity.
Each was dressed in a red, blue, or many-coloured blanket folded round
the body, and secured by a big pin.

The chief was an evil-faced fellow, who was distinguished by having his
blanket folded a different way from the others, and by wearing a curious
conical fur cap. His natural dignity was enhanced by the fact that he
was wearing a pair of old leather leggings, and as he had no trousers
nor boots on, the leggings looked rather out of place and lonely on his
bare shins, with his big bare feet beneath. He waved his hand with rapid
grace in answer to our salutes, and all his followers, about 16 in
number, sat them down, and conversation began by medium of one of the
police, who spoke English. The natives all had a dull drugged look about
their eyes; just like the eyes of the Australian Aborigines who smoke
opium. I asked, "Do these men smoke opium?" but it seemed they had never
heard of it. It turned out that they smoke a root called "dhar", which
they bury in the ground and suck up the smoke by a tube. This is like
Indian hemp in its effects, and stupefies them if they smoke for long.
We asked some questions as to what they thought about the war, but they
seemed "fed up" on the war--wouldn't evince any interest in it. But
there was evidently some subject that was interesting them, as they
chattered away to each other, and at last it came out--their one object
in life was cattle. They knew that the English had just captured
thousands of Boer cattle, and they wanted to get cattle. Would the army
sell them the cattle or give them the cattle--those that were no good to
eat? They wanted cows to breed from, and would give horses in
exchange--Basuto horses, very good horses. It seemed that the rinderpest
had killed nearly all their cattle a few years ago, and they wanted to
stock up again. This was the only thing they took the slightest interest
in. If they had "risen" in the late war, it would simply have been for
the purpose of getting cattle; and they would not have been very
particular whose cattle they took. Once they had broken out, it is not
likely they would have stopped at cattle, and they would have looted and
raided the Boer farms along the border, and as they can put about 10,000
men under arms, it would have been a terrible business.

The chief was under the idea that the army would give him six cows for a
good horse, so he started to tell us about a horse he had, and the
others all chimed in, singing the praises of this horse in true horse
coper fashion. Their horses certainly are excellent, being the result of
a cross between the Arab, or African horse, and a lot of Shetland ponies
that were imported to these mountains some years back by some patriotic
Scotchman. They are all very square-built active animals, just the thing
for campaigning, but the Basutos would not sell their own riding horses
for love or money. All they would sell were the spare horses, and these
they would not take money for if they could get cows. The cow is the
currency of the place. When a Basuto can afford an extra wife--they have
as many as 100 sometimes--he goes and buys a girl from her father at a
fixed price in cows, with a fat bullock as a wedding present to the lady
herself. This was explained to us by the policeman, who said that if the
bridegroom failed to produce the fat bullock, the bride would go through
the ceremony, but would refuse to enter the house, and would stand
silently outside till he brought the animal. The bullock was a sine qua
non. We asked if a man could sell a wife again--if he could make a
profit on her.


IN MY last article on Basutoland I described the first view of that
country, and left off at the point where I was about to start down
through Basutoland and pass the country of Joel, the would-be rebel
chief. A war correspondent always travels on horseback, with his
belong-ings carried in a cart drawn by two long-suffering veldt ponies.
The white man who had been driving the cart had gone with despatches, so
before starting down from Matela's Drift to Joel's country it was
necessary to get a nigger man to drive the cart. The black police
recommended a fine strapping nigger who they said spoke English
perfectly, knew every-body, and would be of the greatest assistance in
getting through the disturbed districts. I engaged him at lOs a week and
his provisions, and started off in high feather, and it was not until we
had gone some miles that I found the new acquisition could not speak any
English. When I told him to take the horses out and give them a drink,
he said, "Inkoosibaas!" which means, "0 great white man!" This was a
very gratifying title, no doubt, but when I found it was his only answer
to every order he got, it was a rather serious business having a servant
who did not understand a word you said. However, the procession had to
go on, so we faced down through the Basuto country, prepared to
encounter Joel and any of his people with a stout heart.

It was a most wonderful relief to drive through that Basuto country
after having been so long at the war. The road ran down a sort of
undulating flat with the great mountain peaks, covered with snow,
towering upon either side of the plain. The flat was constantly
intersected by small creeks running into the river, and at each of these
creeks was a crossing so steep and rugged that it would have intimidated
a Cobb & Co.'s driver of the olden time. All scattered along the plain
or perched in on the side of the mountains were the little villages of
the Basutos, with here and there a stone and galvanised iron roofed
store, where some trader was located.

The Basutos themselves are a fine race, and poverty and sickness seem
unknown among them. Their lands are all cultivated on a communal system,
and they appear to yield enough to keep these simple people in comfort.
As one drives through the country crowds of horsemen are met along the
roads, all sitting well upright, their ponies ambling at a great rate.
It takes a little time to get used to the shock of finding that the
riders are all coal-black men. They always greet a stranger with the
deep-toned, "Ai marai," which is their form of, "Good day." The correct
answer to this is, "Ai," and even the smallest children call out a
friendly greeting as the traveller passes by their little flocks of
sheep or cattle.

These children have one peculiar sport. They form a long row and walk
across the veldt whistling in a shrill manner in imitation of a hawk.
This calls up the small brown mousing hawk, which is very common in
these localities, and when any mice or small birds run out before the
feet of the youngsters the hawk flying overhead pounces on its prey, the
children then rush forward and scare it with sticks till it drops the
capture, which they at once secure. In fact, they go hawking on foot,
using a wild hawk. It is an extraordinary sight, the long row of these
black imps, with their keen eyes glancing from side to side as they
tramp across the veldt whistling and shouting, while overhead flutters
their brown accomplice, waiting for any kind of prey to get up. Another
sport they have is to march in a row with their little playing assegais,
and with these to transfix any small animal or lizard that runs out from
in front of them.

Talking of assegais, the assegai as a war weapon is a ridiculous farce.
No nigger can throw an assegai far enough to do any harm, nor accurately
enough to hit anything less than a house. The old Boers used to fight
desperate battles with these, which are described by their historians as
terrible combats with thousands of naked savages, armed with the
destructive assegai. As a matter of fact the assegai is about as much to
be feared as the waddy or throwing stick of the Australian aboriginal,
and it is much less effective than the Australian spear when thrown with
a "womerah".

After passing through some of the villages, Joel's Kraal hove in sight.
Joel is a small prince in the Basuto country, and his village is on the
banks of the Caledon River. The first thing we met outside this village
was a number of children coming out of a missionary school. They came
out singing and dancing, that being part of their drill, but there did
not seem to be much spontaneous light-heartedness about it. It rather
resembled the efforts of the second row of the chorus when performing in
an opera bouffe. It had a studied look about it.

Passing the mission school, Joel's Kraal became unpleasantly close, the
said kraal consisting of about two acres of ground on the bank of the
river enclosed by a mud wall, the enclosure containing 50 or 60 small
red mud houses, each like a beehive in shape. Around the mud wall a few
waggons were drawn up, and behind the wall there stalked a large number
of majestic Basutos, each carrying a rifle, and obviously forming part
of Joel's bodyguard. These people made no sign of greeting, but the
villagers gave the customary loud, "Ai marai," and it was soon evident
that no danger was to be anticipated from Joel, even though he had
written and offered to join the Boers--while his villagers were
apparently not bothering their heads about either Joel or anything else
in the world.

A curious procession came past out of the mass of red-roofed houses; a
lot of clean-limbed, bronze-coloured Basuto women hurrying off to a
dancing festival up on the hills. Some of them were carrying boots in
their hands, intending no doubt to cut a great figure when the dances
began. Some had European dresses resplendent with tawdry ornaments, but
the general run had just a blanket wrapped round them. They are
square-built, sturdy, little women. They shave the head quite close, and
their brown faces and shaven heads stick out above the folds of the
blanket somewhat like the bald head of the vulture from out of his ring
of neck feathers. They all gave the Basuto good morning, and hurried on
their way, obviously very keen indeed on the day's enjoyment. Human
nature is very much the same all the world over, and these little
half-naked women off to their improvised ballroom were just as excited
as a society belle going to a civilised dance. Unfortunately time did
not allow of a visit to the dancing ground, but a single white trader,
resident in Joel's village, volunteered the information that Kaffir beer
formed no inconsiderable part of the attractions. We thought that
perhaps a man might buy a few "store" wives, and sell them as fats after
a treatment of Kaffir beer. The Basutos think a great deal of a fat
wife. The policeman explained the question to the others, who all
laughed loudly. It seemed to strike them as inexpressibly funny that a
man should think of selling a wife. Buying one was all right, but not
selling her. This plurality of wives is the great obstacle to missionary
work, as the natives stubbornly refuse to give up the wives that they
have paid good cows for. When the rinderpest was bad no one had any
cattle to buy wives with, so they evolved a system of buying wives by
promissory note. The buyer took the wife, and handed over to her father
a certain number of stones, daubed with white paint. Each stone
represented an animal, and as he managed to get hold of the cattle he
handed them over, and the stones were solemnly broken as each beast came
in. We were not told what happened if the stones were dishonoured--if
the husband failed to meet his engagements. Perhaps the lady went back
to her parents, or perhaps he asked for time from his creditors. The
subject would suit Gilbert for a comic opera--the old wife upbraiding
her husband with bringing home new wives while she was yet unpaid for.

After a good deal of talk, the policeman said that, if we liked, the
chief would send for some Kaffir beer, and, as we were quite agreeable,
we walked over to the village, while some of the party conversed
amicably with friends away up on the side of the mountain, their voices
rolling and echoing through the passes.

At the village we found a lot of little red earth houses, shaped like
circular beehives and covered with thatch. The wives of the Basutos,
each dressed in the inevitable blanket, were bustling about, grinding
mealies (Indian corn) on their mortars, or nursing their babies. The
whole place was very clean. Each chief has a compound or square walled
off with a mud wall, and inside this enclosure he builds a new house or
"rondavel" for each wife. An old chief will have quite a village. The
common people build their houses in some sort of order in a kind of
street, and round each house is a little mud wall. Inside the house is a
hard earth floor, and a few mats and blankets and gourds as furniture,
but nothing to sit down on. They use no tables, nor chairs, and all
hands sit on the ground. They make huge grass baskets to hold their
mealies, and these baskets are always about the doors of the houses. The
chief sat down at the door of his house and started sewing a basket
while waiting for the beer. The policeman told us that the beer would be
a shilling, so we had to pay for the entertainment. The beer was brought
in a huge gourd carried on the head of a lady, who walked down a
precipice with it without once putting her hands up to steady the gourd.
It was sour, thin stuff, but the Basutos drank about a wash-hand
basinful each, and all the time they talked about cattle. After a time
the name of Joel came up. Joel was the next chief further down the
river, and he had been fool enough to write to the Boers offering to
join them. Perhaps he thought they would give him more cattle than the
English. Anyhow, old Matela, the chief we were then entertaining, said
that he knew Joel was in great trouble because the English had got hold
of his letter to the Boers, and he expected Joel would be arrested. Joel
had turned nasty, and had called in all his retainers, and had made a
laager of his waggons, and had got all his assegais ready, and was
waiting for the British nation to come and arrest him. As I had to go
past Joel's camp next day I expected at last to see a real live Basuto
savage--not a cow-hunting, beer-drinking, old fraud like our then host;
and how I met Joel and Jonathan and saw their country must keep for
another article.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 December 1900


OF ALL the puzzles of the war, there is no greater puzzle than to find
out what was the real value of the cavalry. French's cavalry are
supposed to have done better work than any other arm of the service, and
yet we have an Australian cavalry officer who accompanied French's
troops stating his opinion that "the only place for the cavalry weapons
(sword, lance, and carbine) is at the bottom of the nearest well"; and
we have no less an authority than Conan Doyle saying that the lances and
swords should be put in museums. How are we to reconcile these
statements with the undoubted success of French's cavalry operations?

The cavalry are a class by themselves. The officers of other branches of
the army are more or less like each other, but there is nothing quite
like the cavalry. The cavalry officer is a man who must have money,
otherwise he can't live in a cavalry regiment; usually he has breeding
also, but the mere fact of his being an officer in a cavalry regiment
confers a secure, unassailable superiority, which admits of no question.
The cavalry officer fears no man. He has a light-hearted toleration of
all other branches of the service, a superior patronising way of looking
at them which makes them restive, and they all abuse the cavalry roundly
and pick holes in whatever they do; but then, what matter? They are not
cavalry themselves, and no amount of talk can make them cavalry, so it
is not of the slightest importance what they think. And now in regard to
what the cavalry did in the war. There are two kinds of reputation
--firstly, public reputation, which is gathered from the illustrated
papers and the music halls; the other is army reputation, which is based
on practical knowledge. In the eyes of the public the cavalry were the
heroes of the Transvaal campaign; in the eyes of the army they were the
rankest failures. And this requires a little explaining. The duties of
cavalry are to scout, to dismount and shoot if need be; and particularly
to harass a flying enemy, to get in the rear of his position, to charge
him when retiring, and to prevent his getting his guns and transport
away. With this latter object in view the cavalry soldier is armed and
trained for the work of fighting on horseback. That is the distinction
between cavalry and mounted infantry. The latter only use the horse as a
means of locomotion, and they only carry a rifle. The cavalry are
supposed to fight on horseback, to bear down with swords or lances, and
carry havoc into the ranks of the foe, and to have any hope of doing
this effectively they must be able to ride well, and to use their
weapons well. Every cavalry recruit is put through a severe course at a
riding school, and unless he shows possession of light hands and a good
seat on horseback he is rejected. The riding school is a hard course to
go through, and even the rank and file of our own "dashing Australian
horsemen" find themselves a bit troubled by it. What an outcry there was
when it was heard that the New South Wales Lancers were being put
through a course at the riding school. Fancy an Australian having
anything to learn in the way of riding! And yet the men themselves
admitted that the riding school test was too severe for most of them.
The result of this careful selection and training is that the cavalry
Tommy rides really well, a good firm seat and light hands being
universal among them. In fact, one does not realise how well they ride
till one sees them alongside mounted infantry. But for the loose movable
fighting of the South African campaign the cavalry equipment was
altogether ridiculous; all the army equipment was cumbersome, but
cavalry equipment was the worst. The saddle and gear weighed no less
than seven stone. Take, for instance, the equipment of a Lancer. He is
hung all over with weapons and gear like a Christmas tree; he has a
carbine swinging at one side of his horse, a sword flapping at the
other, a lance clutched in his hand, about 6 stone of dead weight gear
tied round his saddle, in the most inconvenient places, and a hard,
slippery, cavalry saddle under him, and he would indeed be a marvellous
horseman who could hurt anybody under these drawbacks. Just to help him
along in his cold world he carries a stock-in-trade about with him in
the shape of boot blacking, hoof pickers, horse brushes, extra shirts,
&c., which load the unfortunate horse down to the last possible stage of
exhaustion. So overloaded with gear is the Lancer that it takes a very
nice judgment when getting on his horse for the trooper to lift his leg
high enough to clear the saddle and carbine and other gear, and yet not
so high as to overbalance himself. When dismounted for rifle firing, one
man holds three of his mates' horses, and has four lances sticking out
all round him like a porcupine. If the Boers had only played the game
properly, and showed up in masses to be charged, as they should have
done, then no doubt our cavalry would have given them a frightful
cutting up; but the Boers used to scatter in all directions, and as they
went about twice as fast as our men, there wasn't much chance for the
cavalry to smash them at all. Of the few cavalry charges that took place
in the war, it is safe to characterise 90 per cent as utter fiascos. The
first was at Klipsdrift in French's march to Kimberley, where the 9th
and 16th Lancers charged some Boers across the open. A few of the Boers'
horses fell in the ant-bear holes, and the dismounted Boers and some of
their horses were killed with lances, but on the whole it was a failure.
The overworked, underfed cavalry horses could not get near the Boer
horses. At Poplar Grove, the 9th Lancers made a rush out towards some
Boers who were firing from the flank, but at once met such a hot fire
from the front and two sides that it was suicide to go on; and the 8th
Hussars and 7th Dragoon Guards had a small charge near the Vet River. In
this latter case some few of the rearmost Boers were taken and killed,
but those who were in advance got off their horses and poured in so hot
a fire that the pursuit had to be abandoned. The charge which resulted
in the death of the Earl of Airlie was a gallant performance by all
accounts, but did it pay? Did the number of Boers killed compensate for
the men we lost? Just consider that a charging squadron begins to lose
men at 2500 yards, and has to go on with tiring horses, and getting into
hotter and hotter fire without even seeing what they are charging at. No
troops in the world could go on at it. In the old days of massed troops
and muzzle-loading guns, a cavalry charge was a different matter. The
men got close to their enemies and went at full gallop knee to knee, and
a blood fever got hold of them; but in these days of open formation a
cavalry charge could go right through a firing line and back again, and
never touch a man. The cavalry, owing to their superior horsemanship,
their better training, and their having a better class of horses, did a
lot of work in the campaign, as mounted infantry could have done; they
fought often and well, dismounted, and did mounted infantry work. But
their swords and lances were of no practical use to them. It is of
course open to argument that, as the Boers had no cavalry we did not
need them, but in any other war, if the enemy had cavalry we must also
have cavalry to meet them in the event of their charging guns or a
convoy. It is suggested that cavalry might be wanted to repel cavalry,
and the sight of two cavalry regiments charging each other would no
doubt be a fine thing, and would command big prices in a cinematograph,
but it could only be done by arranging beforehand that the infantry or
mounted infantry should not interfere and spoil the show with their
rifle fire. If any infantry were lying round they would break up a
cavalry charge at 1000 yards, and the troops would never get near enough
to the cinematograph to be taken properly, and the film would be spoilt.
But it was not in the matter of failing to charge infantry that the
cavalry lost their army reputation. And by "army repu-tation" is not
meant the opinion of the "Mounted Foot", who were jealous, or of the
"real Foot", who were, as a rule, so far behind the cavalry that they
usually arrived after the Boers had been driven off, and because they
saw no fighting they said there had been no fight. By "army reputation"
is meant the opinion of those in high places; and it is an open secret
that in all operations after Cronje's surrender the cavalry work did not
satisfy the Field-Marshal. What they did was all right, but it was what
they left undone that brought them to grief. A non-military writer can
hardly venture to express an opinion on the subject of what they should
or should not have done; but it is best to quote the opinion of an
outside authority, one of the attaches--the Russian attaché, a cavalry
man himself. This is what he delivered as his opinion on the subject.

"Ze cavallaree 'ee 'ave no made charge in Sout' Afrique at all. What for
as 'ee no made charge? It is ze ideale country for ze cavallaree. If 'ee
not make charge 'ere zen 'ee never make charge anywheres, however--not
anywheres, however. Eet 'elps ze campagne, zee open plain, everywhere;
but 'ee no make charge. At Driefontein 'ee was sent round to ze back;
'ee go round nearly to ze back, and zen 'ee stop; 'ee stop two, three
hour. I see him myself, he stop. He ride up and down ze veldt three
hour. What for 'ee stop? What for 'ee not go on? And zen when ze Boers
retreat wit de waggon and de guns he is four, five miles off. His horses
zey cannot charge; he does nozzing. He come back, he say my horses are
not fed, I can not charge four, five miles; but why he not go more
early? At Poplar Grove 'ee does ze zame; 'ee ride round ze seven kopjes,
'ee see ze Boers in tousands, and, mon Dieu, 'ee stop again. 'Ee stay
two hours, and ze Boers get away ze guns and ze waggons again. Eet is
for ze cavallaree to go on; 'ee must not stop. One time you lose half
your men; but anosser time you take ze waggon, all ze guns, and 4000
prisoners. Ze English cavallaree 'ee 'as too much stop."

Whether our Russian friend in his criticisms is right it is for military
authorities to say; certainly at both Dreifontein and Poplar Grove a
demoralised and routed Boer army success-fully got their guns and
waggons away under the noses of the British cavalry. True, as the
Bulgarian says, the cavalry were four miles off when the retreat began,
but he says they had no right to be four miles off; they should have
pushed on earlier in the day, instead of going in a half-hearted way
about the veldt. The whole secret lies in the Bulgarian's words, "One
time you lose half your men." While generals were summarily
"stellenbosched" for losing men, it was not likely that any leader would
imperil his whole career by taking risks in sending cavalry on to meet
possibly a destructive rifle fire. General French had his reputation to
consider, and if he had attacked the fleeing Boers and not got their
guns, but had lost half his men, he would have been sent back to England
in disgrace. So far as the Boer war is concerned there was very little
true cavalry work done, and what was done did not pay; but in future
wars, though cavalry may never again have to charge into masses of men
nor into other cavalry, there will always remain the most useful of all
cavalry work, viz., to clinch a victory by dashing in upon and
absolutely wrecking a flying foe. A "victory" in South Africa meant
nothing, because the enemy simply retired to the next hill and started
all over again; but if men on lightly equipped horses could have been
thrown on them as they retired the Boer war would have been over in
March of last year.

The main thing would appear to be to lighten the equipment; and,
secondly, the officer leading the cavalry would have to be utterly
regardless of the men's lives. A cavalry regiment charging even a flying
and demoralised enemy would have to be prepared to do as the Bulgarian
suggested, "lose half its men", but if it brought the guns, waggons, and
supplies of the enemy to a halt it would still justify the existence of
the cavalry soldier.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 February 1901


AMONG THE staff of the Duke of Cornwall and York is Prince Alexander of
Teck, brother of the future Queen of England. This Prince, with his two
brothers, served in the South African war, and was for a time with the
Inniskilling Dragoons, a regiment to which the New South Wales Lancers
were attached. His elder brother--the present Duke of Teck--was in
charge of the remount department in the field, and the third brother was
for a time with the 10th Hussars. It might be expected that these young
officers, considering their relationship to the Royal family, would only
be allowed to do what might be called "ornamental soldiering"; but so
far as Alexander of Teck is concerned the New South Wales soldiers can
testify that he took his share of the work exactly the same as any other
officer. If it was his turn for patrol or outpost duty he was sent out
quite irrespective of whether the duty was specially dangerous or
otherwise. There was no favouritism shown in his case, and so far as
could be learnt, his brothers were treated in exactly the same way. The
old Duke of Teck, now dead, was a soldier who saw much active service, a
fine man, and undoubtedly a brave man, and the sons are all splendid
specimens of the young British officer. Alexander of Teck, our expected
visitor, is about twenty-eight years of age, tall and well set up, with
the swarthy complexion of a Spaniard. He quite won the hearts of the New
South Wales troopers with whom he was associated, and when he left the
Inniskillings to go to Mafeking, the men of the New South Wales squadron
turned out on their own initiative to give him a cheer on his
departure--a thing that was not known to happen to any other officer in
the campaign. While on the march he roughed it as much as anybody. He
and some other young officers shared a small cart, which carried their
belongings, i.e., their canvas sleeping valises, cooking pots, tinned
meat, &c., and if, as often happened, they were sent out on outpost duty
and got separated from their cart, he and the others were quite prepared
to roll a blanket round themselves and lie down on the wet ground among
the men without anything to eat. Not that anybody roughed it more than
could be helped. After a few weeks of experience, the business of
keeping touch with the carts was developed into a fine art and it was
quite a usual thing to hear men, while under hot fire, passing frenzied
questions back along the line, not as to how the fight was going, but,
"Are the carts up?" After a night or two on the South African veldt, in
the frost and bitterly cold wind whistling round the bleak kopjes, the
whereabouts of one's cart, with food and bedding, became a very
important matter. Sometimes the officers' carts of one squadron would be
"up", while those of the next squadron would be miles away, and when
this occurred the officers who had their carts used to lend blankets and
food to those who had none and if young Teck found himself cartless at
night he did not stand on his royal dignity or expect to have things
brought to him because he was a prince; no, he hustled round with the
rest to raise a spare blanket, or a horse rug to keep himself out of the
bitter cold, or the leg of a fowl or a half tin of bully beef to eat,
and when he had his goods at hand he was always ready to lend in his
turn. He had previously seen active service and is, in fact, very well
up in his profession. He has a fair share of humour, too. One day, near
Bloemfontein, a troop of Australian Horse were on outpost on a hill in
sight of the Boer position. The next hill was occupied by Teck with his
troop of Inniskillings, and when the Boers began to move about on their
hills the Australian Horse officer galloped over to Teck in a great
state of excitement, and asked for advice. He was only a young volunteer
officer, and felt the responsibility very keenly, and was anxious to get
some approval of the way he had placed the men, because if the men were
cut up he would be responsible. He was starting to explain how he had
placed them when Teck interrupted. "Tell each man to get behind a rock
and shoot for all he's worth; that's all you can do."

"Well, I've done that", said the Australian officer, "but what should I
do myself while the attack is on? What would you do if you were me?"

"I would lie flat on my face till the danger was over. Then, when you're
quite sure the Boers are running, get up and have a shot at them."

This sage advice was duly followed, with the best results. But on one
occasion with the New South Wales Lancers Teck got himself into a
serious position, and showed that he could stand fire as well as the
best. It was outside Kimberley, where a troop of Inniskillings and a
troop of New South Wales Lancers, the former under Teck, and the latter
under Lieutenant Heron, were acting in conjunction. The Boers were
holding a cluster of hills, and as they had good cover, and were keeping
up a hot fire, French's cavalry were feeling their way round the hills,
trying to get a position from which they could pour a fire into the
enemy. One or two hills were tried, and were found well occupied by an
entrenched enemy, and the Scots Greys lost 20 or 30 men in the process
of reconnoitring. The Lancers and Inniskillings squadron were moving
along the plain, skirting the hills, when an individual, who looked like
a common soldier, and a dirty specimen at that, came over to them at
full gallop, with his eyes bulging out of his head with excitement. He
hailed Teck and Heron, and screamed, "Come up here! Bring your men up
here! Up to this hill! It's all right, I'm a lootenant in 's Horse,
though you mightn't think so," he added, parenthetically looking at his
own ragged turnout. "Come on," he yelled, shaking with excitement, "I've
been up there, and there's no Boers there, an' you can shoot right into
the laager." Teck hesitated, but the stranger screamed, "Come on, come
on; don't lose the chance. It's a fine place to put the men; lots of
cover. Of course, don't come if you're frightened."

This settled it, and Teck took the responsibility of pushing the men up
to the hill as fast as possible. As soon as they arrived at the top of
the rise where the "good cover" was, they found themselves on a bare
exposed hill without any cover whatever. The Boers, who were not
supposed to be commanding the hill at all, at once directed a heavy fire
on it from two sides. Everybody had to lie as flat as possible while the
bullets whistled over, and to crown all, the "lootenant in ----'s Horse",
having led them into this trap, ran down the hill at top speed,
shouting, "Look out! Look out! They're there after all." As Lieutenant
Heron said afterwards, "There wasn't much inducement to look out when
every time you lifted your head you heard half a dozen bullets singing
around you." The two troops were kept there for a couple of hours,
losing men from time to time and firing when they saw anything to fire
at. The officers conversed in whispers, without lifting their heads off
the ground, and it was a ticklish question for young Teck, as he had
taken the men there and would have to answer for the consequences if he
lost a lot of them.

"I've got 'em here now," he said, "and it's more dangerous to shift them
than to stay here. We'll see it out," and sure enough after a while the
Boers suddenly withdrew to the northward, leaving our men to brush the
dust off themselves, and to search for the "lootenant in ----'s Horse,"
but that hero had made himself scarce, and the two troops returned to
camp with a few prisoners, which, by the way, were taken from them en
route by a superior officer, and brought into camp as his particular

The other brothers are very good soldiers and the extraordinary story
that one of the Tecks was responsible for the Sanna's Post disaster has
not the shadow of a foundation. The system of choosing officers only
from the wealthy classes--or rather of making the pay so poor and the
life so expensive that only wealthy men can go in for it--is undoubtedly
a failure. Many of the officers were not at all competent to lead men in
positions of danger, and a great outcry is often made against the
appointment of aristocratic officers to high commands. No doubt in many
cases these appointments savour too much of class privilege to find
favour in Australian eyes, but there are some good officers even among
the most influential. As one of the men said, "It's not the real swell
that's so bad; it's the 'alf and 'alf swell that treats the men like
dogs, and gets them that way that they won't follow him." And indeed
these young Tecks showed that it is quite possible for a man to be a
good soldier, even though he be a relation of Royalty.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 May 1901


One of the most important questions of the day is the amount of money to
be expended on our Federal Army. Nowadays the tendency is to cut down
all expenses of equipment and salaries of staff officers, and to rely
upon the "intuitive quickness" of our citizen soldiers.

Various well-meaning people have flooded the press with suggestions that
all we need to do is to give the men a rifle each and a few packets of
ammunition, and encourage them to shoot promiscuously about the country
till they learn to judge distance well and to aim accurately. After a
few weeks of this sort of practice the men are expected to be a
serviceable force of "self-trained experts", ready to take the field at
a moment's notice and to fight when required.

People are urging in all seriousness that no further training is needed,
and the Minister is promising to see that no "extravagance" in matters
military shall occur. If this programme is adhered to our prospects of
getting anything like value for the money spent in defence are small

It is true enough that riding and shooting are of more importance than
drill, for a fairly smart bushman can learn in a few days all the drill
required for active service, and the writers who urge that the men
should be allowed to train themselves in the bush instead of being
drilled on the parade ground are correct enough so far as their views
go. But there is a much more important matter than the training of the
men, and that is the training of the officers. In their pride at the
achievements of our troops in Africa, people are apt to forget that all
the commissariat, transport, horse supply, clothes supply and ammunition
supply work was done for us by the English officers--done badly enough,
some will say, but that is a matter of opinion; it is hard to have
everything up to concert pitch on active service, and those who sneer at
the army management of affairs should reflect in humble silence that in
New Zealand lately, nine hundred men were left absolutely starving in a
camp alongside a big city through some officer's blunder. Old soldiers
who fought in the New Zealand war against the Maoris will tell you that
in that campaign "everything broke down". The supplies, the ambulances,
the communications were all defective. There has hardly ever been a
fixed camp held in any colony but what some more or less important hitch
occurred in the arrangements. In one case the bread was left behind, in
another the water supply was ludicrously deficient, and some troops
actually left the camp and came into town because they could not get the
first essential for their comfort--water to live on. If these bungles
occur in a fixed camp with plenty of time to prepare beforehand and
within telephone distance of every conceivable requirement, it is hard
to guess what ghastly failures would occur on service. It is obvious
that if we wish to get an efficient service we must train the officers
so that they may be able to feed and move the men. It is an old saying
that an army "travels on its stomach". The boasted mobility of our bush
troops would be absolutely nullified unless the commissariat and supply
branches kept pace with them. The men must be fed, and to feed, clothe,
and transport large bodies of men is a very difficult matter, and a
matter not so much of theory as of practice. The practice of putting out
troops into standing camps and putting them through a few manoeuvres
every year is absurd and ridiculous. The men can learn the drill in a
few days, the riding and shooting they can teach themselves, but how are
the officers to learn their transport and commissariat work unless the
troops are moved about? An army that cannot move is like a snake with
its back broken; it is utterly powerless against a mobile foe. And any
army of "self-trained experts" would be an unfed, disorganised,
grumbling rabble if asked to move for a few days' journey under present
arrangements. Kipling's line might well be altered to read, "the
backbone of the army is the commissariat men". These matters are so
obvious that it becomes the duty of even the Labour party, opposed to
military expenditure as they are, to open their purse strings
sufficiently to allow our forces the necessary transport and
commissariat equipment and to give our officers the necessary

In the past the military votes have been starved down until there is now
no Australian colony that could put even its small handful of men into
the field properly equipped.

At the Duke of York's parade in Sydney there were 8000 men present, and
the New South Wales people were delighted to think that they could put
so many men into the field at such short notice. But if an alarm had
come that an enemy had landed at Eden, could we have marched those 8000
men down to the threatened spot? They could not have been got under way
at all for want of transport equipment. The self-constituted authorities
on military matters appear to think that men can fight without blankets,
without food, and without supplies of any kind. An unfed army is useless
for any purpose, and we need not go far to look for an example. The
Boers surrendered in thousands simply because they had no supply
organis-ation, and could not carry on for want of food. Their losses in
battle were very small, their skill as bushmen and riflemen was beyond
question, but their officers were untrained and unsupplied, even as ours
are, and what arrangements they were able to make broke down
appallingly. They lost half of their army through desertion from want of
food, and those who are fighting on are, as the cables tell us, in
terrible straits for want of supplies, and their resistance must fail as
soon as the farms are stripped of their contents. For another example
--in the American War of Independence Washington sent to the Congress a
message to say in effect: Don't send me any more men--send me boots and
food, and blankets and clothes, and supplies for the men that I have. He
took the field with a force largely composed of American frontiersmen,
whose fighting capacity was equal to that of any nation in the world,
but his officers were untrained and his political superiors grudged him
the money necessary for the war. The result was that his commissariat
transport arrangements broke down; his troops could be tracked in the
snow by the blood marks made by their bare, bleeding feet, and it was
only by superhuman effort that he kept his men together till bitter
experience taught the authorities to give him the necessary supplies to
carry on the war, and his officers bought by the loss and suffering of
the troops that knowledge which they should have had by training and

These are lessons by which we should profit. Not General Pole-Carew nor
Ian Hamilton, nor even Lord Roberts himself, could train our forces or
make an army of them unless the officers are trained in their work.

As for the system to be adopted, that must be left to the judgment of
the general selected by the Commonwealth; but whatever general comes and
whatever system he adopts, we must be prepared to spend enough money to
equip the men and to move them about. If General Pole-Carew comes over
here the first thing he will ask will be, "What is your transport and
equipment like?" and if our legislators are going to deny him a fairly
free hand in these matters they might just as well ship him back to
England at once and revert to the old slipshod penny wise and pound
foolish style which now characterises our military administration.

Carts and horses, and blankets and rations, and hospital stores and
ammunition, all require to be in first-class order before the troops can
move effectively. These things cost money, and the handling of them can
only be learnt by practice, and to deny our officers the chance of
practising is poor economy indeed. A good test of the efficiency of our
troops would be for us to march a large force by road to, say, Bombala,
and there meet the Melbourne forces who have marched there similarly on
their side. If this could be done without any serious breakdown then we
would know that we have a serviceable force. The standing camp busi-ness
is a mere farce: it is no use herding four or five thousand men where
they can ring up on a telephone for any supplies they may have
forgotten, and flattering ourselves that we could put those four or five
thousand men into the field if wanted. We are too apt to plume ourselves
on the number of men, and we do not look enough to their efficiency. It
is better to have a few men and let the officers learn their business
than to have a lot of men and leave the officers untrained. The extra
men could be got at a moment's notice--men unequalled in the world as
material for soldiers--and a few days would teach them all the drill
they require.

The author of The Absent-Minded War complains bitterly that the English
officers are not allowed to gain experience by actual marching of their
troops with supply waggons and all complete, and it is to this want of
practice that he ascribes all the bungles made in South Africa. The
pursuit of the Boers by the British troops was always hampered by the
antiquated transport system adopted. The officers were learning their
business as the war went on, and learning it at a terrible cost to the
nation in lives and money. We shall have no excuse if we make a similar
blunder in this country.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1901


HAVING WRITTEN of the merino sheep, it is time to treat of the other
great Australian delusion--the bullock. The true typical Australian
bullock--long-horned, sullen-eyed, stupid, and vindictive--is bred away
out in Queensland, on remote stations in the Never Never land, where the
men live on damper and beef exclusively, and occasionally eat a whole
bottle of hot pickles at a sitting, without other refreshment, simply to
satisfy their craving for vegetable food. Here, under the blazing tropic
sun, among flies and dust and loneliness, they struggle with the bullock
from year's end to year's end. It is not to be supposed that they take
up this kind of thing for fun. The man who worked cattle for sport would
wheel bricks for amuse-ment. The fact is, that on paper there is a
fortune in nearly every cattle station. At periodical intervals a boom
in cattle country arises in the cities, and syndicates are formed to
take up country and stock it with cattle. It looks so beautifully
simple--on paper. You get your country, thousands of miles of it, for
next to nothing. You buy your breeding herd for a ridiculously low
price, on long-dated bills. Your expenses consist of a manager, who
toils for a share of the profits, a couple of half-civilised white
stockmen at low wages, and a handful of blacks, who work harder for
opium-ash than for money. Plant costs nothing, improvements nothing--no
woolshed is needed, there are no shearers to pay, no carriage to market,
as the bullock walks himself down to his own doom. Granted that prices
are low, still it is obvious that there must be huge profits in the
business. So the cattle start away out to "the country", where they are
supposed to increase and multiply and enrich their owners. Alas! for
such hopes. There is a curse on cattle.

No one has ever yet been able to explain exactly how the deficit gets
in. Put the figures before the oldest and most experienced cattle man,
and he will fail to show why they don't work out right. And yet they
never do. No one ever yet made any money out of cattle. It is not
exactly the fault of the animals themselves. Sheep would sooner die than
live, and when one comes to think of the life they lead, one can easily
understand their preference for death; but cattle, if given half a
chance, will do their best to prolong existence. If they are running on
flooded country and are driven off when a flood comes, they will
probably walk back into the floodwater and get drowned as soon as their
owner turns his back. But, as a rule, they are not suicidal. They sort
themselves into their own mobs, they pick out the best bits of country,
they find their way to the water, they breed habitually, but it always
ends in the same way. The hand of fate is against them. If a drought
comes, they eat off all the grass near the water and have to travel far
out for a feed after getting a drink. Then they fall away and get weak,
and when they come down to drink they bog in the muddy waterholes and
die there. Or else Providence sends the pleuro, and the big strong
cattle slink away by themselves and stand under trees glaring savagely
till death comes. Or else the tick attacks them, and soon a fine, strong
beast is a miserable, shrunken, tottering wreck. Once cattle get really
low in condition, they are done for. Sheep can be shifted when their
pasture fails, but you can't shift cattle. They would die quicker on the
roads than on their own run. The only thing is to watch and pray for
rain. It always comes--after the cattle are dead. There is a curse on

As for describing the animals themselves, it would need volumes. Sheep
are all alike, but cattle are all different. The drovers on the road
with a mob of cattle get to know the habits and tendencies of each
particular bullock. The one-eyed bullock that always pokes away out to
the side of the mob, the inquisitive bullock that is always walking over
towards the drover as if he were going to speak to him, the agitator
bullock who is always trying to get up a stampede and prodding the
others with his horns. In poor Boake's "Where the Dead Men Lie" he says

Only the hand of night can free them,
 That's when the dead men fly;
Only the frightened cattle see them,
 See the dead men go by.
Cloven hoofs beating out one measure,
 Bidding the drovers know no leisure,
That's when the dead men take their pleasure,
 That's when the dead men fly.

Cattle on a camp see ghosts, sure enough--else, why is it that, when
hundreds of cattle are in camp at night, some standing, some lying
asleep, all facing different ways, in an instant, at some invisible
cause of alarm, the whole mob are on their feet and all racing in the
same direction, away from some unseen terror? It doesn't do to sneak
around cattle at night; it is better to whistle and sing, and let them
know somebody is there, than to surprise them by a noiseless appearance.
Anyone sneaking about frightens them, and the next thing is that they
charge right fair over the top of somebody on the opposite side of them,
and away into the darkness, frightening themselves more and more as they
go, smashing against trees and stumps, breaking legs and ribs, and
playing the dickens with themselves generally. Cattle "on the road" are
unaccountable animals; one cannot ever say for certain what they will
do, and in this respect they differ from sheep, whose movements can be
predicted to an absolute certainty.

The cow is the mother of the bullock. All the cussedness of the bovine
race is centred in the cow. In Australia the most opprobrious epithet
one can apply to a man or other object is "cow". In the whole range of a
bullock driver's vocabulary there is no word that expresses his
blistering scorn so well as "cow". To a species of feminine perversity,
a cow adds a fiendish ingenuity in making trouble. A quiet milking cow
will "plant" a young calf with such skill that ten stockmen cannot find
him in a one-mile paddock. While the search goes on the cow grazes
unconcernedly, as if she never had a calf in her life. By chance he may
be discovered and then one notices a curious thing. The very youngest
calf, the merest staggering Bob two days old, will lie as close as a
snake in cover if left in hiding by his mother. He will not move till
the old lady gives him orders to do so. One may handle him and pull him
about without getting a move out of him. Now, how does he learn this
trick? For a calf is a born fool if ever there was one. If sufficiently
persecuted he will at last sing out for help, and the cow will arrive
full gallop, charge at men and horses indiscriminately, and clear out
with her calf for the thickest timber in the most rugged part of the
creek bed, defying man to get her to the yard. The calf seconds her
efforts with great judgment. But if the calf can be separated from the
cow, he loses all his sense. He will follow a horse and rider up to the
yard thinking he is after his mother, though she will bellow
instructions to him from the rear. Then the guileless agriculturist,
having got the calf penned up, sets a dog on him, and his cries soon
fetch the old cow full run to his assistance. Once in the yard she is
roped, hauled into the bail, propped up with stocks to prevent her
throwing herself down, and milked by sheer brute force. After a while
she steadies down and will walk into the bail, knowing her turn and
behaving like a decent animal. Cows and calves have no idea of sound or
distance. If a cow is on the opposite side of the fence from her calf,
and wishes to communicate with him, she will put her head through the
fence, place her mouth against his ear, as if she were going to whisper,
and then utter a roar that can be heard two miles off. It would stun a
human being on the spot; but the calf thinks it over for a moment, and
then answers with a prolonged yell in the old cow's ear. So the dialogue
goes on for a half day without either party dropping dead.

There is an element of danger in dealing with cattle that makes men
smart and self-reliant and independent. Men who deal with sheep get
gloomy and morbid, and are for ever striking. Nobody ever heard of a
stockmen's strike. The true stockrider thinks himself just as good a man
as his boss, and inasmuch as "the boss" never makes any money out of
cattle, while the stockman gets his wages, the latter may be considered
as having the better position of the two. Sheep men like to think that
they know all about cattle, and could work them if they chose. A
Queensland drover once took a big mob from the Gulf right down through
New South Wales, selling various lots as he went, till at last he had to
deliver the remnant to a small sheep man near Braidwood who was buying a
few hundred cattle as a spec. By the time they arrived, the cattle had
been on the road eight months and were as quiet as milkers. But the
sheep man and his satellites came out, all riding stable-fed horses and
brandishing twenty-foot whips, determined to sell their lives dearly.
They galloped round the astonished cattle and cracked their whips and
spurred their horses till they roused the weary mob to a fair amount of
excitement. Then they started to cut out some that they wanted. The
horses rushed and pulled, and the whips maddened the cattle, and all was
turmoil and confusion. The Queensland drovers looked on amazed, sitting
on their patient leg-weary horses, resting on the saddles they had
occupied almost continuously for eight months. At last, seeing the hash
the sheep men were making of the cutting out, the drovers set to work,
and in a little while, without crack of whip or shout of voice, their
well-trained camp-horses had cut out the required number. These the head
drover delivered to the buyer, simply remarking, "Many's the time you
never cut out cattle."

And now, as I write, there rises a vision of a cattle camp on an open
plain, the blue sky overhead, the long grass rustling below, the great
mob of parti-coloured cattle eddying rest-lessly about, thrusting at
each other with their horns, and in among the sullen, half-savage
animals go the light, wiry stockriders, horse and man working together,
watchful, quick and resolute. A bullock is wanted that is right in among
a throng of others. Way! make way! and the horse and rider edge into the
restless sea of cattle, the man with his eye fixed on the selected
animal, the horse glancing eagerly about him trying to discover which is
the one wanted. He half starts towards a big bald-faced bullock, but is
at once checked. The press divides and the white steer that is wanted
scuttles along the edge of the mob, trying to force his way in again
among the others. Suddenly he and two or three others are momentarily
eddied out onto the outskirts of the mob, and in that second the
stockman dashes his horse in between them and the main body. The
lumbering beasts rush hurriedly hither and thither trying to return to
their comrades. Those not wanted are allowed to run back, but the white
steer finds, to his dismay, that wherever he turns the man and horse are
confronting him with the dreaded whip. He doubles and dodges and makes
feints to charge, but the horse antici-pates every movement and wheels
quicker than the bullock and blocks his return. At last the bullock sees
the outlying mob which he is required to join, and trots off to them
quite happy, while the horse and rider return to cut out another.

It is a pretty exhibition of skill and intelligence, doubly pleasant to
watch because of the undoubted interest that the horse takes in it.
Every animal has his own amount of brain power, and seems to take
pleasure from exercising it. A collie puppy will amuse himself by
yarding fowls into a stable, "working" them with a knowledge which was
instilled into his mother, and his mother's mother before him; and the
horses--big stupid creatures that they are, cursed with highly strung
nerves, and blessed with little sense--they are pathetically anxious to
do such work as they can understand. So they go into the cutting out
camp with a zest, and toil all day dodging the lumbering bullocks out of
the mob; and the moment that a bad rider gets on them and begins to haul
their mouths about, their nerves overcome them, they get awkward and
frightened, and a horse that is a crack camp horse in one man's hands is
a hopeless brute in the hands of another.

Which reminds me that, having dealt with the sheep and the bullock by
the grace of the editor, I will someday write a treatise on the 'orse.
It will be a labour of love.

The Bulletin, 7 December 1901



I ARRIVED in London on the evening of the record fog; the whole city was
choking in a kind of yellow gloom, out of which the whistles of the bus
conductors and the shouts of cabmen rose like the din of fiends in a pit
of torment. The theatres nearly all closed their doors. Trafalgar Square
was full of buses all night; buses that had failed to make their way
home, and simply pulled up and waited for daylight, with their
passengers huddled inside; the cabmen wouldn't even try to take people
home--a five-pound note was vainly offered by one man for a drive of
half an hour--what would have been half an hour's drive if there had
been any light, or even any decent sort of darkness to drive by; but
this awful yellow shroud choked everything; and yet, talking it over
with an English bus driver next morning he said with the greatest pride,
"Ah! You don't see fogs like that in no other part of the world!" There
is a beautiful serene self-complacency about these people that one can
never sufficiently admire. We were moving up the Strand in a stream of
traffic, doing about four miles an hour, halted every now and again by
policemen, the old well-trained bus horses picking their way along like
two well-regulated machines; and the busman said to me with conscious
superiority, "Ah! You don't see drivin' like this in no other part of
the world!" I thought of various little bits of driving that I had seen
some of Cobb and Co.'s men do on dark nights with unbroken horses in
very broken country; but I didn't try to tell the busman about them.

What do they understand?
Beefy face and grubby 'and.

He went on placidly, "Ah, London for me; all the luxuries of the world
come to London; the best of everythink's good enough for us; and it's a
healthy place too. Look at me. I'm past fifty, and I'm sixteen hours a
day on this bus."

I thought he must have a lot of time to enjoy luxuries.


Public affairs here are conducted on quite a different basis from ours;
here, a political career, like the army, is a matter for the
"classes"--wealthy or respectable--and the public don't bother
themselves much about the politicians, and the latter certainly don't
bother themselves at all about the public. To give an example. The
Buller affair is just now making as much commotion as anything can make
in this vast wilderness. The papers and records dealing with Buller are
all known to be at the War Office, and the whole question could be
settled in five minutes. The public ask--at least, they don't ask really
because they are too apathetic, but we would expect them to ask--(1) Did
Buller make blunders in Africa sufficient to justify his recall? (2) If
so, why was he appointed to command the First Army Corps? (3) Being so
appointed, why was he dismissed?

I was talking this over with an English gentleman interested in
political matters and having considerable knowledge of affairs. He said,
"Of course we know, and the newspapers know, all the facts about Buller,
and the papers can be seen by us, but not officially. The Ministry have
thought it better not to publish them. If they do publish them--" and he
left it to be inferred that things would be very bad for Buller. I said,
"Why don't the public insist on their publishing them?" I saw a hundred
thousand people in Hyde Park--certainly most of them had only gone there
for what is to them a day's sport in the country--to go into Hyde Park
and boohoo at the mention of Lord Roberts--but still they were there,
and the press are trying to raise a clamour about Buller, and the music
hall singers are getting great applause for "extra verses" about Buller,
and yet no one knows in the least how the affair really stands. He said,
with an air of settling the matter, "But I told you the Ministry don't
think it worthwhile to publish the papers."


"Well," I said, "in Australia, if anything as important as this
occurred, there would be a dozen members of Parliament who would go and
demand the papers, and would tell their constituents what was the truth.
There would be a member on every step of the War Office stairs waiting
till it opened in the morning and a howling crowd of their constituents

After hearing him, and seeing a few things for myself, I began to
realise how it was that the favouritism and contemptuous disregard for
public interest that we constantly saw in Africa could go unremarked and
unchecked. It appears to be nobody's business to interpose. England and
Australia are at the two extremes in political matters. Here a general
may half wreck an Empire and no one does anything; with us if a sergeant
of Volunteers is disrated for drunkenness there is a Labour member to
demand a special committee of the House to inquire into it. Those are
the two systems, and each has its drawbacks. You pay your money and
don't have any choice.

I went to the War Office, the centre of public indifference in London
just now (you can't say public interest, because there is no public
interest that one can see); one would expect to find it besieged by a
crowd of people, considering that the war is in full swing; one would
expect to find inventors with new explosives; colonels with new schemes
to end the war; politicians with blunt axes that wanted grinding.
Instead of that a peaceful, tranquil calm rested over the place. I
appeared to be the only visitor they had that day. Truly, it is an
amazing country.


If one knows where to go and look for them London holds a fair number of
Australians, and curiously enough they are nearly all engaged in music,
literature, or art of some sort. Are we an artistic nation? One would be
forced to that conclusion by visiting the artistic circles here. In
other circles it is the greatest rarity to meet an Australian; in these
circles they abound, and all appear to do fairly well. Our artists come
over and grimly set to work at any work they can get at any rate of pay
they can command--a proceeding that does not commend itself to the
"established" artists, who are getting their ten or twenty pounds a page
for inferior work--work that sells because of the name and not because
of its merit. By and by the Australian works up, till he, too, gets his
ten or twenty pounds a page. The same with the singers. The girls come
over here and go into humble little lodgings and work hard--oh, so
hard--on the few pounds of capital that their friends have got together
for them. They take all sorts of small concert engagements; and before
long they always seem to drop into some steady work, and one
characteristic thing is that they always help each other. Melba, Ada
Crossley, Florence Schmidt, and the others who have succeeded are always
ready to give a hand to their countrywomen who have only started to make
their way; and the same is the case with the artists. In fact, all our
national representatives who are doing well them-selves are not disposed
to forget others. But none of them like the life here, the terrifically
hard work, the impossibility of getting any exercise, fresh air, or

Amy Castles' debut was a great Australian function, but her friends
rather made a mistake in "packing" the hall and making it apparent that
the "success" and "enthusiasm" were all arranged beforehand. The general
public rather resented it. The girl's singing is wonderful, and at
another concert, when she sang just before a leading concert soprano
well known in London, the contrast in the two performances was all in
Amy Castles' favour. The other girl had to strive visibly for her high
notes, but Amy Castles just simply opened her mouth and the notes
came--a regular flood of melody, with the impression of great reserve
power behind it--which is such a charm in a singer.


That is one of the greatest fascinations of London life--the fact that
everyone has a chance, for all are treated alike with indifference, and
there is no royal road to a success. Kubelik the violinist came here an
unknown foreigner, and played at a cheap concert as a start. Down in
Australia we are apt to read inflated cablegrams, and get an undue idea
of our own importance; the debut of an Australian singer is not an
important event. The singers of all nations "debut" here at the rate of
about four a day; the night before Amy Castles there appeared a new
Russian singer, and the night after an Austrian princess made her first
(and, it is whispered, probably her last) appearance on a concert
platform. They fall into London like hail into a pond, and one debutante
more or less makes just about as much difference as one hailstone more
or less. Our Australian view of it is rather like that of an old
back-block friend of mine, a butcher up Walgett way, who sent his son
down to Sydney at the time of the Jubilee celebration. When the hopeful
came back--after seeing the crowds and the festivities, mostly from the
top of a bus--the old man said with great complacency, "Well, Bill, what
did they think of yer in Sydney? I suppose they were all talkin' about
yer?" And Bill was silent.

I have never seen more than a few lines of Australian news in any paper,
and very rarely does any at all appear. Australia is the least known
place in the world here; the London press are beginning to take some
interest in it now, mainly because of the visit of the Prince and
Princess of Wales.

We get good fun out of meeting men from other parts of the world
sometimes; each gets telling the other about the place he comes from,
and before long each tries to outdo the other in stories. The latest is
that an Australian and an Indian met at a club, and the talk was on
grass. "Grass? my dear fellow," said the Indian, "I've positively seen
grass so high and thick that the elephants couldn't force their way
through it. Positively, couldn't get along, I assure you!" The
Australian drew at his pipe for one second, and then said in a hushed
voice, "Would you mind changing the subject? Ever since I was out in the
Territory" (pause) "and a blade of grass fell on a friend of mine and
killed him--I hate talking about grass."

The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 1902


OF ALL the generals at the war none commanded more personal loyalty from
all who served under him than did Lord Methuen. He was a fighting man in
every inch of his 6 feet 3 inches of height; and it is the irony of fate
that he, who always pushed on and pursued the enemy and took risks and
made dashing marches, should be humiliated, while stay-at-home generals,
who would not move a yard without supports, and who never did any good
in the war, are able to pose as "successful generals".

He had been a great athlete and boxer in his day, and was "too fond of a
fight", if such an expression can be used about a general. In the early
part of the war he sent his division remorselessly against the kopjes of
Belmont and Grasspan, and attacked the trenches in the Modder River.
Then came his great reverse of Magersfontein. In all the earlier fights
his men had carried the positions by brilliant dash; here, owing to
coming unexpectedly on the trenches in the dark, the brigade were
decimated before they had time to make their rush. The result is ancient
history by now, but if the ground had been properly scouted, the
disaster could not have occurred.

After this Lord Roberts superseded Lord Methuen in direct command, and
the latter idled away some weeks on the banks of the Modder--a general
without an army. The army under Lord Roberts had gone on up the Modder
River after the flying Cronje, and nothing was left at Modder River
station but a mushroom forest of empty tents. Among these Methuen had
his camp, with just his own personal staff round him. Here he attended
to all detail work of the lines of communication, while his fate as a
soldier hung in the balance. Lord Roberts found that he could not do
without him, and restored him to command of a division.

With this division he was mainly engaged in pursuit of De Wet; time and
again he pushed his division along with worn-out horses and sleepless
men, only to find that through some want of co-operation on the part of
other columns the enemy had slipped through a gap and got away. The
severest disappointment he ever encountered was when he chased De Wet
for days, fighting every day, up to the passes at Oliphant's Nek. The
pursuing forces were so exhausted that they could scarcely crawl along,
and De Wet was abandoning waggons, guns, and horses, all along the
route. His capture seemed certain, as the passes were all held against
him by British troops, but by some awful blunder the Nek was vacated a
few hours before De Wet's vanguard arrived. Army report ascribed this
fiasco to the versatile Baden-Powell, but the truth of the rumour will
never be known till the sea gives up its dead--or until the despatches
are all published. On those forced marches Lord Methuen would start the
column away and then walk right through it--a gaunt old figure striding
along at the head of his staff--while his saddled horse was led in
readiness behind him. Fatigue he never seemed to know, though he was
nearly sixty years of age. He would travel his fifteen or twenty miles a
day on foot, never seeming weary, and his quickness of decision never
seemed to falter. The moment that his division came in touch with the
enemy his mind was made up. Certainly he was an expensive General, for
he would throw away men's lives rather than fail in his plans. But he
also was expensive to the enemy on many occasions.

In his dealings with those under him he was always courteous, and
Methuen's division was always a happy family, unlike some other commands
in which there arose friction. It was this sense of personal attachment
to their leader that made all his subordinates do their utmost to carry
out his wishes. He had many Australians under him, and had a very high
opinion of them as soldiers. He always showed extreme care in choosing a
camp and in making a country safe before he marched through it, but his
troops dwindled in number down to about 1,000 men, and he had a very
dangerous district to patrol, and the watchful Delarey always on the
alert to swoop down on him. Methuen scored off Delarey more than once,
taking on one occasion practically the whole of the Boer general's
waggons, but now the fortune of war has thrown the English general into
the power of his enemy. The meagre details to hand do not give any idea
how the disaster occurred. Those who know Methuen best are very sure
that it has not been through carelessness on his part. The Boer
prisoners often stated that they were always trying to surprise Methuen,
but could never manage it. It has been managed at last, and Methuen has
met his Waterloo. But it is almost better to have put up his record of
unwearied fighting and marching, even though it ended in a mishap, than
to have succeeded by never doing anything.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 1902


As THE traveller approaches any bush township he is sure to meet, at
some distance from the main town, a lonely public house waiting by the
roadside to give him welcome. Thirsty (miscalled Thursday) Island is the
outlying pub of Australia.

As the China and British-India steamers arrive from the north the first
place they come to is Thirsty Island, sitting like a sentinel at the
gate of the Torres Straits. The new chums on the steamers see a fleet of
white-sailed pearling luggers, a long pier clustered with a hybrid crowd
of every colour, caste and creed under Heaven, and back of it all a
little galvanised iron town shining in the sun. For nine months of the
year a crisp, cool south-east wind blows: the snow-white beach is
splashed with spray and dotted with the picturesque figures of Japanese
divers and South Sea Island boatmen. Coconut palms line the roads by the
beach, and back of the town are the barracks and a fort nestled in among
the trees on the hillside. Thirsty Island is a nice place--to look at.

When the vessel makes fast, the Thirsty Islanders come down to greet the
newcomers and give them their welcome to Australia. The new chums are
inclined to patronise these poor outlying people, who apparently are
such simple folk. Fresh from the iniquities of the China coast cocktail
and the unhallowed orgies of the Sourabaya Club, the new chums think
that they have little to learn in the way of drink, and that, at any
rate, they haven't come all the way to Thursday Island to be taught
anything. Poor new chums! Little do they know the kind of people they
are up against.

The following description of a night at Thirsty Island is taken verbatim
from a new chum's notebook.

"Passed Proudfoot shoal and arrived at Thursday Island. First sight of
Australia. Lot of men came aboard, all called Captain. They are all
pearl fishers or pilots, not a bit like bushmen as I expected. When they
came aboard they divided into parties. Some invaded the Captain's cabin;
others sat in the smoking room; the rest crowded into the saloon. They
talked to the passengers about the Boer War, and told us about pearls
worth £1,000 that had been found lately. One captain pulled a handful of
loose pearls out of a jar and handed them round in a casual way for us
to look at. The stewards opened drinks and we all sat down for a drink
and a smoke. I spoke to one captain--an oldish man--and he grinned
amiably, but did not answer. Another captain leaned over to me and said,
'Don't take any notice of him, he's been boozed all this week.'
Conversation and drink became general. The night was very hot and close,
and some of the passengers seemed to be taking more than was good for
them. A kind of contagious thirst spread round the ship, and before long
the stewards and firemen were at it. The saloon became an inferno of
drink and sweat and tobacco smoke. Perfect strangers were talking to
each other at the top of their voices. Young MacTavish, who is in a
crack English regiment, was asking the captain of a pearling lugger
whether he didn't know Talbot de Cholmondeley in the Blues, and the
pearler said very likely he had met 'em, and no doubt he'd remember
their faces if he saw them, but he never could remember names. Another
passenger--a Jew--was trying to buy some pearls cheap from the captains,
but the more the captains drank the less anxious they became to talk
about pearls. The night wore on, and still the drinks circulated. Young
MacTavish slept profoundly. One passenger gave his steward a sovereign,
as he was leaving the ship, and in half an hour the steward was carried
to his berth in a fit--the fit being alcoholic in its origin. Another
steward was observed openly drinking the passengers' whisky. When
accused, he didn't even attempt to defend himself--the great Thursday
Island thirst seemed to have communicated itself to everyone on board,
and he simply had to drink. About three in the morning a tour of the
ship disclosed the following state of affairs: captains' room full of
captains gravely and solemnly tight; smoking room empty, except for the
inanimate form of the captain who had been boozed all the week, and who
was now sleeping peacefully with his feet on the sofa and his head on
the floor. The saloon full of captains and passengers--the latter mostly
in a state of collapse or laughing and singing in a delirium of drink;
the rails lined with firemen who had business over the side; stewards
ditto; then at last the Thursday Islanders departed, unsteadily, but
still on their feet, leaving a demoralised ship behind them. And young
MacTavish, who has seen many messroom drunks, staggered to his berth,
saying, 'My God! Is all Australia like this place?'"

When no ships arrive, the Islanders just drop into the pubs, as a matter
of routine, for their usual evening soak. They drink weird compounds
sometimes--horehound beer, known as "lady dog", and things like that.
About two in the morning they go home speechless, but still able to
travel. It is very rarely that any Islander gets helplessly drunk, but
strangers generally have to be put to bed.

The Japanese on the island are a strong faction. They have a club of
their own, and lately held a dinner to mark the death of one of their
members. It seems he was shrewdly suspected of having tried to drown
another member by cutting his air pipe, so, when he died, the club
celebrated the event. The Japanese are not looked upon with favour by
the white islanders. They send their money to Japan--thousands of pounds
go through this little office in a year, in money orders--and so they
are not "good for trade". The Manila men and kanakas and Torres Strait
Islanders, on the other hand, bring all the money that they do not spend
on the pearling schooners to the island, and "blow it in", like men.
They knife each other sometimes, and now and again they have to be run
in wholesale, but they are "good for trade". The local lock-up has a
record of eighteen drunks being run in in seven minutes. They weren't
taken along in carriages and four, either; they were dragged along by
the scruff of the neck mostly. Billy Malkeela, the South Sea diver,
summed up the Japanese question--"Seems to me dis Islan' soon b'long
Japanee altogedder. One time pa-lenty rickatta [plenty regatta], all
same Isle o' Wight. Now no more rickatta. All money go Japan!"

An English new chum made his appearance here lately--a most undefeated
sportsman. He was put down in a diving dress in about eight feet of
water, where he bubbled and struggled about in great style. Suddenly he
turned and made a rush for the beach and an ebony wit suggested that he
was going up to see the diver's wife. He made for the foot of a tree,
and was trying to climb it under the impression that he was still at the
bottom of the ocean, when he was hauled in by the life line. The
pearlers thought to get some fun out of him by giving him an oyster to
open in which they had previously planted a pearl; he never saw the
pearl and threw the oyster into the scuppers with the rest, and the
pearlers had to go down on all fours and grope for that pearl among the
stinking oysters. It was funny--but not in the way they had intended.

The pearlers go out in schooners called floating stations (their enemies
call them floating public houses), and no man knows what hospitality is
till he has been a guest on a pearling schooner. They carry it to
extremes sometimes. Some pearlers were out in a lugger, and were passing
by one of these schooners. They determined not to go on board, as it was
late, and they were in a hurry. The captain of the schooner went below
and got his rifle and put two bullets through their foresail. Then they
put the helm down and went aboard; it was an invitation almost
equivalent to a royal command. They felt heartily ashamed of themselves
as they slunk up on deck, and the captain of the schooner eyed them
reproachfully. "I couldn't let you disgrace yourselves by passing my
schooner," he said, "but if it ever happens again I'll fire at the deck.
A man that would pass a schooner in broad daylight is better dead."

There is a fort and garrison at Thirsty Island but they are not needed.
If an invading fleet comes this way it should be encouraged by every
possible means to land at the island; then the heat, the thirst, the
horehound beer, and the Islanders may be trusted to do the rest.

The Bulletin, 5 April 1902

A Personal Sketch

The photograph shows the late Lieutenant Morant, taken while boxing with
a friend on a station away out in the Bourke district. The photograph is
characteristic of the man and of the life he led. He was an ardent
devotee of sport. From fox hunting to riding at shows, there was nothing
in the way of sport that Morant would not tackle; all his life he feared
nothing but hard work--or rather sustained steady work, because the
hardships he went through to avoid working were much more formidable
than the work itself would have been. An Englishman by birth, he was an
excellent rough rider, and when he was young, with a nerve unshaken, he
was a first-class horse breaker and a good man to teach a young horse to
jump fences. Morant lived in the bush the curious nomadic life of the
Ishmaelite, the ne'er-do-well, of whom there are still many to be found
about north Queensland, but who are very rare now in the settled
districts: droughts and overdrafts have hardened the squatters' hearts
and they are no longer content to board and lodge indefinitely the
scapegrace who claims their hospitality; even yet in Queensland it is
quite common for a young fellow to ride up to a station with all his
worldly goods on a packhorse and let his horses go in the paddock and
stay for months, joining in the work of the station, but not getting any
pay--except a pound or two by way of loan from the "boss" now and
again--and leaving at last to go on a droving trip; but in New South
Wales the type is practically extinct. Morant was always popular for his
dash and courage, and he would travel miles to obtain the kudos of
riding a really dangerous horse. He revelled in excitement and boon
companionship, and used to weary of the monotony of the bush and would
constantly come to town to "see life"; as he had no money, and no means
of earning any beyond a few pounds gained by very fitful work with his
pen, these trips involved borrowings and difficulties that would have
driven differently constituted men out of their minds. But Morant used
to manage to keep his place among his friends--and they were many--but
how he managed it was always a problem. Such then, was his life--hard
and dangerous labour in the bush, given for nothing to avoid having to
work, flashes of enjoyment in town so dearly bought that they were
worthless. In character he was kindhearted and good-natured to the last
degree, an enemy to no man but himself. Money he never valued at its
true worth; he was a spendthrift and an idler, quick to borrow and slow
to pay--as many literary and other Bohemians have been from time
immemorial. He would buy a young colt on credit, and ride him till he
had knocked the nonsense out of him, and would then sell him and spend
the proceeds--instead of paying his debts--in a visit to an orchestral
concert or in the expenses incident to a day's hunting. He never saved a
penny in his life, and the idea that he would take or order the taking
of the life of an unarmed man for the sake of gain is utterly
inconsistent with every trait of his character. Those who knew him best
say that he would sooner have given a sick Boer the coat off his back
than shot him for any money--especially Transvaal paper money--that he
might have about him. Morant had one peculiarity, which perhaps arose
from his literary propensities--he was always very untidy in his dress;
and though he claimed to be the descendant of a leading English family
he never affected the "swell" in his manner, and he never tried to dress
himself up to act the part of the well-connected "adventurer". Such as
he was, he was the same to all men. With a good commander over him he
might have made a fine soldier. As it turned out he got into exactly the
worst company that a man of his temperament could have met--it was
always so with him. He gambled with his chances all through life, and
the cards ran against him. What is it that such men lack--just a touch
of determination, or of caution, maybe--to turn their lives from
failures to successes? His death was consistent with his life, for
though he died as a criminal he died a brave man facing the rifles with
his eyes unbandaged. For him Gordon's lines would make a fitting

An aptitude to mar and break
What others diligently make
 That was the best and worst of him.
Wise, with the cunning of the snake;
Brave, with the sea-wolf's courage grim;
 Dying hard and dumb, torn limb from limb.

The Sydney Mail, 12 April 1902

A Show Ring Sketch

THE SCENE is an Australian country show ring--a circular enclosure of
about four acres extent--with a spiked batten fence round it, and a
listless crowd of back-country settlers hanging around the fence. Back
of these there are the sheds for produce, and the machinery sections,
where steam threshers and earth scoops are humming, and buzzing, and
thundering unnoticed. Crowds of sightseers wander along the cattle
stalls and gape at the fat bullocks; side shows are flourishing, a blasé
goose is drawing marbles out of a tin canister, and a boxing showman is
showing his muscles outside his tent while his partner urges the youth
of the district to come in and be thumped for the edification of the

Suddenly a gate opens at the end of the show ring, and horses, cattle,
dogs, vehicles, motor cars, and bicyclists crowd into the arena. It is
called a general parade, but it might better be described as general

Trotting horses and ponies, in harness, go whirling round the ring,
every horse and every driver fully certain that every eye is fixed on
them; the horses--the vainest creatures in the world--arch their necks,
and lift their feet up, whizzing past in bewildering succession, till
the onlookers get giddy at the constant thud, thud, thud of the hoofs
and the rustle of the wheels.

Inside the whirling circle of vehicles, blood stallions are standing on
their hind legs, and screaming defiance at all corners; great
shaggy-fronted bulls, with dull vindictive eyes, pace along, looking as
though they were trying to remember who it was that struck them last. A
showground bull always seems to be nursing a grievance.

Mixed up with the stallions and bulls are dogs and donkeys, the dogs
being led by attend-ants, who are apparently selected on the principle
that the larger the dog, the smaller the custodian should be, while the
donkeys are the only creatures absolutely unmoved by their surroundings,
for they sleep peaceably as they walk along, occasionally waking up to
utter melodious hoots.

In the centre of the ring a few lady riders, stern-featured women for
the most part, are being "judged" by a trembling official, who dares not
look any of them in the face, but hurriedly and apologetically examines
the horses and saddles, whispers his award to the stewards, and runs at
top speed to the official stand, which he reaches in safety just as the
award is made known to the competitors.

The defeated ladies immediately begin to "perform," i.e., to ask the
universe at large whether anyone ever heard the like of that! But the
stewards slip away like shadows, and they are left "performing" to empty
benches, so they ride haughtily round the ring, glaring defiance at the

All the time that the parade is going on, stewards and committee men are
wandering about among the competitors trying to find the animals to be
judged. The clerk of the ring--a huge man mounted on a small
cob--gallops about, roaring out in a voice like a bull: "This way for
the fourteen-stone 'acks! Come on, you twelve-'and ponies!" and by
degrees various classes get judged, and disperse grumbling. Then the
bulls begin to file out with their grievances still unsettled, the lady
riders are persuaded to withdraw, and the clerk of the ring sends a
sonorous bellow across the ground: "Where's the jumpin' judges?"

From the official stand comes a brisk, dark-faced, wiry little man; he
has been a steeple-chase rider and a trainer in his time; long
experience of that tricky animal, the horse, has made him reserved and
slow to express an opinion; he mounts the table, and produces a
notebook; from the bar of the booth comes a large, hairy, red-faced man,
a man whose face shows absolute self-content. He is a noted show judge,
because he refuses, as a rule, to listen to anybody else's opinion, and
when he does listen to it, he scornfully contradicts it, as a matter of
course. The third judge is a local squatter, who has never judged
before, and is overwhelmed with a sense of his own importance.

They seat themselves on a raised platform in the centre of the ring, and
hold consultation. The small dark man produces his notebook.

"I always keep a scale of points," he says. "Give 'em so many points for
each fence. Then give 'em so many for make, shape, and quality, and so
many for the way they jump."

The fat man looks infinite contempt. "I never want any scale of points,"
he says. "One look at the 'orses is enough for me. A man that judges by
points ain't a judge at all, I reckon. What do you think?" he goes on,
turning to the squatter. "Do you use points?"

"Never," says the squatter, firmly; which, as he has never judged before
in his life, is not at all surprising.

"Well, we'll each go our own way," says the little man. "I'll keep
points. Send 'em in."

"Number one: Conductor!" roars the ring steward in a voice like thunder,
and a long-legged grey horse comes trotting into the ring and sidles
about uneasily. His rider points him for the first jump, and goes at it
at a terrific pace. Nearing the fence the horse makes a wild spring, and
clears it by feet, while the crowd yell applause; at the second jump he
races right close under the obstacle, props dead, and rises in the air
with a leap like a goat, while the crowd yell their delight again, and
say, "My oath! Ain't he clever?" At the third fence he shifts about
uneasily as he comes near it and finally darts at it at an angle,
clearing about thirty feet quite unnecessarily, and again the hurricane
of cheers breaks out. "Don't he fly 'em?" says one man, waving his hat.
At the last fence he makes his spring yards too soon, and, while his
forelegs get over all right, his hind legs drop on the rail with a
sounding rap, and he leaves a little tuft of hair sticking in the fence.

"I like to see 'em feel their fences," says the fat man. "I had a bay
'orse once, and he felt every fence ever he jumped; shows their

"I think he'll feel that last one for awhile," says the little dark man.
"He hit it pretty hard. What's this now?"

"Number two: Homeward Bound!" And an old solid chestnut horse comes out,
and canters up to each jump, clearing them coolly and methodically,
always making his spring at the correct distance from the fence. The
crowd are not struck by the performance, and the fat man says, "No
pace!" but surreptitiously makes two strokes to indicate number two on
the cuff of his shirt.

"Number eleven: Spite!" A leggy, weedy chestnut brute, half racehorse,
half nondescript, ridden by a terrified amateur, who goes at the fence
with a white set face. The horse races up to the fence, and stops dead,
among the jeers of the crowd. The rider lets daylight into him with his
spurs, and rushes him at the fence again, and this time he gets over.

Round he goes, clouting some fences with his front legs, others with his
hind legs. The crowd jeer, but the fat man, from a sheer spirit of
opposition, says, "That would be a good horse if he was rode better."
And the squatter says, "Yes, he belongs to a young feller just near me.
I've seen him jump splendidly out in the bush, over brush fences."

The little dark man says nothing, but makes a note in his book.

"Number twelve: Gaslight!" "Now, you'll see a horse," says the fat man.
"I've judged this 'orse in twenty different shows, and gave him first
prize every time!"

Gaslight turns out to be a fiddle-headed, heavy-shouldered brute, whose
long experience of jumping in shows where they give points for pace, as
if the affair were a steeplechase, has taught him to get the business
over as quickly as he can. He goes thundering round the ring, pulling
double, and standing off his fences in a style that would infallibly
bring him to grief if following hounds across roads or through broken

"Now," says the fat man, "that's a 'unter, that is. What I say is, when
you come to judge at a show, pick out the 'orse that you would soonest
be on if Ned Kelly was after you, and there you have the best 'unter."
The little man makes no reply, but makes his usual scrawl in the book,
while the squatter hastens to agree with the fat man. "I like to see a
bit of pace myself," he ventures to remark.

The fat man sits on him heavily. "You don't call that pace, do you?" he
says. "He was only going dead slow."

Various other competitors come in and do their turn round the ring, some
propping and bucking over the jumps, others rushing and tearing at their
fences, none jumping as a hunter ought to do. Some get themselves into
difficulties by changing their feet or misjudging their distance, and
are loudly applauded by the crowd for their "cleverness" in getting
themselves out of difficulties which, if they had any cleverness, they
would not have got into.

A couple of rounds narrow the competitors down to a few, and the task of
deciding is then entered upon.

"I have kept a record," says the little man, "of how they jump each
fence, and I give them points for style of jumping, and for their make
and shape and hunting qualities. The way I bring it out is that Homeward
Bound is the best, with Gaslight second."

"Homeward Bound!" says the fat man. "Why, the pace he went wouldn't head
a duck. He didn't go as fast as a Chinaman could trot with two baskets
of stones. I want to have three of 'em in to have a look at 'em." Here
he looks surreptitiously at his cuff, and seeing a note, "No. II,"
mistakes it for "number eleven," and says: "I want number eleven to go
another round."

This order is shouted across the ground, and the leggy, weedy chestnut
with the terrified amateur up, comes sidling and snorting out into the
ring. The fat man looks at him with scorn.

"What is that fiddle-headed brute doing in the ring?" he says.

"Why," says the ring steward, "you said you wanted him."

"Well," says the fat man, "if I said I wanted him, I do want him. Let
him go the round."

The terrified amateur goes at the fences with the rashness of despair,
and narrowly escapes being clouted off on two occasions. This puts the
fat man in a quandary, because, as he has kept no record, he has got all
the horses jumbled up in his head, but he has one fixed idea, viz., to
give first prize to Gaslight; as to what is to come second he is open to
argument. From sheer contrariness he says that number eleven would be
"all right if he were rode better", and the squatter agrees. The little
man is overruled, and the prizes go--Gaslight, first; Spite, second;
Homeward Bound, third.

The crowd hoot loudly as Spite's rider comes round with the second
ribbon, and the small boys suggest to the judge in shrill tones that he
ought to boil his head. The fat man stalks majestically into the
steward's stand, and on being asked how he came to give Spite the second
prize, remarks oracularly: "I judge the 'orse; I don't judge the rider."

This silences criticism, and everyone adjourns to have a drink.

Over the flowing bowl the fat man says, "You see, I don't believe in
this nonsense about points. I can judge 'em without that."

The scene closes with twenty dissatisfied competitors riding away from
the ring, vowing they will never bring another horse there in their
lives, and one, the winner, saying:

"Bly me, I knew it would be all right with old Billy judging. 'E knows
this 'orse."

The Pastoralists' Review, 15 May 1902


THE SCHOONER Tarawa is lying at anchor in Endeavour Straits, just
opposite the place where Captain Cook landed. Around her, like chickens
round a hen, are anchored her fleet of a dozen pearling luggers. The sea
is as smooth as glass, and there is a constant clatter of rowlocks and
splash of paddles as the black boys row the little dinghies from lugger
to lugger, laughing and chattering with their countrymen; "go walkabout"
they call it. The sun strikes down dazzlingly on the white sand of
Possession Island, and the hills of the Australian main-land are wrapped
in a blue haze; on the beach a crowd of black men are disporting
them-selves, swimming and racing and shouting with laughter.

On the luggers the Japanese divers--serious little men--are overhauling
their gear, and round the schooner there is a cluster of small boats,
because it is refitting season, and every lugger wants something--either
a new diver's dress, or a new sail, or a new anchor, or a new meat cask,
or some other item. The clerk of the stores on the schooner consults
with the captain as each demand is made, but no reasonable thing is ever
refused, because a diver will not work with bad gear: so that to be
sparing of stores is false economy. By degrees some of the luggers are
fully fitted out ready for work, and they are ordered to go out and fish
until the rest of the fleet are ready, when they will all move off
together to the pearling grounds out by Radhu Island or down the coast.
A slight breeze springs up, and at once there is a clinking of pawls, a
rattle of chain, and the creaking of blocks as the anchors are got up
and the sails set in the luggers that are ready for sea, and away the
little white-sailed vessels go, each with its crew of happy black faces
forward and its serious little Japanese diver at the helm. The diver is
always the captain of the lugger, and there are matters of etiquette in
connection with pearl diving which the outsider finds it hard to grasp.
The diver, for instance, never rows a dinghy. If he wishes to visit the
schooner or another lugger, one of the crew has to pull the dinghy for
him; also the diver and "tender" sleep aft in a tiny little cabin the
size of a dog kennel, while the crew live forward under the half deck.
Among the luggers ready for sea is the Pearl, commanded by Billy
Makeela, a South Sea islander who has been diving for 25 years, and on
this lugger the stranger is sent out to see how the pearl oyster is

On coming aboard he finds the lugger to be a 10-ton vessel of beautiful
yacht-like lines, and, indeed, some of these luggers are designed by the
best designers in Australia. The sails are white and the gear in good
order. Billy Makeela makes us welcome in a stately way. He is very
black, and his only clothing is a dirty loincloth, but that is his
service equipment. When he goes ashore in parade order he is majestic,
and Solomon in all his glory is not arrayed like Billy Makeela. As this
is only a short trip to kill time till the other luggers are ready,
Billy has taken with him his wife, Balu, a native of the Torres Straits.
Balu is very black, but very comely; she is about 30 years younger than
Billy, and is clothed in a white print dress which she got at the
mission station. She can read or write English, but the unaccustomed
surround-ings make her shy, and as the lugger moves off the old primeval
instincts overcome her civilised training, and as Billy squats down by
the helm she crouches submissively behind him, holding on to his
shoulders, with her nose buried in the small of his back, and all that
one can see of her is the back of a round, woolly head. As the boat
"goes about" and Billy shifts across the deck she shuffles over with
him, never looking up and never letting go his shoulders. It is the
primeval woman trusting blindly to the skill of the primeval man. The
lugger bends over to the breeze till her lee rail is under water and the
spray comes flying aboard. The crew forward consists of four Torres
Straits Islanders, fine specimens of humanity. The Torres Straits
Islanders are a compound of the Australian black, the Malay, and the
South Sea islander; they are born natural boatmen and are as much at
home in the water as the dugong which they occasionally hunt to death.
They have great contempt for the "Binghies" or Australian Aboriginals.
These boys on the Pearl are missionary-trained boys, but as soon as the
lugger is fairly under way they go below and begin to play cards. Two of
them are brothers of Balu, so that it is quite a family party.

They are dressed in cheap pyjama trousers, et praeterea nihil. Aft with
Billy and his wife sits Joe, the Portuguese tender, who has to attend to
Billy's lifeline. Joe has been a steward on various vessels, and has
been in more parts of the world than the Wandering Jew. He confides to
us that "dis Billy'e altogether good diver. 'E get shell on de reef.
Dese Japanese dey walk over it; dey do not see it." As a matter of fact,
the Malays and islanders have more natural hunter craft than the
Japanese, and they can find shell in the reefs and under rocky ledges;
but for sheer hard work the Japanese is their master, and he will
outwork them on open bottoms.

We thresh our way to the "old ground"--a large area of open sea about
eight fathoms deep--and here Billy studies his landmarks by the
neighbouring islands and studies the look of the water. At last he
orders, "Stan' by foresail. Down foresail. Down mainsail. Down jib. Let
go," and the anchor goes over with a couple of turns of chain round the
fluke, so that it will allow the lugger to drift. Billy dresses rapidly
with the assistance of Joe, the tender. The dress is canvas and india
rubber, with great heavy lead-soled boots, a corslet of great weight,
gun metal helmet and two lead weights to hang over the shoulders. A man
can only just move with this gear on him. Billy stands on the ladder,
half in the water, two of the black boys set to work at the pump, and
the plumb line is thrown over. This is sent down so that the diver may
keep hold of it and see what sort of bottom he is coming to. If he
chanced to find that he was descending just over a big valley in the
bottom of the sea, or among jagged rocks likely to foul his line, he
could hold on to the plumb line and reconnoitre the bottom before
finally descending.

Joe screws the face-plate into the helmet and Billy suddenly throws
himself backward with a loud splash into the water, and sinks slowly--a
grim, uncanny object descending through the blue water. Joe, the
Portuguese tender, holds the lifeline, one of the boys holds the air
pipe to prevent its drifting and fouling, and a smother of white bubbles
coming up in the lee of the lugger shows where Billy is walking along
beneath us. Balu, his wife, is not concerned at her husband's peril; she
takes little interest in the dress or the descent, but stares fascinated
at her two brothers, who are methodically turning the air pump. The
revolution of the handles and the rise and fall of the cylinders seem to
her much more wonderful than the diving does. Meanwhile from below Billy
is talking through the rope to Joe, the Portuguese tender. Two sharp
vicious pulls come, and Joe calls over his shoulder to the two boys at
the pump, "More air," and the boys make the handles fairly spin for a
few moments, to Balu's great admiration. Then four distinct tugs, and
Joe calls to the forward hand, "Haul up; li'l piece more chain. Dat'll
do." For Billy has seen a shell out of his reach, and wants the lugger
to drift over to it. Then a shake on the line and Joe calls sharply,
"Slack up chain"; for evidently Billy has got on to a patch and wants
the boat's pace retarded. Thus the lugger drifts for nearly an hour, the
signalling going on all the time, when suddenly there comes one sharp
pull, and Joe calls, "Haul up"; it is curious what a different tone is
impressed into the "haul up", because if the other orders are muddled it
only means the loss of a shell or two, but "haul up" may mean that the
diver is in trouble, and "haul up" must be obeyed at once. Down below,
Billy, having been down long enough, has decided to come up, so he
closes the escape valve of the helmet, and the confined air fills his
dress, and as Joe and the boy with the air pipe haul away, Billy
suddenly floats to the top about 20 yards from the lugger, a ghastly,
sprawling, bloated sea monster; his huge uncanny helmet is face down,
half-buried in the water; the air has filled his dress till it looks as
though his body were swollen out of all proportion of humanity; his legs
and arms sprawl feebly like the limbs of some wounded animal. This
gruesome object is hauled alongside, and the stranger is quite sure that
some accident has happened and the diver is dying. Once alongside he
clutches the ladder and hands up his little open basket full of shells.
Then the face-plate is unscrewed, he is helped on the deck, and the
lugger sails away with Joe at the helm, to another ground, while Billy
sits on deck in his diver's dress and smokes and tells stories of the
old days "before dem Japanese come".

Arrived at the new ground Billy dives for another hour or so, and while
he is down the shells are inspected by the strangers. They are the size
of a fruit plate, covered with weed and coral growths. The smaller
oysters are always attached by a strong green ligament to some object--a
piece of rock or pieces of coral--but this ligament dies as the oyster
gets older. The shells are opened in the lugger on this occasion
only--by rule they should be brought to the schooner unopened. Inside
each shell is a fish more like a squid than an ordinary oyster, and with
the fish there live on terms of great amity a small reddish-coloured
lobster about an inch long, and a small crab about a quarter of an inch
in diameter. These three seem to agree well with each other. The pearls,
if any, are visible among the fringe of the oyster's beard, but
occasionally they are hidden among the oyster's anatomy.

On the long cruises, when the schooner and her fleet are out for months
at a time, it is the rule for the schooner to send her collecting boat,
a half-decked 20-footer, round the luggers every second day at least, if
it be at all possible. But sometimes the weather is bad, and the luggers
have got a long way from the schooner and the shell may be a week or
more on the luggers before it is collected. Then the heat of the sun
makes the oysters open and the deft little Japanese fingers soon pick
out any pearls that may be visible. Sometimes an oyster is induced to
open by being held near the galley fire on the lugger, and once open is
kept open by the insertion of a piece of cork, while the pearl, if any,
is hooked out by a piece of wire. Then the cork is removed and the
oyster closes again as good as ever. Some-times the bumping in the
collecting boat shakes the pearl out of an oyster that is just a little
open, and when these boats are washed out a careful search for pearls is
always made among the bottom boards. Fancy getting a pearl worth a
thousand pounds drifting about among the slime and rubbish at the bottom
of a dinghy!

One great difficulty is keeping the boats in water. In the tropics a lot
of water is wanted, and it is always carried in canvas bags.

By great persuasion, Billy Makeela is induced to allow the stranger to
go down in eight fathoms. Billy is not encouraging. He says, "I frighten
let you down. S'posin' anything go wrong; you die queek." At eight
fathoms the pressure is severe for a beginner; the blood is crushed out
of the body into the head, but the severe feeling of oppression vanishes
after a time. The floor of the ocean lies level and flat, studded with
knobs of coral and patches of greyish weed. Here and there are clusters
of marine growths, and a few shells lie about on the bottom. The diver
can see some 10 or 15 yards, apparently, and beyond that all is an
opaque mist; small fish come and look in at the eye holes of the helmet;
the novice feels oppressed by the weight of the water, and blunders
along, feeling as though he were held back by some invisible power as he
tries to walk. The mud rises as he moves, and beyond him stretches
always the level sand and all round him the oppressive opaque mist. He
feels like a very small and insignificant fish in a very large aquarium.
After 10 minutes' search, he finds one shell and is hauled up by the
anxious Billy. Then the lugger is headed for the schooner; the dress is
turned inside out and hung up to dry. Joe and the black boys lie down
and smoke, while Balu makes a fire in the little iron fireplace bedded
in some earth in a box in the well of the lugger and makes tea, while
Billy sails the lugger back. One boys goes up in the rigging to look out
for reefs, and thus we get back to the Straits just as the soft tropical
darkness shuts out the islands, and the mainland, and leaves only the
schooner's lights to show the way.

Billy will have to leave Australia under the new legislation but it does
not trouble him much; he and his wife are simple people, and back in his
own island he can get "plenty banana" without any such arduous work as
diving; but having once risen above the savage scale of existence he is
not likely to go back home; he is most likely to go to New Guinea and
get employment on Dutch boats, and become a South Sea Dutchman--a sort
of coloured Van Tromp of the ocean bed.

The Sydney Mail, 17 May 1902


THIS is a full, true, and particular account of a visit to Drought Land,
with all accessories thrown in.

I had seen drought before--when we had a station out on the western
side--but this was reckoned to be something extra in the way of a
drought. In Sydney one would not know that there was anything particular
the matter with the country. True, one found that the lawyers were all
complaining that times were bad, a sure sign of business depression; and
a few of one's old friends, who used to be working as clerks and shop
assistants, were now doing "casual labour work" down at Darling Harbour,
and many people one met wanted to know what prospects there were in the
New Hebrides or Africa or China--anywhere out of Australia. But
otherwise there seemed just as much money going in the city as ever.

After all, it is a great country, and covers a lot of ground. The
drought which is death to the north-western squatter is a Godsend to the
southern man, and down about Braidwood and the Monaro they are making
more money this year than they have made any year for the last twenty.
It takes a lot to break this country.

On getting into the train one began to hear more definite things about
the drought. One squatter had a good deal to say about it. "Up Tamworth
way," he said, "you can get a team of horses and a dray and a man to
drive them for ten shillings a week, provided you'll feed the horses.
Everybody's feeding their stock--that is, those who have got anything
left to feed. Sheep will be worth two pounds a head when the drought

Here another man broke in. "How can they ever be worth two pounds a
head? Who'll have two pounds to give for a sheep? The loan companies
won't lend you two pounds to buy a sheep with."

"Why not?"

"Because a sheep only grows one fleece a year whatever happens, drought
or no drought, and that fleece isn't going to be worth any more in
London because of our drought. People will have to wait till sheep get
cheaper before they buy, that's all about it." The squatter was driven
back on his last line of defence. "Well, anyhow, there's been a lot of
money put into the sheep, keeping 'em alive."

"Yes, more than they'll ever be worth."

"Ah, well, I wouldn't mind having a few thousand fats now," said the
squatter. And then the train rolled out of Redfern station, up through
the orchard districts of Ryde with their outcrops of volcanic soil,
through the miles and miles of Hawkesbury sandstone scrub, where a few
misguided farmers are trying to get a living in little holes and corners
simply because there is no good land left available for settlement
anywhere; up past Gosford and the Newcastle collieries, and on into the
Hunter River valley.

Then, for the first time, one realises what a sickly sort of country
Australia can look when it likes. For miles and miles there was nothing
to be seen out of the train but bare, dry earth. Even the dusty grey
roots of the grass had been eaten out. On properties where the fat stock
should be wading knee-deep in clover and thistles and prairie grass at
this time of year, a few poor starving skeletons of cattle were
tottering feebly about.

At the railway stations men talked to one another almost in whispers,
and moved about quietly like men at a funeral. There was nothing to be
done but wait. Overhead, the sun blazed down brightly out of the clear
wintry sky. Underneath, the ground, hard as adamant, lay and stared
dumbly back. The shadeless, flowerless, fruitless gum trees seemed to be
looking on sullenly at the destruction that was being wrought among the
cattle. And this was Australia!

For hour after hour the train roared and swung through the same arching,
parching desert. One would hardly see fifty head of stock in fifty
miles, except for the horses hanging up to the fences at the railway
stations. These horses, being maize-fed, found themselves in quite
unaccustomed high spirits.

After a while we began to climb the range up into the New England
tableland. Here there were occasionally to be seen patches of rough,
coarse, rushy-looking grass, and everywhere there was a litter of leaves
where branches had been cut down to feed stock. The squatter explained
the situation.

"This," he said, waving his hand towards the surrounding grey desert,
"is the good country. This is where they're sending their stock to, to
keep 'em alive. There's thousands and thousands of stock being.
travelled down here for this grass, such as it is."

"And will it save their lives?"

"No, it only makes their funeral a bit more expensive. This rubbishy dry
stuff that they have to eat, they can't digest it, and it balls inside
them and kills them. Cattle too!"

"What's going to come of the country, then?"

"Oh, as soon as the rain comes, they'll have to go round and try and get
money for a fresh start, though where they're to get it goodness knows.
The land's mortgaged up to its neck already, and the stock are dead!
They've got the price of land too high, that's where the trouble is. A
man has to pay such a price to get a property in any of these settled
districts that he has to overstock from year's end to year's end to pay
his interest. You'd think stations would be cheap now, wouldn't you?
Well, they're not! The most of them are heavily mort-gaged, and the
mortgagees won't let them be sold at a loss, and the men who are not
under mortgage, of course they're not going to sell cheap. It's as hard
to get a place now as ever it was!"

We swung through New England and on up to the northern districts, nearly
to the border. Here we came on the cattle country, where the big ranges
are. Here there was grass of a sort; the sort that is no good. Meat in
the town 6d a pound; butchers going out of business because they could
get no stock to kill!

We left the train and got horses, and rode out past one of our principal
northern towns, over the same bare, granite-like earth; but here a bit
of alluvial or volcanic soil had given a chance to grow crops--such
crops as they would sneer at in almost any other part of the world.

"What's this land worth?" we ask the squatter.

He looks round over the surrounding parched flats, where a few
"cockies"--i.e., small settlers--were farming, and where some
shadow-like cattle were groping about among the stalks of a field of

"They have to pay 15s an acre rent," he said.

"The land isn't for sale, but if it was they'd have to give about twelve
pounds an acre."

Twelve pounds an acre for that sunburnt desert! We began to understand
why some men were off to South Africa!

We passed on, out of the area of "good land", and came on to the real
genuine Australian bush. Hour after hour and mile after mile we rode
through thick stringybark and hop scrub, among rocks and fallen timber,
picking our way down sidelings and up dry watercourses, and in the whole
of two days' riding we did not see any land that would keep a family.

This is unalienated Crown land. There were supposed to be five thousand
cattle in these hills, but a two days' ride only showed us about fifty
live animals. Where were the rest?

No wonder that the typical Australian is a bitter cynic; such a country
would make a cynic of anybody.

Not only are they cynics in Drought Land, but they are all politicians.
Every man has a legislative pill that would cure all evils if he were
only allowed to administer it. We found one descendant of Cincinnatus at
a farm, where he was trying by the aid of two half-starved horses to
break up the ground with a "cultivator", as it was too hard for the
plough. "What this country wants," he said, leaving his horses and
coming to the fence to talk to us, "is to have the good land forced into
use. What's the good of small farmers going on to this drought country?
It'd break Tyson. There's lots of districts where there's good land
lying idle. Illawarra and the like o' that."

"How are you going to bring it into use?"

"Do like Seddon done in New Zealand--tax 'em till they have to use it or
sell it. It's no good resoomin' it at high prices because the cockies
can't make it pay. Tax it, till they have to sell it cheap!"

"Then you'd start to save the country by ruining those who own the land

The reformer was quite prepared to sacrifice other people in the good

"It can't be helped," he said. "After all, who'd be the losers--only the
banks! And what better do they deserve?"

In the eyes of a man from Drought Land a "bank" is fair game for all
classes. To him a bank among the farmers is like a dingo among the
sheep. He wants a Government bank, where his local member can borrow
money for him; any person or institution out of political control is
abhorrent to him.

After a time we had left the worst country and came back along the main
road. We came on to an unfenced area of ground, or rather it is a
mistake to call it "ground", as it was mostly stringybark saplings and
rocks, with here and there, on the flats, a thin coating of soil washed
down from the ranges above.

"This," said the squatter, "is a reserve. If it were thrown open
tomorrow there would be a hundred and fifty applicants. You have no idea
of the land hunger there is, or what they'll take up. They will take up
anything. If the seasons are good they make a living, but if they're bad
they go broke; but it's wonderful how they struggle along. It takes a
fearful lot to break a cocky. Of course, they go broke sometimes."

That is the weird characteristic of Australian life--the possibility
that, work as hard as you will, you may find yourself broke any minute.
In no other part of the world--except, perhaps, South Africa--is there
the same uncertainty of return and high initial outlay. In Java, for
instance, magnificent plantation land, such as Australians have no idea
of, better than the best of Gippsland--well watered, and with abundance
of cheap labour available--can be rented for half a crown an acre per
year, because the land is all leasehold; and if a man does not want to
use land, he can make nothing by holding it idle.

We rode home from Drought Land past cattle eating fallen oak; past the
little "cockies'" homesteads, where the dust heaps that had once been
gardens were blowing clean away from the fronts of houses, leaving the
roots of the plants bare. One week's rain and all this would be
flourishing with grass; and the inhabitants of Drought Land would at
once begin over-stocking again and borrowing money to buy sheep with.
They are a hard people to discourage. It's wonderful how the country
rallies from these droughts. In the words of the squatter, "it takes a
fearful lot to break a cocky".

The Sydney Morning Herald, 23 August 1902


WE WERE going for a day in the cattle country, and also to vary it with
a dash after dingoes. Nowadays there are not many cattle stations left
in New South Wales, and there are fewer still where there are any
dingoes; but there are still some bits of ragged country left where,
even from the train, one can see the wary dingo slinking through the
scrub and the wallaby skipping among the rocks.

The trouble began at the homestead over the horses. Being drought time,
one naturally thought that the horses would be poor and weak, and hardly
able to gallop: instead of which they were all fed on maize and were fat
and jumping out of their skins with animal spirits. The horse that I
rode was a big bay with hair on his back and clipped underneath. He was
introduced as a grandson of Musket, and the head stockman was
enthusiastic about him.

"Man and boy," he said, "I've been ridin' horses for five and forty
years, and this is the best horse I've ever ridden. There's no day too
long for him. He can win a shearers' race, he can cut out cattle, and he
can go through scrub like a wallaby."

"I suppose he won't hit me against a tree in the scrub, will he?"

"Oh, won't he just! He ain't afraid of a tree. He don't care where he

"Does he pull much?"

"Well, if he gets woke-up like, he's a very hard horse to hold. We
mostly ride him in a curb bit, but we put the snaffle on him for you. It
was you wrote about the 'Man from Snowy River', wasn't it? Yes, well you
ought to be able to ride him right enough."

This was a gay prospect for a man who had not ridden in scrub for ten
years, and was never very expert at it at the best of times. Anyhow, I
put a good face on it, and the grandson of Musket was brought forth
ready saddled and bridled.

It was indeed a treat to ride such a horse--a great raking sixteen-hand
bay with black points, with enormous barrel and ribs, broad hips, and a
shoulder laid right back till there seemed at least the length of an
ordinary horse in front of the saddle. He was one of the examples of the
old type of stockhorse--a horse with quality enough to run a race,
strength enough to pull a cart, and pluck enough to die galloping.

The head stockman did not come with us. He sent a sunburnt substitute
who was well mounted, and who was the master of the dingo hounds, that
is to say, he had with him a kangaroo slut, so narrow and wasp-waisted
that she looked like an embodiment of hunger and speed, and a
fierce-looking brown staghound, with a rough coat, and three sore feet,
on which he limped alternately. But the genius of the party was Barney,
the cattle dog, an aged dingo-looking reprobate into whose face all the
wisdom of centuries was crowded. It was understood that Barney would
follow nothing but dingoes. Emus might frolic around him in flocks,
kangaroos might leap affrighted from under his very nose, but nothing
would turn Barney off a dingo.

The sunburnt stockman advised me, if I fell off or got lost, to sit
still and not move about, as they were sure to find me again some time
or other; and with this comforting advice we started. The young squatter
who went with us was riding a station mare, well-bred, and a good mare
in scrub, but running to weediness. The grandson of Musket strode out
sleepily as a carthorse, lounging along as placidly as an old cow. The
other two stockhorses fretted and fidgeted at their bits, but not so
this veteran. He was waiting for the climax--the great critical moment
when he would set the seal on his reputation by knocking me off against
a tree and catching the dingo himself.

We rode through scrub and stringybark, over country consisting mostly of
loose rocks up on end, and covered carefully from view by hop scrub,
thickets of wattle, and the limbs of fallen trees. Sometimes we
scrambled up hills, clinging round the horses' necks for fear we should
slip over the tail. Other times we slid down mountains with the stones
clattering round us, the horses blundering from rock to rock, and
grazing our shins against the trees as they walked. We rode for hours
without seeing any dingoes, or any cattle for that matter. Just mile
after mile of worthless scrub and rock and wilderness: I was beginning
to lose interest in the thing, and to believe that the dingoes were a
myth, and to hope that after all the grandson of Musket wouldn't have
the chance to destroy me against a tree, when all of a sudden, just as
we were scrambling down the wickedest piece of rock and scrub in the
world, the sunburnt stockman yelled out, "Hool 'im, hool 'im, hool 'im!"
The sagacious Barney began to utter loud yelps of excitement; the
greyhound and staghound flashed like arrows into the scrub; and the
grandson of Musket took the bit in his teeth and tore through the
timber, going as if he were on a racecourse, while the crash, crash,
crash of the small scrub and fallen timber was punctuated by hairbreadth
escapes--say twenty every second--from trees and saplings and
overhanging branches. I never saw the dingo. I don't think anyone else
did. We tore madly down the side of a range, arrived by some miracle at
the foot of it, and there found ourselves face to face with a bottomless
dry gully over which the grandson of Musket strode as if it were a crack
in the earth; and then up, like rock wallabies, over the rocks and
fallen stones on the opposite slope.

We had ridden about a mile. The two hounds had been out of sight from
the very start. The feathery tail and the loud yelp of the sagacious
Barney had been our guiding star--our oriflamme as it were--and now even
Barney had disappeared. His yelping had suddenly ceased.

We managed to pull the horses up, and then everyone began to make

The sunburnt stockman started. "I was follerin' the kangaroo slut," he
said, "and I see you two fellows makin' over here towards the left like,
and I thought, of course, you must be on to the dingo, so I come over
after you. That's how I come to lose the dorgs."

The young squatter followed suit. "I was following Ranji" [the
deerhound] "but when I heard old Barney yelping I made across after him.
And that bad clump of wattle delayed me a lot, and that's how I came to
lose 'em."

Then they looked at me as if it was time for me to put in my

"How did you come to lose 'em?"

"Well," I said, "when I started of course I made sure of catching a
dingo straight off, but I shaved the bark off so many saplings and
knocked the limbs off so many trees with my head that my attention sort
of wandered from the dogs. I wasn't following the dogs at all, it took
me all my time to navigate this horse. That's how I came to lose the

The sunburnt stockman shook his head despondingly. "It's a pity," he
said, "they're sure to catch him, in fact they've got him cot by now."

"Do you really think so?"

"Oh, certain," he said with a superior smile, "quite certain. They never
miss a dorg, once they start him. Now, if we'd only kep' up with 'em,
I'll bet you," he went on slowly and impressively, "if we'd only kep' up
with 'em, I'll bet you we would have found them now killin' him. After
as good a run as a man could want! It's a great pity!"

It was indeed sad. Visions arose of the sagacious Barney and the
shadow-like kangaroo slut engaged in the combat to the death with the
dingo, who was dying silently, fighting to the last. I thought sadly of
all I was missing, for I had come all the way from Sydney to see a dingo
killed, and now he was actually being killed, and I hadn't been able to
keep up.

Here I happened to look over my shoulder and saw the sagacious Barney
trying to dig a lizard out from under a fallen log, while the two hounds
watched him with an air of grave interest.

"There they are," said I, "there's the dogs now."

The stockman wasn't a bit taken aback. "So they are," he said, "They
must have come on-sighted. This time last year they missed a dingo just
about the same way--just about here it was, too. It's only an accident
like when they miss one, I tell you."

We had many another dash after Barney and his dingoes, and they all
ended in the same way. The dogs dashed yelping out of sight, the horses
tore through the scrub, the sunburnt stockman screamed encouragement
from the rear, and the grandson of Musket swept through the timber over
rocks and fallen logs, with the swoop of some great bird. After half a
mile or so we would find ourselves left in the vast silence of the
Australian bush, no dog nor dingo in sight; then we put in the time till
the dogs came back, explaining to each other how it was that we had
failed to keep up with them.

We didn't catch any dingoes. I saw one once in the distance and Barney
was taken up and put on the scent; it was an anxious moment for me,
because if Barney failed to howl and run on the scent, then that would
have proved that I was a liar, and had not seen a dingo. Luckily for me
Barney went nearly into hysterics when he came on the scent, and we had
a glorious dash for a while; shortly after, we came on a dead yearling
calf which the dingoes had killed. They had eaten the carcase almost out
of the skin, leaving the empty skin like a discardedglove. The sunburnt
stockman said that when they want to kill a calf they snap and bite at
the heels of the mob till they start them racing, and as soon as a weak
one falls to the rear, they snap at its hocks till they hamstring it;
then they bite it to death.

The squatter produced a little bottle of strychnine and put some into
the body of the calf. While he was doing this the sagacious Barney and
the two hounds returned from their fruitless chase. Barney snuffed round
the carcase for a while, then threw up his head and set off across the
range at a businesslike trot.

"Look at him," said the stockman. "He's on to 'em! He's trailin 'em!
There's been a lot round that calf, and he'll be on to 'em in a minute!
Be ready now! Be ready! That's the way he always goes when he's
trailin 'em!"

My heart beat high with excitement. I gripped the grandson of Musket by
the head and peered through the dense timber to see if I could risk a
hundred yards of safe going, so that I might see a little of the hunt
before I was killed. I expected a summons to death at any moment.

With intense excitement we watched Barney pause on the top of the rocks
and snuff the air, irresolute; then he trotted on for some distance and
wagged his tail, evidently having found what he wanted. There was a pool
of water there and he lay down in it; he had not been after dingoes at
all; having slaked his thirst, he trotted back and began to eat the
poisoned calf. I suggested that in reward for having sold us like that,
he should be allowed to eat as much of it as he wanted, but his owner
explained that there had been dingoes drinking at the waterhole and
Barney had gone there to see if any were planted near there. No matter
what happened, you couldn't shake his faith in Barney.

After this contretemps we lost interest in the dingoes and went to look
for cattle. We found a few poor starving relics, eating the scrub which
was cut down for them from day to day. When they first came on the
place, they were so wild that the sight of a man would set them
galloping in all directions, and now, as soon as they heard an axe they
would come crowding down to it.

Cattle are going to be worth phenomenal money after the drought. Judging
by what we saw in the bush, next year's export of frozen meat will be
mostly frozen bone dust.

The hounds caught a few kangaroos during the day, and the shades of
night saw us returning to the station with horses, dogs, and men all
pretty tired, and no result in the shape of dingoes. But that wasn't
Barney's fault. As his owner said, "If we'd only have been able to have
kept up, he would have got a lot of 'em."

The Sydney Mail, 30 August 1902


THE CAT is the roué, sportsman, gambler, gay Lothario of the animal
kingdom. The dog is the workman, a member of society who likes to have
his day's work, and who does it more conscientiously than most human
beings. A dog always looks as if he ought to have a pipe in his mouth
and a black bag for his lunch, and then he would go quite happily to the
office every day.

A dog without work is like a man without work, a nuisance to himself and
everybody else. People who live about town, and keep a dog to give the
children hydatids and to keep the neighbours awake at night, imagine
that the animal is fulfilling his destiny and is not capable of anything
better. All town dogs, fancy dogs, show dogs, lap-dogs, and dogs with no
work to do should be at once abolished; it is only in the country that a
dog has any justification for his existence.

The old theory that animals have only instinct and not reason is knocked
endways by the dog. A dog can reason as well as a human being on some
subjects, and better on others; and undoubtedly the best reasoning dog
of all is the sheepdog. The sheepdog is a professional artist with a
pride in his business. Watch any drover's dogs bringing sheep into the
yards. How thoroughly they feel their responsibility, and how very
annoyed they get if any stray vagrant dog with no occupation wants them
to stop and fool about! They snap at him and hurry off as much as to
say, "You go about your idleness. Don't you see this is my busy day?"

Dogs are followers of Carlyle. They hold that the only happiness for a
dog in this life is to find his work and to do it. The idle, dilettante,
non-working aristocratic dog they have no use for.

The training of a sheepdog for his profession begins at a very early
age. The first thing is to take him out with his mother and let him see
her working. He blunders out lightheartedly, frisking about in front of
the horse, and he gets his first lesson that day, for his owner tries to
ride over him, and generally succeeds. That teaches him one thing--to
keep behind the horse till he is wanted. It is amusing to see how it
knocks all the gas out of a puppy, and with what a humble air he falls
to the rear and glues himself to the horse's heels, scarcely daring to
look to the right or to the left for fear he may commit some other
breach of etiquette. Then he watches the old slut work, and is allowed
to go with her round the sheep, and, as likely as not, if he shows any
disposition to get out of hand and frolic about, the old lady will bite
him sharply to prevent his interfering with her work.

Then by degrees, slowly, like any other professional, he learns his
business. He learns to bring sheep after a horse simply at a wave of the
hand; to force the mob up to a gate where they can be counted or
drafted; learns to follow the scent of lost sheep and to drive sheep
through a town without any master, one dog going on ahead to block the
sheep from turning off into by-streets, while the other drives them on
from the rear.

How do they learn all these things? Dogs for show work are taught
painstakingly by men who are skilled in handling them, but after all
they teach themselves more than the men teach them. There is no doubt
that the acquired knowledge of generations is transmitted from dog to
dog. The puppy, descended from a race of good sheepdogs, starts with all
his faculties directed towards the working of sheep; he is half-educated
as soon as he is born. He can no more help working sheep than a born
musician can help playing the fiddle, or a Hebrew can help making money.
It is bred in him. If he can't get sheep to work, he will work a fowl;
and often and often one can see a collie pup painstakingly and carefully
driving a bewildered old hen into a stable or a stockyard, or any other
enclosed space on which he has fixed his mind. How does he learn to do
that? He didn't learn it at all. The knowledge was born with him.

If would be interesting to get examples of this inherited ability, and
only that I don't want to let a flood of dog-liars loose on the paper, I
would suggest to the editor to invite corre-spondence from those who
have seen unquestionable examples of young, untaught animals doing
things which they could only have learnt by inheritance.

When the dog has been educated, or educated himself, he enjoys his work;
but sometimes, if he thinks he has had enough of it, he will
deliberately quit and go home. Very few dogs like work "in the yards".
The sun is hot, the dust rises in clouds, and there is nothing to do but
bark, bark, bark, which is all very well for learners and amateurs but
is beneath the dignity of the true professional sheepdog. Then, when the
dogs are hoarse with barking and nearly choked with dust, the men lose
their tempers and swear at them, and throw clods of earth at them, and
sing out to them, "Speak up, blast you!" At last the dogs suddenly
decide that they have done enough for the day, and, watching their
opportunity, they silently steal over the fence, and go and hide in any
cool place they can find. After a while the men notice that hardly any
dogs are left, and then operations are suspended while a great hunt is
made into all outlying pieces of cover, where the dogs are sure to be
found lying low and looking as guilty as so many thieves. A clutch at
the scruff of the neck, a kick in the ribs, and the dog is hauled out of
his hiding place, and accompanies his master to the yard, frolicking
about and pretending that he is quite delighted to be going back to
work, and only happened to have hid in that bush out of sheer
thoughtlessness. He is a champion hypocrite, is the dog.

After working another ten minutes, he will be over the fences again; and
he won't hide in the same place twice. The second time he will be a lot
harder to find than the first time.

Dogs, like horses, have very keen intuition. They know when a man is
frightened of them, and they know when the men around them are
frightened, though they may not know the cause. In the great Queensland
strike, when the shearers attacked Dagworth shed, some rifle volleys
were exchanged. The shed was burnt, and the air was full of human
electricity, each man giving out waves of fear and excitement. Mark now
the effect it had on the dogs. They were not in the fighting; nobody
fired at them, and nobody spoke to them; but every dog left his master,
left the sheep, and went away about six miles to the homestead. There
wasn't a dog about the shed next day, after the fight. They knew there
was something out of the common in the way of danger. The noise of the
rifles would not frighten them, because many of them were dogs that were
very fond of going out turkey shooting.

The same thing happened constantly with horses in the South African war.
A loose horse would feed contentedly about while his own troops were
firing; but when the troops were being fired at, and a bullet or two
whistled past, the horses at once became uneasy, and the loose ones
would trot away. The noise of a bullet passing cannot have been as
terrifying to them as the sound of a rifle going off, but the
nervousness and excitement of the men communicated itself to them. There
are more capacities in horses and dogs, Horatio, than are dreamt of in
your philosophy.

Dogs have an amazing sense of responsibility. Sometimes, when there are
sheep to be worked, an old slut, who has young puppies, may be seen
greatly exercised in her mind whether she should go out or not. On the
one hand, she does not care about leaving the puppies; on the other, she
feels that she really ought to go out, and not let the sheep be knocked
about by those learners. Hesitatingly, with many a look behind her, she
trots out after the horses and the other dogs. An impassioned appeal
from the head boundary rider, "Go on back home, will yer !" is treated
with the contempt it deserves. She goes out to the yards, works, perhaps
half the day, and then slips quietly under the fences and trots off
home, contented.

Besides the sheepdog there are hunting, sporting, and fighting dogs who
all devote them-selves to their professions with a diligence that might
well be copied by human beings; there is no animal so thoroughly in
earnest as a dog. But this article is now long enough. Hunting, sporting
and fighting dogs must be dealt with at another time; and, meanwhile,
any readers who can forward any striking instances of canine sagacity
should write same out in ink on one side of the paper only, got them
attested by a missionary, mark them "Dog Story", and forward them to
this office, where they will, as a rule, be carefully burnt.

The Bulletin, 18 October 1902



THE AMERICAN whose acquaintance I had made coming down the China coast
was a very good fellow, but long residence among the Chinese had made
him look upon all foreigners as so much dirt, so when we landed at
Marseilles he insisted on talking to the French in Chinese "pidgin
English", and wanted to beat them when they did not understand him. I
can speak French--or at least I used to think I could till I went to
France--and I had to do the translating, punctuated with remarks such as
"Can do", "Maskee you", "You take luggage topside" addressed by the
American to the gesticulating Frenchmen. He was very pleased with
himself when he got the guard of the tram to change a 5-franc piece for
him, by his own unaided vocabulary, but he got very silent and broody
when he found that the money which the guard gave him was all bad. We
went to the hotel where most English people go--the same hotel at which
there was nearly a riot on the day of Kruger's landing. It seems that,
as Kruger's procession passed, some English people who were staying in
the hotel threw pennies among the crowd. Now, in France, to throw
coppers to any performance is the most deadly insult; instead of hissing
a music hall singer who does not please them they throw coppers on the
stage--thereby expressing their valuation of the performance. As
Kruger's procession passed, a whole shower of coppers was thrown from
this hotel. Perhaps the people who threw them did not know what they
were doing; on the other hand, perhaps they did! Anyhow, the mob broke
out into uncontrollable fury, and besieged the hotel for two hours,
while the English visitors cowered inside, and the P. & 0. boat had to
delay her departure for a long time before the passengers could get down
to the wharf. But, when the American and I arrived, all the excitement
and frenzy had subsided, and beyond the fact that they looked upon all
English-speaking people as assassins, they did not seem to mind taking
our money at all.

It was a Sunday when we arrived, and Sunday is the recognised day for
races and sports in France. A French journal informed us that there was
a day's racing to be held; so the next thing was to find out where the
course was, and how to get there. With this object in view we went to a
barber's shop--all the shops were wide open although it was Sunday--and
in my best French I asked how one could get out to the course. The
barber got me to repeat the sentence, and then said that they had a man
in the shop who spoke German, but he was out at his lunch. I explained
to the American what had happened, and he said, "I reckon that
Australian French of yours doesn't go here. Let me at him!" Then,
talking through his nose at the top of his voice, he said, "Whurrs the
hoss race, sonny?" This only made the barber shrug up his shoulders and
spread out his hands, and the American looked at him with supreme
disgust. "He knows right enough," he said, "but he won't tell us! It's
all on account of that Boer War of yours!" Then we went back to the
hotel, and found out all about it from the "boots", who was--like the
boots at hotels all the world over--an ardent sportsman. Perhaps it is
because they are such ardent sportsmen that they are reduced to being
"boots". After lunch we chartered a cab, drawn by a horse whose forelegs
fairly tottered under him--I have seen some equine wrecks in my time,
but nothing to approach the French cab horse--and drove out to the
course, and all the inhabitants of Marseilles shut up their shops and
came out also.

A day's racing in France is something to remember. In Australia racing
is a business, and everyone who goes out goes with bent brows and an
anxious mind, to try and unravel what is to him a serious problem. But
with the Frenchman, a day's racing is a light-hearted holiday. He closes
his shop at one o'clock, and goes out with his wife, in a trap drawn by
a little fat pony with jingling bells and harness, and rattles away
through the clear crisp air, with the dry aromatic smell of the autumn
leaves all round, down the long avenue of sycamores out to the course.
The tram cars, loaded with the happy, laughing crowds, go thundering
along the streets. Motor cars rush past at a pace that would not be
tolerated for an instant in any Australian or English community; on the
seat of each motor car, alongside the driver, sits a large black French
poodle, sagely contemplating the moving scene around him, and with the
wind blowing through his whiskers as the car rushes along. Everyone is
laughing, and everyone looks on the racing in a light-hearted way, quite
foreign to our idea. They have left dull care behind them for the day,
and they will back a horse because they like the look of his tail or the
colours of his jockey, and then say it is treachery if they lose their
money! Allez-vous-en! Let her go, Gallagher! The trams roared, the motor
cars whizzed, the little fat ponies were urged to their wildest pace,
and amidst shouting, laughing, and bell-ringing we arrived at the
course, a beautiful piece of natural turf, shut in by sycamores and
hedgerows of various sorts. The track itself was very little prepared,
but in all these countries the great rainfall and the natural grass make
such turf as we poor drought-stricken people can only wonder at. The
surroundings of racing in the old countries are less businesslike and
more pleasant than in Australia. We drove in through the gates of the
course, and left our trap standing in what we would call the "flat",
while we went on into the grandstand and saddling paddock. Prices of
admission were much the same as they are in Australia. The totalisators
were at work in the saddling paddock, one being for a straight-out win
and the other for a place. Some horses were being paraded round a turf
ring, the turf ring being enclosed by a lot of drying sheds, and
although the appointments were complete enough there was a lack of the
businesslike formality about them which one notices with us. It was more
like what we would call a picnic meeting. The horses were nearly all
English bred, and were equal to any stock I have ever seen anywhere.
They differed from our horses only in the matter of condition. It would
make a Randwick trainer weep to see the condition in which these horses
were sent out to race. Some of them were as fat as fools, prancing about
the paddocks on their hind legs, led by their "trainers"--men who looked
like sort of cross between a Sicilian bandit and an ice cream merchant.

Before getting out to the track we purchased a daily paper, which gave
all the runners, and a collection of the "tips" of all the local
newspapers, besides a set of "tips" of its own. After a struggle with
the French idioms, I gathered that one horse in the first race had at
one time shown good form but had since "couru obscurément". I thought
this would probably be a good sort of horse to back, as I had had
experience in Australia of horses that had run "obscurely" for a time,
and then suddenly astonished their critics. The crowd was pretty thick,
about as numerous as would be seen at a suburban meeting near Sydney.
The ladies were in great numbers, gorgeously dressed, escorted by heavy
French swells, who simply rioted in huge fur-lined overcoats, with great
cuffs of fur running halfway up the arms. A few English visitors were
present, looking at the proceedings with dull eyes, but the horses of
one stable were trained by English trainers, and the bulk of the riders
in the races were English or American jockeys. I asked one of the
English trainers whether the horses ran to win, and his remarkable reply
was, "Yes, they always try here. The owners are all French noblemen;
they have lots of money and don't know nothing." On this comforting
suggestion the American and I started to try to back winners, being
guided solely by the condition of the horses, occasionally fortifying
our opinions by reference to the tips in the daily paper.

The first race was for a prize of 2000 francs (about £80), and for a
distance of 2200 metres (I should guess it at about a mile), and
carrying 47 kilograms, which looked to me about eight stone seven. The
horse that had "couru obscurément" was not a favourite on the
totalisator, but then the French do not back horses on form, they back
them because they belong to local owners, or to a Bonapartist, or to a
pro-Boer, or for any other reason that strikes their erratic fancy. A
horse belonging to an Englishman could not have found a backer in the
crowd, though he were as good as Carbine. We decided to back the
best-conditioned horse and away they went down to the post. There were
four runners, three of the jockeys being American, riding in the real
gilt-edged American style, which is even more forward than our
Australian boys ever get. Our horse justified our judgment by going to
the front with a solitary opponent hanging on to him. Half a furlong
from home, our horse looked to be having the best of it and his jockey
then put in an American "finish", that is to say, he lay flat down on
the horse's neck, and struck out with his legs and arms exactly like a
man swimming, making wild flaps in the air with his whip at the same
time. He missed the horse altogether with the whip more often than he
hit him. His opponent was ridden by a French jockey, in the ordinary
way, and snatched a well-deserved victory by a neck. In the next, a
selling race of 2200 metres, we went for a very well-conditioned bay
mare called Rentière, by Gonsalvo from Rentless, and therefore evidently
English-bred. The mare won her race for us like the aristocrat she
undoubtedly was, but the interest in the racing was as nothing compared
to the amusement of watching the spectators. A dashing young Frenchman,
with waxed moustache, tall hat and fur-lined coat, was sitting in the
stand near us with a party of three superbly dressed ladies round him.
As the horses started he fixed his glasses on the race and sprang to his
feet, his face working with emotion. The ladies huddled together, and
watched, with undisguised admiration, the tornado of passion that was
racking the frame of their cavalier. He had backed a big chestnut horse,
which was running well up with the leaders. The horses not being wound
up for condition, it is usual for them to muddle away the first half of
a race, first one leading and then another, and every time that this
chestnut horse drew out to the lead the Frenchman's face lit up, his
chest expanded, and he turned with the air of a conqueror to the timid
females behind him, saying, "II gagne, ii gagne!" When the horse dropped
back, an ashen grey hue spread over his countenance, and his hands
trembled so that he could hardly hold the glasses.

Round the turn they came, the chestnut and the Rentiere fighting it out
in the lead. Both boys got to work with their whips at the distance, and
they raced home locked together. Every instant of that finish must have
seemed a year to our French friend. He clutched the rail in front of
him, and clenched his teeth, and fairly shook with the strain that was
put on him, while the females never looked at the race but watched him
in mute sympathy. As the horses flashed past the post, with his chestnut
beaten by a neck, he dropped back on the seat with the air of a man
whose hopes in life are crushed. He was too heartbroken to speak for a
long time. It turned out afterwards that he had five francs (four and
twopence) on the chestnut in the place totalisator, so that he saved his
money, but it was the defeat of his judgment that annoyed him. We
gathered afterwards, from what he said, that the defeat of the chestnut
horse was solely due to treachery. After the race, the American wished
to walk up into a part of the grandstand which was marked in large
letters "Défendu", evidently being reserved for the committee or some
such body. I told him he could not go up there, but he said he would
like to see them stop him, and he started to march gaily up the stone
steps. He had not got far before he was in altercation with a
pink-trousered gendarme, who tried to shove him down the steps. The next
minute he had the gendarme round the waist, there was a flash of pink
trousers in the air, we heard the gendarme's agonised cry of "A moil"
and the two rolled down the steps, locked in each other's arms. The
authorities were going to arrest the American under the impression that
he was English, but when they found that he was an American they
apologised profusely to him, and a douceur to the unfortunate gendarme
settled all the trouble.

While the racing was going on, the holiday-making crowd of workmen, with
their wives and children, a merry-hearted, laughing mob, sat on the turf
outside the course, but only separated from it by a broad deep ditch.
Here they had just as good a view of the racing as anyone in the track,
and they enjoyed the day thoroughly. That is the right way to go racing
--to squirm and yell when your horse gets ahead, and prance about the
paddock with-an eagle-soaring step after a win of is 6d. The French do
not know much about racing, but they get a lot of fun out of it. They
take out a little basket full of cakes and lemonade, and the old father
and mother sit in the sun on the grass while the children play about.
They look at the racing just as we look at a race on the stage, merely
as a spectator, and the entertain-ment doesn't cost them anything.

The day's sport was brought to a successful finish by a win in the last
race by an English-bred, English-trained, and English-ridden horse, but,
as he belonged to a local owner, a French vicomte, the crowd were quite
satisfied, for they had all backed him, and they departed for home in
the best of spirits.

The drive home was even more hilarious than the drive out. Everybody was
laughing, shouting, and singing. We saw a horse run into by a motor car
and killed on the spot, but the carcass was soon taken away, and
everyone, including the owners of the horse, appeared to look upon the
accident as an excellent jest. The crowd soon made their way back into
their shops, and settled down for their next week's hard work, for the
Frenchman lives in his shop, and his shop is open all the time that he
is at home.

The best prizes for the racing were given by a society for the
encouragement of horse breeding. Steeplechasing, that test of stamina
and endurance, is at a very much higher level in France than in England,
and there is not much doubt that the French do try to make racing a
means to improving the breed of horses. Someday in Australia we may come
to look at it in the same way.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October 1902


THE SHIP had sweated her way down from China, past Manila, with its
swarming horde of Filipinos, and now was ploughing along the sea lane
formed by the Australian coast on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on
the other. The passengers were of all the nationalities of the world.
There were sturdy little Japanese coming down to work as divers in the
pearling fleets; Chinamen by the dozen coming back to Australia after a
visit to their own country; kanakas moving up and down the coast to
their work on the sugar plantations; white men of all sorts--Greek pearl
merchants from Thursday Island; sunburnt squatters from the back-blocks
of Queensland; verdant new chums who stared uncomprehendingly at
everything; with the usual selection of tired globetrotters who had been
everywhere and seen everything till nothing was left in the heavens
above nor in the earth beneath--certainly not in Australia--which could
astonish them. Such patriotic Australians as were on board were
naturally anxious to have their own country make a good show in the eyes
of these superior persons. The Australian will growl at the defects of
his own country till further orders, but when he gets among strangers he
is just as jealous of its reputation as the most patriotic man in the

The navigation inside the reef is too dangerous to be undertaken in the
darkness, so the ship anchored for the night in the most glorious
sunset. As the light died away there remained a rose-coloured glow, with
a border of pitchy black clouds which rested like a great picture on the
support of a couple of hazily-seen islands, that just showed up in the
distance over a vast stretch of sea, perfectly smooth, and tinted with
all the colours of the opal. The patriotic Australians pointed this
sunset out to the superior globetrotters and only got the reply: "Ah, my
dear fellow, you ought to see the sunsets in the desert of Sahara!" Then
we all went below for the night.

Next morning bright and early we arrived off a Queensland port, and all
the passengers hung over the railings to see the boats come alongside. A
string of long lanky sunburnt Queenslanders came on deck and slouched
"forrard". One of them carried a weird instrument which puzzled the
other passengers, but which my practised eye detected as a "measuring
stick"--a wooden affair used for ascertaining the height of ponies and
galloways for racing purposes. It was a problem what they could want
with such a thing on board a ship, and everyone crowded "forrard" to see
what was going to happen.

When we got "forrard", we found great excitement among the Chinese
passengers. These Celestials had all been in Australia before, and were
now returning by virtue of certificates permitting them to do so. At
least that was the theory; but as a matter of fact, it is the pleasing
custom of the Chinaman when he leaves these shores to take a certificate
allowing him to come back if he chooses, and then he sells that
certificate for cash to another Chinaman, who comes down and tries to
pass himself off as the original Simon Pure. Among every batch of
returning Chinamen there are frauds, and at each port there are men
whose duty it is to examine new arrivals and see if they correspond with
the photographs and descriptions of the men who went away. That was what
the measuring stick was for--to test the height of the new arrivals. It
occurred to me that some of our Sydney pony trainers would soon fix up
the little matter of height if allowed to handle the Chinamen for a few
days before the examination.

The Chinese who wished to land--some seven of them--all stood up in a
dismal row, while the officer took a sort of preliminary look at them;
they were all dressed in European clothes, which makes a Chinaman harder
to identify than he is even in his own gear. Each Chinaman wore a stolid
impenetrable look, but the other Chinamen on board, who were going to
other ports, were herded together by the forecastle, jabbering away in a
great state of excitement; so far as one could guess, there were two or
three frauds in the batch standing up for examination, and the question
was would they succeed in getting through.

Then the following melodrama occurred. The Customs officer walked out
onto a clear space of deck with his measuring stick, and consulted some
papers that he held in his hand. Then he called out the name of a
Chinaman, and one stolid heathen stood forward; the Chinaman took his
boots off, and a passing stranger immediately kicked them into the
scuppers, where they floated about like a pair of miniature junks; his
hat was knocked off on to the deck; then he straightened himself up
under the measuring stick, and closed his eyes while the officers
carefully scrutinised his face and compared it with the photograph. Then
followed the examination.

"You been here before? Where you live before?"

Chinaman, with the air of one repeating a lesson, "Towsiwille!"

"Townsville, eh? What did you do at Townsville?"

No answer, but a subdued jabber arose from the Chinamen "forrard", who
were apparently talking to each other, but were in reality prompting the
candidate what to say. After some time, he spoke.


"Garden, eh? Whereabouts garden?"

No answer from the Chinaman, but renewed jabber from "forrard" and the
officer turned on them.

"Stop that noise there, will you! I can deal with him without you

This produced silence, and the Chinaman was ordered to stand aside; his
hat was thrown after him, he fished his boots out of the scuppers, and
he stood aside without knowing whether he had passed or not, while
another candidate took the stand.

He was glib and oily; had been away for years, but he remembered
everybody in the town, and asked after them with touching affection; he
passed at once; some of the others were more or less doubtful. Some of
the questionable ones were brought up for a second exam-ination; then at
last, the verdict was pronounced--they could all land!

A yell of triumph went up from the Chinamen "forrard", a shrill,
high-pitched, Chinese yell, such as I had only heard once before and
that was at a Chinese race meeting, where an outsider had won well
backed by all the Chinese grooms; there was a malicious triumph in the
yell, that made us feel pretty sure that at least one fraud had got
through, and babbling with delight the successful candidates put their
goods over the side and prepared to go ashore.

Then from the motley crew "forrard" there stepped out the educated
kanaka. He was carrying a petition up and down the coast, to be signed
by all the kanakas, protesting against being sent away under the South
Sea Islanders Exclusion Act. He held the audience of globe-trotters,
pearl merchants, and bushmen spellbound while he laid his case before
them. "What for boys sent away?" he said. "All boys not want to go 'way.
Many boy he marry English woman, Irish woman, Scotch woman. What you do
about children? They belong British flag!" "More better you go back to
Islands, I think," said an Australian. "What for? Boy he no want to go.
I get all boy sign petition. Boy work hard, earn beer money! What for
dese Japanese no go? What for dese no go"--pointing to the Chinamen with
an air of infinite superiority--"what for dese no go?"

"The sooner the lot of you go the better we'll like it," said a
squatter. "It's a bit rough on some of these island boys, though. They
will go back to their islands and find their own tribe nearly all dead,
and the other tribes will kill and eat them, as likely as not. Some of
them are going to their doom just as surely as if they were killed
already. Some of them will get on the wrong Islands, too, as likely as
not, and they will soon be disposed of there."

The superior globetrotter was very indignant. "You don't mean to say
that they would be so careless of human life as to land them on the
wrong islands?" he said. "Why, that would be nothing short of murder."

This was what we had been waiting for. We had astonished him at last.

The captain of the ship spoke to him patronisingly. "When you travel a
little in Australia, you'll get used to that sort of thing," he said.
"They are great people for leaving things to luck, are the Australians!"

But the superior globetrotter had gone below to write to the English
papers about it.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 November 1902


FEW KNOW anything about domestic animals--about their inner life and the
workings of their minds. Take, for instance, the common roof-tree cat.
Most people think that the cat is an unintelligent animal, fond of ease,
and caring little for anything but mice and milk. But a cat has really
more character than most human beings, and gets a great deal more
satisfaction out of life. Of all the animal kingdom, the cat has the
most many-sided character. He--or she--is an athlete, a musician, an
acrobat, a Lothario, a grim fighter, a sport of the first water. All day
long, the cat loafs about the house and takes things easy, and sleeps by
the fire, and allows himself to be pestered by the attentions of silly
women and annoyed by children. To pass the time away he sometimes
watches a mouse hole for an hour or two--just to keep himself from dying
of ennui, and people get the idea that this sort of thing is all that
life holds for the cat. But watch him as the shades of evening fall, and
you see the cat as he really is.

When the family sits down to tea, the cat usually puts in an appearance
to get his share, and he purrs noisily and rubs himself against the legs
of the family, and all the time he is thinking of a fight or a love
affair that is coming off that evening. If there is a guest at table the
cat is particularly civil to him, because the guest is likely to have
the best of what food is going. Sometimes, instead of recognising his
civility with something to eat, the guest stoops down and strokes the
cat, and says, "Poor pussy! Poor pussy!" The cat soon gets tired of that
--he puts up his claw and quietly but firmly rakes the guest in the leg.

"Ow!" says the guest, "the cat stuck his claw into me!" The family is
delighted. It remarks, "Isn't it sweet of him? Isn't he intelligent? He
wants you to give him something to eat."

The guest dare not do what he would like to do--kick the cat through the
window--so with tears of rage and pain in his eyes, he affects to be
very much amused, and sorts out a bit of fish from his plate and gives
it to the cat. The cat gingerly receives it, with a look in his eyes as
much as to say: "Another time, my friend, you won't be so dull of
comprehension," and purrs maliciously as he carries the bit of fish away
to a safe distance from the guest's boot before eating it. A cat isn't a
fool--not by a long way.

When the family has finished tea, and gathers round the fire to enjoy
the hours of indiges-tion together, the cat slouches casually out of the
room and disappears. Life, true life, now begins for him. He saunters
down his own backyard, springs to the top of the fence with one easy
bound, drops lightly down the other side, trots across a right-of-way to
a vacant allot-ment, and skips to the roof of an empty shed. As he goes,
he throws off the effeminate look of civilisation; his gait becomes
lithe and panther-like; he looks quickly, keenly, from side to side, and
moves noiselessly, for he has many enemies--dogs, cabmen with whips, and
small boys with stones. Arrived on the top of the shed, the cat arches
his back and rakes his claws once or twice through the soft bark of the
old roof, then wheels round and stretches himself a few times, just to
see that every muscle is in full working order; and then, dropping his
head nearly to his paws, sends across a league of backyards his call to
his kindred--his call to love, or war, or sport.

Before long they come--gliding, graceful shadows, approaching
circuitously, and halting occasionally to look round and
reconnoitre--tortoiseshell, tabby, and black, all domestic cats, but all
transformed for the nonce into their natural state. No longer are they
the hypocritical, meek creatures who an hour ago were cadging for fish
and milk. They are now ruffling, swaggering blades with a Gascon sense
of their dignity. Their fights are grim, determined battles, and a cat
will be clawed to ribbons before he'll yield. Even the young lady cats
have this inestimable superiority over human beings that they can fight
among themselves, and work off the jealousy, hatred and malice of their
lives in a sprawling, yelling combat on a flat roof. All cats fight, and
all keep themselves more or less in training while they are young. Your
cat may be the acknowledged lightweight champion of his district--a
Griffo of the feline ring! Just think how much more he gets out of his
life than you do out of yours--what a hurricane of fighting and
love-making his life is--and blush for yourself. You have had one little
love affair, and never a good, all-out fight in your life!

And the sport they have, too! As they get older and retire from the ring
they go in for sport more systematically, and the suburban backyards
that are to us but dullness indescribable, are to them hunting grounds
and trysting places where they may have more sport and adventure than
ever had King Arthur's knights or Robin Hood's merry men. Grimalkin
decided to go and kill a canary in a neighbouring verandah. Consider the
fascination of it--the stealthy reconnaissance from the top of the
fence; the care to avoid waking the house dog; the noiseless approach
and the hurried dash upon the verandah, and the fierce clawing at the
fluttering bird till the mangled body is dragged through the bars of the
cage; the exultant retreat with the spoil and the growling over the
feast that follows. Not the least entertaining part of it is the demure
satisfaction of arriving home in time for breakfast and hearing the
house-mistress say, "Tom must be sick; he seems to have no appetite."

It is always levelled as a reproach against cats that they are more fond
of their home than of the people in it. Naturally, the cat doesn't like
to leave his country, the land where he has got all his friends, and
where he knows every landmark. Exiled in a strange land, he would have
to learn a new geography, would have to find out all about another tribe
of dogs, would have to fight and make love to an entirely new nation of
cats. Life isn't long enough for that sort of thing and so, when the
family moves, the cat, if allowed, will stay at the old house and attach
himself to the new occupiers. He will give them the privilege of
boarding him while he enjoys life in his own way. He is not going to
sacrifice his whole career for the doubtful reward which fidelity to his
old master or mistress might bring.

And if people know so little about cats, how much less do they know
about the dog? This article was started as an essay on the dog, and the
cat was only incidentally to be referred to, but there was so much to
say about cats that they have used up all the space, and a fresh start
must be made to deal with the dog--the friend of man.

The Bulletin, 13 December 1902


THE SHEEPDOG and the cattle dog are the workmen of the animal kingdom;
sporting and fighting dogs are the professionals and artists.

A house dog or a working dog will only work for his own master; but a
professional or artistic dog will work for anybody, as long as he is
treated like an artist. A man going away for a week's shooting can
borrow a dog, and the dog will work for him loyally, just as a good
musician will do his best, though the conductor is strange to him, and
the other members of the band are not up to the mark. The musician's art
is sacred to him, and that is the case with the dog--Art before

It is a grand sight to see a really good setter or pointer working up to
a bird, occasionally glancing over his shoulder to see that the man with
the gun has not lost himself. How he throws his whole soul into his
work, questing carefully over the cold scent, and feathering eagerly
where the bird is close, and at last drawing up like a statue. Not
Paganini himself ever more thoroughly lost himself in his art than does
the humble Spot or Ponto. He is rapt, ecstasied, carried away. It is not
amusement and not a mere duty to him; it is a sacred gift, which he is
bound to exercise. A pointer in need of amusement will play with another
dog--the pair pretending to fight, and so on, but when there is work to
be done, then the dog is lost in the artist. How crestfallen he looks if
by any chance he blunders on to a bird without pointing it! A fiddler
who has played a wrong note in a solo is the only creature who can look
as discomfited. Humanity, instead of going to the ant of the parable for
wisdom, should certainly go to the dog.

Sporting dogs are like other artists, in that they are apt to get
careless of everything except their vocation. No sporting dog is ever
reliable in his affections--nor is any human artist, either, for that
matter. They are not good watchdogs, and take little interest in chasing
cats. They look on a little dog that catches rats much as a great
musician looks on a cricketer--it's clever, but it isn't Art.

Hunting and fighting dogs are the gladiators of the animal world. A fox
hound or a kangaroo dog is always of the same opinion as Mr Jorrocks:
"All time is wasted what isn't spent in 'untin'." A greyhound will start
out in the morning with three lame legs, but as soon as he sees a hare
start he must go. He utterly forgets his sorrows in the excitement, just
as a rowing man, all over boils and blisters, will pull a desperate race
without feeling any pain. Such dogs are not easily excited by anything
but a chase, and a burglar might come and rob the house and murder the
inmates without arousing any excitement among these athletic canines.
Guarding a house is "not their pidgin" as the Chinese say; that is one
great reason for the success of the dog at whatever branch of his
tribe's work he goes in for--he is so very thorough. Dogs who are forced
to combine half a dozen professions never make a success at anything.
One dog, one billet, is their motto.

The most earnest and thorough of all the dog tribe is the fighting dog.
His intense self-respect, his horror of brawling, his cool
determination, make him a pattern to humanity. The bulldog or bull
terrier is generally the most friendly and best-tempered dog in the
world; but when he is put down in the ring he fights till he drops,
fights in grim silence, though his feet are bitten through and through,
his ears are in rags, and his neck a hideous mass of wounds. In a
well-conducted dog fight each dog in turn has to attack the other dog,
and one can see the fierce earnestness blazing in the eye of the
attacker as he hurls himself on to the foe. What makes him fight like
that? It is not bloodthirstiness, because they are neither savage nor
quarrelsome dogs; a bulldog will go all his life without a fight, unless
put into a ring. It is simply their strong self-respect, their stubborn
pride, which will not let them give in. The greyhound snaps once at his
opponent and then runs for his life, but the fighting dog stands to it
till death. Just occasionally one sees the same type of human
being--generally some quiet-spoken, good-tempered man who has taken up
glove fighting for a living and who, perhaps, is pitted against a man a
shade better than himself. After a few rounds he knows he is
overmatched, but there is something at the back of his brain that will
not let him cave in. Round after round he stands punishment and round
after round he grimly comes up till, possibly, his opponent loses heart,
or a fluke hit turns the scale in his favour. These men are to be found
in every class of life--many of the gamest of the game are mere
gutter-bred boys who will continue to fight long after they have endured
enough punishment to entitle them to quit. You can see in their eyes the
same hard glitter that shows in the bulldog's eyes as he limps across
the ring, or in the eyes of the racehorse as he lies down to it when his
opponent is outpacing him. It is grit, pluck, vim, nerve force; call it
what you like, and there is no created thing that has more of it than
the dog.

There is another phase of dog that has never been quite understood--the
occasional longing that comes over dogs to get into mischief. Every
station owner knows that sometimes the house dogs--no matter of what
breed--are liable to take a sudden fit of sheep killing. Any kind of dog
will do it, from collies downwards. They are very artful about it, too.
They lie round the house till dark, and then slink off and have a wild
night's blood spree, running down the wretched sheep and tearing their
throats open, and then, before dawn, they slink back again and lie down
around the house as before. Sometimes dogs from different home-steads
meet in the paddocks, having apparently arranged the whole affair
beforehand. Even little dogs, like fox terriers and Skye terriers, will
have an occasional fit of murder. Many and many a sheep owner has gone
out with a gun and shot his neighbour's dogs for killing his sheep,
which his own wicked, innocent-looking dogs had slain. If by any chance
one happens to meet dogs while they are on these little excursions, they
show at once that they know the game is up. They sneak away like
dingoes, and then go for home as hard as they can run. Some dogs will
not kill sheep on their own run, but always visit neighbours' paddocks.
In civilised parts, where there are no sheep to kill, the dog sometimes
takes to fowl killing, by way of diversion.

Dogs learn by experience, and the experience is handed down from
generation to gener-ation. In districts where dingoes are bad it is easy
to poison them at first; but, when poisoning has been going on for a few
years, it is almost impossible to get a dingo to swallow a bait. The
best plan is to take out a sandwich and eat some of it (before it is
poisoned), then poison the fragments and throw them about, and rub some
of the bread and meat, well poisoned, into a crack in a log. The dingo
will lick it out of the log, doubtless thinking that what the man has
been eating must be all right.

So much then for the dog whose courage, concentration and earnest
attention to his busi-ness or profession make him a pattern to humanity.
No man can equal a dog in any of these characteristics. It will be seen
that in this article there is no reference to the dog with the tenor
voice, who howls in suburban backyards, or the big swaggering dog, who
lies fragrantly in the sun before the doors of town houses. These poor
unfortunates have missed their vocation. The real dog is a workman, and
should be respected as such.

The Bulletin, 27 December 1902


LORD MILNER, who is now spoken of by a London journal as the next
Governor-General of Australia, was the man on whom all England relied
for cool-headed guidance in the manifold troubles of South Africa. It
may surprise Australians to know that even in the middle of the war the
possibility of his becoming Governor-General of Australia had been
mooted, and he talked of the matter as of a thing which had been much in
his mind. Having for months gone through that awful strain, he was
looking longingly over to this country as to a haven of rest, and he
spoke of it with a wistful sigh. "Even if it were offered to me," he
said, "I couldn't afford to take it. I am a poor man." He spoke of it as
one of the highest rewards to which he could aspire.


And yet if there ever was an occasion on which a man might have reason
to feel satisfied with himself, it was the occasion of the visit of Lord
Milner (then Sir Alfred Milner) with Lord Roberts's army to
Bloemfontein. Some months previously he had gone up to Bloemfontein to
negotiate on behalf of England with Paul Kruger, admittedly one of the
most astute nego-tiators in the world, on matters of supremest
importance. He had to try to adjust the difficulty between England and
the Transvaal, peaceably, if possible, but without yielding too far. On
the one hand, he had to fear that he might be tricked or cajoled into
conceding too much; on the other hand, if he did not make terms, he had
to face the responsibility of plunging the nation into war--a heavy
responsibility for any man to be loaded with. He met Kruger, and they at
once split about preliminaries. Milner would talk about nothing but the
franchise, Kruger wanted to talk about every possible subject except the
franchise. If Lord Milner had been a weak man or a vain man the
temptation to show his ability by negotiating with so renowned an
adversary on so important a subject would have led him into talk and
nego-tiations; but he was strong enough to withstand the temptation. He
deliberately threw away what seemed to be the opportunity of a lifetime,
and refused to negotiate. His friends were disappointed, the public
dissatisfied. Why hadn't he done something after going so far? He came
away from Bloemfontein having done--nothing.


Then followed the strain of the war, the humiliating defeats in Natal,
the slaughter at Magersfontein, the delays and reverses with which the
campaign opened. Small wonder that during those weary months heavy lines
of care were drawn on Milner's face. There was always present to his
mind the idea that if he had negotiated all this might have been
avoided. But he made no sign of disquiet; he entered into no
explanations or excuses as to why he had not negotiated. Having chosen
his course he abided by it in silence, until the advent of Lord Roberts
as Commander in Africa changed the whole face of the campaign, and at
last Milner went once more to Bloemfontein, but this time with a
conquering army, and he rose to speak at a banquet given in his honour
in the very hall where he had met Kruger in fruitless negotiations.


When he rose, enthusiastically cheered, he might well have been forgiven
if he had indulged in a little self-congratulation, but there was no
self-satisfaction but an infinite thankfulness and not a little pathos
in the speech. There was no triumphing over a fallen foe. He is not a
man of the bluff, hard, thick-skinned type on whom responsibilities sit
lightly. The thin frame, the careworn face, the lean nervous hands, all
indicate a temperament more suited to a writer and a thinker than to a
politician or a diplomat; and the speech was in keeping with the
indications. "When I last visited Bloemfontein," he said, "I entered
this very hall charged with most difficult and important negotiations. I
took a course which seemed in my judgment to be the right one. Since
then you all know the terrible strain and distress of mind through which
the nation has passed; let us hope that we may never have to undergo
such an experi-ence again; and let us feel devoutly thankful to Divine
Providence that has blest our armies with such success."


If Lord Milner hoped for rest after the practical overthrow of the Boer
forces he was doomed to disappointment. All through the long weary
months of irregular warfare he was harassed and worried as no other man
in Africa was worried. The military took over practical control of all
railways and means of transport and food supplies in the disturbed
districts, not only of the Transvaal and Free State but in Cape Colony.
The result was that the inland towns were often unable to get supplies
for their civilian population, and the local authorities--mayors and
town councillors--at once ran to Milner with their grievances. He had to
try to tone down as far as possible the hardship of military rule on the
one side and vexations and often insincere complaints of the civilians
on the other. Tradesmen and shopkeepers wanted to go back to
Johannesburg, and were refused permits by the military authorities. They
at once ran to Milner to intercede for them. An up-country storekeeper
had a couple of truckloads of supplies, urgently needed, which the
military refused to allow him to forward. He at once brought his
grievances to Milner. Residents of Capetown, shrewdly suspected of being
in league with the Boers, were unable to land goods at the port, and
came in a deputation to Milner. Prominent citizens, arrested for being
out after eight without a pass, sent indignant appeals to Milner. He
might very easily have refused to listen to any of these people and
their troubles, but he took the view that, as civil head of the
community, he was bound to do what he could to adjust the difficulties
that arose under military rule. He tried to be all things to all men,
and for a wonder he succeeded. All day long there was a steady stream of
people to see him--military, civilians, outlanders, pro-Boers, ship
captains, Australians wishing to settle--all came to him with their
grievances, and all were patiently, firmly, and straightforwardly dealt
with. But consider the strain and worry of it all: and so little thanks
for it did he get that he was always represented as the bete noire of
the Boers and their sympathisers, and of the Afrikanders generally,
while all the time they were running to him for advice and assistance at
all hours of the day and night. He appeared to have no fixed hours for
reception of visitors, and his working day lasted for about 18 hours.


There is much yet to do in Africa to settle the place and adjust
differences, but Lord Milner has earned rest and reward as fully as any
man could earn it, and it now appears possible that the reward is to
take the shape of the Governor-Generalship of Australia. He has shown
himself abundantly possessed of the tact and judgment necessary for the
position, and after what he has been through the work here would be
practically a holiday task. If the appoint-ment should be given to him
he should prove just the man to fill it.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 31 December 1902


TODAY THERE arrives in Sydney one of the most notable Australians of the
present day--Dr Morrison, the Times correspondent in China.

It is necessary to visit China itself in order to get any clear idea of
the responsibilities and difficulties of Dr Morrison's position. The
huge Chinese Empire has for years been jealously guarded from outside
intrusion; just a few treaty ports have been thrown open, and the fringe
of the country has barely been touched; and yet, so quickly has the
trade grown, that in 1898 China imported over seven million pounds'
worth of English goods--almost equal to the New South Wales imports for
the same year. Besides the English trade, there is the American, German,
French, Russian, and Japanese trade of China waiting to be developed;
and not only is there trade development to carry on, but there are in
China undreamed of sources of wealth--fertile lands that will grow
anything, mines of fabulous richness, water rights for irrigation to be
snapped up, permits to be obtained to make railways that will soon be
carrying their millions of passengers annually; all these prizes lie in
China awaiting the hardy adventurer who can get in as "first robber". In
every Chinese treaty port there is a restless crowd of adventurers of
all nations--English, Russian, American, German, and Jew--all scheming
and struggling to secure land, to secure railway rights, to secure water
rights, or to secure mining rights. There are officials to be bribed or
bullied into granting concessions--officials whose oath their dearest
friends would not believe, and whose written promise is a mere piece of
waste paper. There are political adventurers, pulling all sorts of
hidden strings and producing all sorts of amazing gyrations among the
puppets of Chinese politics. There are days when the mere knowledge that
an agreement has been signed by a Chinese official may be worth ten
thousand pounds in cold cash. There are rumours, lies, threats, open
violence to be encountered; and among this tumult and strife there moves
one man to whose knowl-edge all white men--Russian, American, German,
and Jew alike--defer, Morrison, the Australian, who represents the Times
in China.

It is hard to explain the secrets of his success in getting information.
It is not the amount of money that he has to spend, because the utmost
sum that the Times could allow for secret service money would be a mere
flea bite to the amount that some of the concessionaires and political
agents would give for early and exclusive information. And yet so
marvellously does he manage that the full text of the important treaty,
signed in 1901 at the conclusion of hostilities, was actually wired by
him to his paper, and was being read and discussed in English homes,
several days before the document was laid before the representatives of
the nations for signature. This is not luck--it's a gift!

Dr Morrison lives for the most part at Peking, where he is in touch with
the best-informed Chinese circles. But he moves constantly about,
travelling in men-of-war, on tramp steamers, on mule litters, on pony
back, or on his feet, as occasion demands. He is a powerful, wiry man,
of solid and imposing presence, and those who know him best in China say
that he has mastered the secret of all Chinese diplomacy--bluff. In
China you must "save your face", i.e., preserve your dignity at all
hazards. He never allows any Chinaman, however important, to assume for
a moment that he (the Chinaman) is in any way the equal of the Times
corre-spondent in China. He has been known--so his friends say--to pull
a Chinese mandarin out of his chair of state and seat himself in it, in
order to impress upon that Chinaman and his friends the transcendental
amount of "face" possessed by the Times correspondent. For the rest, a
keen knowledge of men, a gift of diplomacy, and a dogged Scotch
persistency pull him through his difficulties.

It needs an exceptional man to hold his own in such troubled waters;
every day there is some new rumour, some new threat, some new
difficulty. What are the Russians doing, what the Germans, what the
Americans? He has to report, and report faithfully, every move in a game
in which the stakes are millions, and the counters are the lives of men.
So thoroughly do the various Europeans rely on him that when the
Legations were besieged and no news came through, and it was known that
Morrison was in the besieged buildings, all hope was abandoned. The
general opinion all down the China coast was: "If Morrison was alive, he
would manage to get some news through." As a matter of fact, the wires
were never cut, and the Chinese in Hong Kong and Shanghai had news from
their friends all through the siege that the Legations were safe; but no
European would believe it, because it was thought that if the white
people in the Embassy were alive they would be able to bribe a Chinaman
to send a message somehow; the existence of an unbribable lot of
Chinamen was a thing they did not believe in. And yet it was so, and for
all the length of that siege the bland, imper-turbable Chinaman threw
off the mask, and showed his cold, uncompromising detestation of the
European and all his works; and in the great Armageddon yet to come,
when the Chinaman makes his next try to eject the white barbarian, woe
betide those who fall into his hands.

Dr Morrison's movements are timed to take him back to China in the
spring, when the gentle Chinaman, and the Russian, and the Manchu, awake
from their winter sleep, and resume their game of swapping concessions
and privileges; when the German once more starts to undersell his
English competitor, and the river highways teem with human life, and the
fishing junks go out to sea from Swatow in a cluster as thick as sailing
boats at a Balmain regatta. China is the theatre of the world's chief
performance for the next few years; and we may watch the unfolding of
the drama with added interest from the fact that the man who is to tell
us most about it is an Australian.

The Evening News, 21 January 1903

By A. Woodby, M.P.

I have not been asked to contest any electorate, so far, and the letters
M.P. after my name do not signify Member of Parliament, but simply
Member of the Public. I hold that every white citizen has a right to put
what letters he chooses after his name, and I choose to describe myself
as M.P.

When I say I have not been asked to contest any electorate, I am not
speaking quite accurately. As a matter of fact, a few friends offered to
"run me" for the electorate in which I reside. We held a lot of meetings
in the back rooms of public houses, and an enormous lot of liquor was
consumed at my expense. Every man that heard of it "dropped in", and
assured me that my chances were of the brightest. Then each drank about
three beers and "dropped out" to pass the word along to his mates, that
a candidate was standing drinks, and later on, all the mates dropped in.
My meetings were always unanimous in my favour, and I believe I would
have beaten George Reid for East Sydney, I was so popular. I employed a
man to go round and get signatures to a petition to me to come forward.
To make sure that he would work hard, I paid him at so much per hundred
signatures. He brought me in a most gratifying list, but I found that
most of the signatures were written by the canvasser himself. He took a
bottle of ink, a pen, and a rug out to the bush at Bondi, and lay in the
sun all day, writing signatures. I found that my friends had "run me" to
the tune of twenty pounds, or so, and I stopped my candidature right
there. I am now prepared, however, to contest any safe seat on either
the free trade or protectionist side. And while I am awaiting a
requisition, I have decided to make a few notes on canvassing the female
vote, which may serve as a guide to my fellow-candidates.


Every candidate should be a fat man. Not that a fat man is any cleverer
than a thin man; but because a superstitious reverence is paid to
obesity. A young Boer, writing a book on the war, said that the greatest
mistake made by his brave but misguided nation was the reverence paid by
them to the old Boers, who were only distinguished by profusion of
waistcoat and growth of beard. In fact, he said, worship of hair and
tallow had been the ruin of the nation. It is much the same in
Australia. Even the gifted Shakespeare, or the person, whoever he was,
that wrote his works, says--

Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o' nights;
I like not yon lean candidate.

or words to that effect. We may take it, then, that a fat candidate has a
tremendous advantage over a thin one.


The female vote is the one that will take some catching at the next
election. Unless the women "take to" a man, there is not the least hope
of their voting for him, as they are notoriously swayed by their likes
and dislikes. The candidate will, therefore, have to be prepared to
adapt himself to the various classes he will have to meet: And it is in
this adaptability that his chances of success will be.


To secure this vote you should get yourself up as much like a commercial
traveller in jewellery as you can. You should have on a diamond ring
that makes the South Head light look like a farthing candle, and a
waistcoat that out-Herods Herod in its killing capacities. Conversation
should be directed mainly to supper parties after the theatre, and you
should smoke a cigar all through the interview, even though it makes you
sick afterwards. These things must be gone through if you mean to be a
member of Parliament.


For the servant girl vote, a disguise in the costume of a policeman is
advisable. The candidate may explain in a whisper that he isn't a real
policeman, and may work up quite a "penny dreadful" romance out of the
situation. If the girl once firmly believes that you are somebody in
disguise, her impulsive sympathies will carry her to any lengths. She
will poison the family rather than allow them to vote against you. If
you don't disguise yourself, the head of the house may never let you see
the domestics at all, so the policeman dodge is the best. No one dares
to stop a policeman.


Having canvassed the barmaids, and the servant girls, you may as well
have a trial of strength with the lady politician. Your best attitude is
that of abject humility, and the less you say the better. When she asks
you, "What do you think of Smith's Wealth of Nations?" you must not let
her guess that you think she is referring to Bruce Smith. No; rather
should you stand in an appealing attitude, and she will proceed to "deal
it out to you" by the yard--all you have to do is to listen. No lady
politician can keep silent long enough to allow you to answer a
question; so, unless you interrupt her, you are safe. Therefore, don't
interrupt her. She prob-ably will not think much of you, but she must
vote for somebody, and you are as likely as not to be the one.


In canvassing for the female Potts Point vote the candidate should wear
a frock coat, eyeglass, spats, and striped trousers. In this class of
canvassing it is advisable to adopt what the doctors call a good bedside
manner. You should strive to impress the lady with the idea that you are
somebody in particular. In these high society circles the great thing is
to get the first blow in. On being shown into the room, you should at
once say, "Ah, aren't you some relation to my friend Lord Fantod?" If
she says, "No, I don't think so," you should say at once, "Ah, pardon
me; but I'm sure I heard him mention your name!" That will settle it.
You needn't say anything more. That women will tell her husband she is
going to vote for you whether he likes it or not, and if he says, "Why?"
she will say, "Because he knows Lord Fantod." That will dispose of one
class of female voter.


Last, but not least, comes the Rocks lady. To canvass this class is a
matter of risk. To begin with, your wife may stop you if she gets any
idea where you are off to. Then, if you can dodge her, the risks are
great of being "topped off with a bottle", or disposed of by the
admirers of the lady you approach. A good suit of clothing provokes open
hostility. The candidate's only chance is to get a pair of bell-bottoms,
high-heeled boots, and a soft hat. Just walk past the lady a few times,
and look hard at her, and she will say, "Hullo, Face," and the rest is
easy. The "lidy", if she likes the look of you, will vote for you, and
if she doesn't she won't. And that is all there is to say about it.

In canvassing about the Rocks, you must always be ag'in the Government.
Talk in a dark way about "blokes that puts themselves into good
billets", and be severe on everybody, and you can't go wrong. Now and
again, you will meet a lady voter who has made a study of politics, and
has read all the democratic papers. If this disastrous fate befall you,
the only thing to do is "bluff". On no account must you betray any
hesitation--if you do you are lost. If fairly cornered, you can always
fall back on Coghlan. Coghlan has helped many a lame political dog over
a stile. If you are challenged as to any facts, you should begin the
debate by asking, "Have you seen the last volume of Coghlan?" Of course
she hasn't. Then you can say with a mysterious air, "Well, look at
Coghlan, an' you'll see all that clearly laid out." Then leave before
you get laid out yourself. If you have a good florid bluff manner, you
will hear the push say as you leave, "An' 'e's a scholar, that bloke.
Knows Coghlan like a book." For foreign facts, always refer to Mulhall.
If they ask, "Who is Mulhall?" say he wrote the political columns in
Reynolds Weekly for years. They won't know any better. But whatever you
do, in dealing with the Rocks vote, never get confused or "lose your
block", as the saying is. You may be "topped off" at any minute if you

These few hints are put forward in the hope that they may save the
breath of many worthy persons, who would otherwise waste a lot of energy
in what is called "hot air talk" to female voters. Politics don't
matter: clothes are the main thing.

The Evening News, 14 November 1903


THE FIRST step in amateur gardening is to sit down and consider what
good you are going to get by it. If you are only a tenant by the month,
as most people are, it is obviously not much use your planting a fruit
orchard or an avenue of oak trees, which will take years to come to
maturity. What you want is something that will grow quickly, and will
stand trans-planting for when you move it would be a sin to leave behind
you all the plants on which you have spent so much labour and so much
patent manure. We knew a man once who was a bookmaker by trade--and a
leger bookmaker at that--but he had a passion for horses and flowers,
and when he "had a big win", as he occasionally did, it was his custom
to have movable wooden stables built on skids put up in the yard, and to
have tons of the best soil that money could buy carted into the garden
of the premises which he was occupying. Then he would keep splendid
horses in the stables, grow rare roses and show-bench chrysan-themums in
the garden and the landlord passing by would see the garden in a blaze
of colour, and would promise himself that he would raise the bookmaker's
rent next quarter day. However, when the bookmaker "took the knock", as
he invariably did at least twice a year, it was his pleasing custom to
move without giving any notice. He would hitch two carthorses to the
stables, and haul them away at night. He would dig up not only the
roses, trees, and chrysanthemums that he had planted, but would also
cart away the soil he had brought in; in fact, he used to shift the
garden bodily. He had one garden that he shifted to nearly every suburb
in Sydney in turn, and he always argued that change of air was
invaluable for chrys-anthemums. Be this as it may, the proposition is
self-evident that the would-be amateur gardener should grow flowers not
for posterity, nor for his landlord, nor for his creditors, but for

Being determined then to go in for gardening on commonsense principles,
and having decided on the class of shrubs that you mean to grow, the
next thing is to consider what sort of a chance you have of growing
them. If your neighbour keeps game fowls it may be taken for granted
that before long they will pay you a visit, and you will see the rooster
scratching your pot plants out by the roots as if they were so much
straw, just to make a nice place to lie down and fluff the dust over
himself. Goats will also stray in from the street, and bite the young
shoots off, selecting the most valuable plants with a discrimination
that would do credit to a professional gardener; and whatever valuable
plant a goat bites is doomed. It is therefore useless thinking of
growing any delicate or squeamish plants. Most amateur gardeners
maintain a lifelong struggle against the devices of Nature, and when the
forces of man and the forces of Nature come into conflict Nature will
win every time. Nature has decreed that certain plants shall be hardy,
and therefore suitable to suburban amateur gardens, but the suburban
amateur gardener persists in trying to grow quite other plants, and in
despising those marked out by Nature for his use. It is to correct this
tendency that this article is written.

The greatest standby to the amateur gardener should undoubtedly be the
blue-flowered shrub known as plumbago. This homely but hardy plant will
grow anywhere. It naturally prefers a good soil and a sufficient
rainfall, but if need be it will worry along without either. Fowls
cannot scratch it up, and even a goat turns away dismayed from its
hard-featured branches. The flower is not strikingly beautiful nor
ravishingly scented, but it flowers nine months out of the year, and
though smothered with street dust and scorched by the summer sun you
will find that faithful old plumbago plugging along undismayed. A plant
like this should be encouraged and made much of, but the misguided
amateur gardener as a rule despises it. The plant known as the
churchyard geranium is also one marked out by Provi-dence for the
amateur, as is also cosmea, a plant that comes up year after year when
once planted. In creepers, bignonia and lantana will hold their own
under difficulties perhaps as well as any that can be found. In trees,
the Port Jackson fig is a patriotic plant to grow, and it is a fine
plant to provide exercise, as it sheds its leaves unsparingly, and
requires to have the whole garden swept up every day. Your aim as a
student of Nature should be to encourage the survival of the fittest. In
grasses, too, the same principle holds good. There is a grass called nut
grass, and another called Parramatta grass, either of which will hold
its own against anything living or dead. The average gardening manual
gives you recipes for destroying these grasses. Why should you destroy
them in favour of a sickly plant that needs constant atten-tion? No. The
Parramatta grass is the selected of Nature, and who are you to interfere
with Nature? Having thus decided to go in for strong, simple plants that
will hold their own, and a bit over, you must get your implements of
husbandry. A spade is the first thing, but the average ironmonger will
show you an unwieldy weapon only meant to be used by navvies. Don't buy
it. Get a small spade, about half-size--it is nice and light and doesn't
tire the wrist, and with it you can make a good display of enthusiasm,
and earn the hypocritical admiration of your wife. After digging for
half an hour or so, you can get her to rub your back with any of the
backache cures advertised in this journal and from that moment you will
have no further need for the spade.

Besides a spade, a barrow is about the only other thing needed, and
anyhow it is almost a necessity for removing cases of whisky into the
house. A rake is useful sometimes as a weapon, when your terrier dog has
bailed up a cat, and will not attack it till the cat is made to run. And
talking of terrier dogs, an acquaintance of ours has a dog that does all
his gardening. The dog is a small elderly terrier, whose memory is
failing somewhat, so as soon as the terrier has planted a bone in the
garden the owner slips over and digs it up and takes it away. When the
terrier goes back and finds the bone gone, he distrusts his own memory,
and begins to think that perhaps he has made a mistake, and has dug in
the wrong place; so he sets to work and digs patiently all over the
garden, turning over acres of soil in his search for the missing bone.
Meanwhile, the man saves himself a lot of backache.

The sensible amateur gardener, then, will not attempt to fight with
Nature but will fall in with her views. What more pleasant than to get
out of bed at 11.30 on a Sunday morning, and look out of your window at
a lawn waving with the feathery plumes of Parramatta grass, and to see
beyond it the churchyard or stinking geranium flourishing side by side
with the plumbago and the Port Jackson fig? The garden gate blows open,
and the local commando of goats, headed by an aged and fragrant
patriarch (locally known as De Wet from the impossibility of capturing
him), rush in; but their teeth will barely bite through the wiry stalks
of the Parramatta grass, and the plumbago and the fig tree fail to
attract them; and before long they scale the fence by standing on one
another's shoulders, and disappear into the next-door garden, where a
fanatic is trying to grow show roses. After the last goat has scaled
your neighbour's fence, and only De Wet is left in your garden, your
little dog discovers him, and De Wet beats a hurried retreat, apparently
at full speed, with the little dog exactly one foot behind him in
frantic pursuit. We say apparently at full speed, because old experience
has taught that De Wet can run as fast as a greyhound when he likes; but
he never exerts himself to go any faster than is necessary to just keep
in front of whatever dog is after him; in fact, De Wet once did run for
about a hundred yards with a greyhound after him, and then he suddenly
turned and butted the greyhound cranksided, as Uncle Remus would say.
Hearing the scrimmage, your neighbour comes onto his verandah, and sees
the chase going down the street. "Ha! that wretched old De Wet again!"
he says. "Small hope your dog has of catching him! Why don't you get a
garden gate like mine, so as he won't get in?" "No; he can't get in at
your gate," is the reply, "but I think his commando are in your back
garden now." The next thing is a frantic rush by your neighbour, falling
downstairs in his haste, and the sudden reappearance of the commando
skipping easily back over the fence, and through your gate into the
street again, stopping to bite some priceless pot plants of your
neighbour's as they come out. A horse gets in, but his hoofs make no
impression on the firm turf of the Parramatta grass, and you get quite a
hearty laugh by dropping a chair on him out of the first floor window,
and seeing him go tearing down the street. The game fowls of your other
neighbour come fluttering into your garden, and scratch and chuckle and
fluff themselves under your plumbago bush; but you don't worry. Why
should you? They can't hurt it: and besides, you know well enough that
the small black hen and the big yellow hen, who have disappeared from
the throng, are even now laying their daily eggs for you at the back of
the thickest bush. Your little dog rushes frantically up and down the
front bed of your garden barking and racing, and tearing up the ground,
because his rival little dog who lives down the street is going past
with his master, and each pretends that he wants to be at the other--as
they have pretended every day for the past three years. But the
performance he goes through in the garden doesn't disturb you. Why
should it? By following the directions in this article you have selected
plants that he cannot hurt. After breakfasting at 12 noon, you stroll
out, and, perhaps, smooth with your foot or with your small spade the
inequalities made by the hens; you gather up casually the eggs that they
have laid; you whistle to your little dog, and go out for a stroll with
a light heart. That is the true way to enjoy amateur gardening.

The Evening News, 19 December 1903

A Tragedy as Played at Ryde

Macbreath  Mr Henley
Macpuff    Mr Terry
     The Ghost


TIME: The day before the election.
SCENE: A Drummoyne tram running past a lunatic asylum.
All present are Reform Leaguers and supporters of Macbreath.
They seat themselves in the compartment.

MACBREATH: Here, I'll sit in the midst.
Be large in mirth. Anon we'll all be fitted
With Parliamentary seats.
(Voter approaches the door.)
There's blood upon thy face.

VOTER: 'Tis Thompson's, then.

MACBREATH: Is he thrown out? How neatly we beguiled
The guileless Thompson. Did he sign a pledge agreeing to retire?

VOTER: Aye, that he did.

MACBREATH: Not so did I!
Not on the doubtful hazard of a vote
By Ryde electors, cherry-pickers, oafs,
That drive their market carts at dread of night
And sleep all day. Not on the jaundiced choice
Of folks who daily run their half a mile
Just after breakfast, when the steamer hoots
Her warning to the laggard--not on these
Relied Macbreath, for if these rustics' choice
Had fall'n on Thompson, I should still have claimed
A conference. But hold! Is Thompson out?

VOTER: My Lord, his name is mud. That I did for him
I paid my shilling and I cast my vote.

MACBREATH: Thou art the best of all the shilling voters.
Prithee, be near me on election day
To see me smite Macpuff--and now we shan't
Be long--
(Ghost of Thompson appears.)
What's this? A vision!
Thou canst not say I did it! Never shake
Thy gory locks at me. Run for some other seat,
Let the woods hide thee. Prithee, chase thyself!
(The ghost of Thompson disappears, and Macbreath revives
himself with a great effort.)
Leaguers all,
Mine own especial comrades of Reform,
All amateurs and no professionals,
So many worthy candidates I see,
Alas that there are only ninety seats.
Still, let us take them all--and Joe Carruthers,
Ashton, and Jimmy Hogue, and all the rest,
Will have to look for work! Oh, joyous day,
To-morrow's poll will make me M.L.A.


TIME: Election day.
SCENE: Macbreath's committee rooms.

MACBREATH: Bring me no more reports: let them all fly;
Till Labour's platform to Kyabram come
I cannot taint with fear. How go the votes?
Enter First Voter

FIRST VOTER: May it please my Lord,
The cherry-pickers' vote is two to one
Towards Macpuff: and all our voters say
The ghost of Thompson sits in every booth,
And talks of pledges.

MACBREATH: What a polished liar!
And yet the dead can vote! (Strikes him.)
What if it should be!
(Ghost of Thompson appears to him suddenly.)

GHOST: The Pledge! The Pledge!

MACBREATH: I say I never signed the gory pledge.
(Ghost disappears. Enter a Messenger.)
Thou com'st to use thy tongue. Thy story quickly!

MESSENGER: Gracious, my Lord,
I should report that which I know I saw,
But know not how to do it.

MACBREATH: Well, say on!

MESSENGER: As I did stand my watch in Parliament
I saw the Labour platform come across
And join Kyabram--Loans were overthrown--
The numbers were reduced--extravagance
Is put an end to by McGowen's vote.

MACBREATH: The devil damn thee black, thou cream-faced loon!
Where got'st thou this fish yarn?

MESSENGER: There's nearly forty--

MACBREATH: Thieves, fool?

MESSENGER: No, members, will be frozen out of work!

MACBREATH: Aye, runs the story so! Well, well, 'tis sudden!
These are the uses of the politician,
A few brief sittings and another contest;
He hardly gets to know th' billiard tables
Before he's out ...

(Alarums and Harbour excursions; enter Macpuff at the head
of a Picnic Party.)

MACPUFF: Now, yield thee, tyrant!
By that fourth party which I once did form,
I'll take thee to a picnic, there to live
On windfall oranges!

MACBREATH: ... Nay, rather death!
Death before picnic fare! Lay on, Macpuff,
And damned be he who first cries Hold, enough!
(They fight. Macbreath is struck on the back of the head by some
blue metal from Pennant Hills Quarry. He falls. The referee counts,
"One, two, three, eight, nine, ten--out!")

MACPUFF: Kind voters all, and worthy gentlemen,
Who rallied to my flag today, and made me
Member for Thompson, from my soul I thank you.
There needs no trumpet blast, for I can blow
Like any trombone. Prithee, let us go!
Thanks to you all who shared this glorious day,
Whom I invite to dance at Chowder Bay!


The Evening News, 25 January 1904


No tram ever goes to Randwick races without him; he is always fat,
hairy, and assertive; he is generally one of a party, and he takes the
centre of the stage all the time--pays the fares, adjusts the change,
chaffs the conductor, crushes the thin, apologetic stranger next him
into a pulp, and talks to the whole compartment freely, as if they had
asked for his opinion.

He knows all the trainers and owners, apparently--rather, he takes care
to give the impression that he does. He slowly and pompously hauls out
his race book, and one of his satellites opens the ball by saying, in a
deferential way, "What do you like for the 'urdles, Charley?"

The Oracle looks at the book, and breathes heavily; no one else ventures
to speak. "Well," he says, at last, "of course there's only one in
it--if he's wanted. But that's it--will they spin him? I don't think
they will. They's only a lot o' cuddies any'ow."

No one likes to expose his own ignorance by asking which horse he refers
to as being able to win; and he goes on to deal out some more wisdom in
a loud voice:

"Billy K----told me" (he probably hardly knows Billy K----by sight).
"Billy K----told me that that bay 'orse ran the best mile an' a half
ever done on Randwick yesterday; but I don't give him a chance, for all
that; that's the worst of these trainers. They don't know when their
horses are well--half of 'em."

Then a voice comes from behind him. It is the voice of the Thin Man, who
is crushed out of sight by the bulk of the Oracle.

"I think," says the Thin Man, "that that horse of Flannery's ought to
run well in the Handicap."

The Oracle can't stand this sort of thing at all. He gives a snort, and
wheels his bulk half-round, and looks at the speaker. Then he turns back
to the compartment full of people, and says, "No 'ope."

The Thin Man makes a last effort. "Well, they backed him last night,
anyhow." "Who backed 'im?" says the Oracle.

"In Tattersall's," says the Thin Man.

"I'm sure," says the Oracle; and the Thin Man collapses.

On arrival at the course, the Oracle is in great form. Attended by his
string of satellites, he plods from stall to stall, staring at the
horses. The horses' names are printed in big letters on the stalls, but
the Oracle doesn't let that stop his display of knowledge.

"Ere's Blue Fire," he says, stopping at that animal's stall, and
swinging his race book. "Good old Blue Fire!" he goes on loudly as a
little court of people collect, "Jimmy B----" (mentioning a popular
jockey) "told me he couldn't have lost on Saturday week if he had only
been ridden different. I had a good stake on him, too, that day. Lor',
the races that has been chucked away on this horse. They will not ride
him right."

Then a trainer, who is standing by, civilly interposes. "This isn't Blue
Fire," he says. "Blue Fire's out walking about. This is a two-year-old
filly that's in the stall--"

"Well, I can see that, can't I?" says the Oracle, crushingly. "You don't
suppose I thought Blue Fire was a mare, did you?" and he moves off
hurriedly, scenting danger.

"I don't know what you thought," mutters the trainer to himself, as the
Oracle retires. "Seems to me doubtful whether you have the necessary
apparatus for thinking--". But the Oracle goes on his way with
undiminished splendour.

"Now, look here, you chaps," he says to his followers at last. "You wait
here. I want to go and see a few of the talent, and it don't do to have
a crowd with you. There's Jimmy M over there now" (pointing to a leading
trainer). "I'll get hold of him in a minute. He couldn't tell me
anything with so many about. Just you wait here."

Let us now behold the Oracle in search of information. He has at various
times unofficially met several trainers--has ridden with them in trams,
and has exchanged remarks with them about the weather; but somehow in
the saddling paddock they don't seem anxious to give away the good
things that their patrons have paid for the preparation of, and he is
not by way of getting any tips. He crushes into a crowd that has
gathered round the favourite's stall, and overhears one hard-faced
racing man say to another, "What do you like?" and the other answers,
"Well, either this or Royal Scot. I think I'll put a bit on Royal Scot."
This is enough for the Oracle. He doesn't know either of the men from
Adam, or either of the horses from the great original pachyderm, but the
information will do to go on with. He rejoins his followers, and looks
very mysterious. "Well, did you hear anything?" they say.

The Oracle talks low and confidentially.

"The crowd that have got the favourite tell me they're not afraid of
anything but Royal Scot," he says. "I think we'd better put a bit on

"What did the Royal Scot crowd say?" asks an admirer deferentially.

"Oh, they're going to try and win. I saw the stable commissioner, and he
told me they were going to put a hundred on him. Of course, you needn't
say I told you, 'cause I promised him I wouldn't tell." And the
satellites beam with admiration of the Oracle, and think what a
privilege it is to go to the races with such a knowing man.

They contribute their mites to a general fund, some putting in a pound,
others half a sovereign, and the Oracle takes it into the ring to
invest, half on the favourite, and half on Royal Scot. He finds that the
favourite is at two to one and Royal Scot at threes, eight to one being
given against anything else. As he ploughs through the ring, a whisperer
(one of those broken-down followers of the turf who get their living in
various mysterious ways, but partly by giving "tips" to backers) pulls
his sleeve.

"What are you backing?" he says. "Favourite and Royal Scot," says the

"Put a pound on Bendemeer," says the tipster. "It's a certainty. Meet me
here if it comes off, and I'll tell you something for the next race.
Don't miss it now. Get on quick!"

The Oracle is humble enough before the hanger-on of the turf, and as a
bookmaker roars "Ten to one Bendemeer", the Oracle suddenly fishes out a
sovereign of his own--and he hasn't money to spare for all his
knowingness--and puts it on Bendemeer. His friends' money he puts on the
favourite and Royal Scot, as arranged. Then they all go round to watch
the race.

The horses are at the post; a distant cluster of crowded animals, with
little dots of colour on their backs. Green, blue, yellow, purple,
French grey, and old gold; they change about in a bewildering manner,
and though the Oracle has a (cheap) pair of glasses, he can't make out
where Bendemeer has got to. Royal Scot and the favourite he has lost
interest in, and he secretly hopes that they will be left at the post or
break their necks; but he does not confide his sentiments to his
companions. They're off! The long line of colours across the track
becomes a shapeless clump, and then draws out into a long string.
"What's that in the front?" yells someone by the rails. "Oh, that thing
of Hart's," says someone else. But the Oracle hears them not; he is
looking in the mass of colour for a purple cap and grey jacket, with
black armbands. He cannot see it anywhere, and the confused and
confusing mass swings round the turn into the straight.

Then there is a babel of voices, and suddenly a shout of "Bendemeer!
Bendemeer!" and the Oracle, without knowing which is Bendemeer, takes up
the cry feverishly. "Bendemeer! Bendemeer!" he yells, waggling his
glasses about, trying to see where the animal is.

"Where's Royal Scot, Charley? Where's Royal Scot?" screams one of his
friends, in agony. "'Ow's he doin'?"

"No 'ope!" says the Oracle, with fiendish glee. "Bendemeer! Bendemeer!"

The horses are at the Leger stand now, whips are out, and three horses
seem to be nearly abreast--in fact, to the Oracle there seem to be a
dozen nearly abreast. Then a big chestnut seems to stick his head in
front of the others, and a small man at the Oracle's side emits a
deafening series of yells right by the Oracle's ear: "Go on, Jimmy! Rub
it into him! Belt him! It's a cake-walk! A cake-walk!" and the big
chestnut, in a dogged sort of way, seems to stick his body clear of his
opponents, and passes the post a winner by a length. The Oracle doesn't
know what has won, but fumbles with his book. The number on the
saddlecloth catches his eye. No. 7; and he looks hurriedly down the
page. No. 7--Royal Scot. Second is No. 24--Bendemeer. Favourite nowhere.

Hardly has he realised it, before his friends are cheering and clapping
him on the back. "By George, Charley, it takes you to pick 'em." "Come
and 'ave a wet?" "You 'ad a quid in, didn't you, Charley?" The Oracle
feels very sick at having missed the winner, but he dies game. "Yes,
rather; I had a quid on," he says. "And" (here he nerves himself to
smile) "I had a saver on the second, too."

His comrades gasp with astonishment. "D'ye'r that, eh? Charley backed
first and second. That's pickin' 'Em, if you like." They have a wet, and
pour fulsome adulation on the Oracle when he collects their money.

After the Oracle has collected the winnings for his friends he meets the
Whisperer again. "It didn't win?" he says to the Whisperer in inquiring

"Didn't win!" says the Whisperer who has determined to brazen the matter
out. "How could he win? Did you see the way he was ridden? That horse
was stiffened just after I seen you, and he never tried a yard. Did you
see the way he was pulled and hauled about at the turn? It'd make a man
sick. What was the stipendiary stewards doing, I wonder?"

This fills the Oracle with a new idea. All that he remembers of the race
at the turn was a jumble of colours, a kaleidoscope of horses, and of
riders hanging out on the horses' necks. But it wouldn't do for the
Oracle to admit that he didn't see everything, and didn't know
everything; so he plunges in boldly.

"0' course, I saw it," he says. "A blind man could see it. They ought to
rub him out." "Course they ought," says the Whisperer. "But look here,
put two quid on Tell-tale; you'll get it all back!"

The Oracle does put on "two quid", and doesn't get it all back. Neither
does he see any more of this race than he did of the last one; in fact,
he cheers wildly when the wrong horse is coming in; but when the public
begins to hoot, he hoots as loudly as anybody--louder if anything--and
all the way home in the tram he lays down the law about stiff running,
and wants to know what the stipendiaries are doing. If you go into any
barber's shop, you can hear him at it, and he flourishes in suburban
railway carriages; but he has a tremendous local reputation, having
picked the first and second in the handicap, and it would be a bold man
who would venture to question the Oracle's knowledge of racing and of
all matters relating to it.

The Evening News, 30 January 1904


"Cumanavadrink!" said the Thin Man to the Oracle, when they met at the
corner hotel, and he moved to the main entrance.

"I never go into the threepenny bar," said the Oracle, "because I am
liable to gout, and can't drink beer, and they can't sell anything
drinkable for threepence but beer, which they ought to sell for twopence
now that the brewers have reduced the wholesale price; but threepence
seems to be what the Japanese in their weekly ultimatums to the Czar of
Russia call the irreducible minimum."

"Well, come into the private bar," said the Thin Man.

And they did.

"Of course, you know why this is called the private bar?" said the
Oracle. "Well, no, I don't," said the man of slight obesity.

"It is called the private bar," said the Oracle, "because it is open to
the public. That is, it is open to those members of the public who are
the happy possessors of the irreducible minimum of one sprat. To every
possessor of sixpence a private bar is a public bar, and to every person
with less than threepence a public bar is a private bar. In fact, he is
barred altogether. In this country you cannot look at a barman through
the end of a long-necked tumbler, or through the glass bottom of a pint
pot, for less than threepence; that, as Admiral Kamimura would say, is
the irreducible minimum."

"I see," said the Thin Man, who was so thin that his friends used to ask
him if he were a grandson of Napoleon Boney Party.

"Hennessey and Schweppe, my dear," said the Oracle to the flaxen-haired
Hebe behind the bar, "and my friend will have the same, because he knows
that when you sell a fair nobbler of brandy and soda for sixpence you do
so at a dead loss; while, if you sell two for a shilling and split the
soda there is a profit of very nearly a halfpenny!"

"But I could come in and have a Hennessey and Schweppe on my own for
sixpence, couldn't I?" inquired the Thin Man, well knowing that he could
do so.

"Of course you could," said the Oracle.

"Then why, if it doesn't pay them, do they sell one brandy and soda for
sixpence?" "It's the quantity they sell that makes it pay," said the
Oracle. "I am inclined to think," he went on, as he half emptied his
glass, "that drink should be put down."

The barmaid smiled, and the Oracle frowned.

"This," he said, pointing to the young woman, "seems to be a very
respectable girl; but I do not think a bar is a proper place for a girl.
In this view I have the support of many estimable persons, who have
never been inside an hotel, and consequently do not know anything at all
about them. The number of things which are condemned by people who know
nothing at all about them is one of the quaintest paradoxes of the
twentieth century. Did you ever know a temperance lecturer to come into
a bar, have a drink, shout for the barmaid, and invite her to Manly to
shoot the chute and tobog the toboggan? No! Why? Because he is afraid it
would be a Steyne on his character! But, as Antony said to Cleopatra, as
recorded by the immortal bard, 'Let's to billiards!'"

"Who was the immortal bard?" asked the Thin Man.

"I refer," said the Oracle, "to William W. Shakespeare, the greatest of
all English poets, and the first to mention the game of billiards.
Apparently he played billiards, and probably Ben Jonson called him the
Spot Stroke Bard."

"I observe," said the Oracle, when they reached the billiard room, and
he was searching the rack for a cue with a tip as big as a shilling, "I
observe that the Labour party have constructed an entirely new platform
of six planks, all cut of their own heads, and I have no doubt that they
have wood enough left to make another half-dozen. Shall I play you with
a ten break, or give you fifty in a hundred?"

"Oh, we'd better play level," said the Thin Man.

"Play level!" cried the Oracle; "what's your name; Memmott?"

"No," said the Thin Man.

"Who'll break?" said the Oracle.

"I'll toss you for it," said the Thin Man.

"Oh, if we toss for it you probably won't have a shot at all. I can
often make a hundred off the red from baulk. John Roberts used to pay me
£200 a year to stop in Australia. He was afraid, you see, if I went to
England I would be matched against him. Grand player, John. Did it ever
strike you that the man who reaches the highest position in his trade or
profession is generally named Roberts?"

"Nonsense!" said the Thin Man.

"No nonsense about it," went on the Oracle. "Look at John Roberts as a
billiardist. Look at Lord Roberts as a general. Well, I'll break 'em up,
give you 98 start, and bet you five bob you don't score at all."

"It's a wager," said the Thin Man, and the marker smiled as he put him
on to 98. Then the Oracle fired straight into the middle pocket and the
game was over.

"You're out," said the Oracle, "and I'll have to pay for the table out
of the five bob I won from you on the side wager that you wouldn't

"I don't like this way of playing billiards," said the Thin Man.

"Oh, it's like Bill Scroggins," said the Oracle. "It's all right when
you know it, but you've got to know it first. Have another game? No? All
right. Let's have another drink."

They returned to the P.B.--the Private Bar, the Pretty Barmaid, and the
Pale Brandy. "Drink," repeated the Oracle, as he again emptied his
glass, "drink should be put down." "You seem to be putting it down all
right," said the barmaid.

"And barmaids," went on the Oracle, "should also be put down. A
beautiful creature like this leads men to drink. How much a week do you
spend in drink?"

"Probably a pound," said the Thin Man.

"And how long have you been a drinker at that rate?"

"About twenty years."

"Ah, well, I was a teetotaller for forty years, that is what makes my
hand so steady at billiards. You noticed my steady hand, probably, as I
fired into that middle pocket? And you have been spending a pound a week
in liquor for twenty years. Disgraceful! Twenty times fifty-two equals
1040. You have spent £1040 in drink, and probably kept sober all the
time. Must have kept fairly sober, or you couldn't have earnt the money
to buy liquor. Do you know, sir, that if you had put that pound per week
into the Post Office Savings Bank, or into any other bank at a
reasonable interest, you might now be the happy owner of a terrace of
three or four fairly good houses?"

"Very likely," said the Thin Man. "Where's your terrace of houses?"

"Eh?" queried the Oracle.

"Where is your terrace of houses?"

"I've got no houses," said the Oracle.

"Well, where's the money?" asked the Thin Man.

"I'll tell you," said the Oracle, "if you promise not to let the matter
go any further than the columns of a newspaper. The money that I didn't
spend in drink during the forty years I was a teetotaller is in the same
place as Mr Thomas Waddell's next surplus!"

The Evening News, 6 February 1904


"No," said the Oracle to Editor Clipham, as he lit his pipe and seated
himself comfortably in the editor's room at the office of the Warrogolga
Weekly Weathercock, with the air of a man who can make himself at home
anywhere, "no, it isn't every man who knows how to run a newspaper."

"Have you come to tell me how to do it?" asked the Editor.

"Well, not exactly that," said the Oracle, "but I have come to make a
few suggestions, if you care to listen to them."

"Oh, certainly," said the Editor, "it is the regular rule of all editors
to listen to advice from anybody and everybody. Proceed; I am all ears,
as Shakespeare says."

"I should not have thought you old enough," said the Oracle, "to have
been personally acquainted with Shakespeare; but if he did say you are
all ears it was merely a slight exaggeration, a sort of Oriental
hyperbole, as it were, for you have legs and arms, and other physical
attributes, though your ears are certainly the most noticeable."

"Copy!" yelled the Printer's Devil, as he opened a little sliding
shutter in the wall, and stuck his head through into the sanctum. "Ain't
yer done the leader yet? The foreman says we'll miss the post if yer
don't hurry up!"

"I won't keep you one calendar second," said the Editor, as he proceeded
to clip from a paper a column-long letter on "Ecclesiastical Millinery
in the Time of Queen Elizabeth". "Tell the foreman to alter the personal
pronoun into the editorial 'we'."

"Righto!" said the Devil. "That'll stop the beggars jeffin' em-quads on
the stone for an hour or two." And he drew in his head and arm together,
and slid down the shutter. "What does that impudent boy mean by 'jeffin'
em-quads?" asked the Oracle. "I thought you knew all about a newspaper
office?" replied the Editor.

"I do not pretend to know all about the composing room," admitted the

"Don't you know what a quad is?" asked the Editor, with considerable
surprise, for it was the first time the Oracle had confessed to a lack
of detailed knowledge on any subject, however technical.

"There are certain establishments at Berrima, Goulburn, Maitland, and
Darlinghurst, which I believe, are known among vulgar persons by that
name," replied the Oracle with dignity; "but I am not in the habit of
using such terms myself."

"An em quad," explained the Editor, "is used for indenting an article."

"I see; something like an invoice or bill of lading?" said the Oracle.

"The number of things you don't know about a newspaper office," said the
Editor, "would fill a book. But go on, tell me the proper way to run a

"I merely wish to offer some suggestions in a friendly manner," said the
Oracle, "but if you prefer to sneer I will not do so. What is more, I
will stop the paper!"

"Don't do that," implored the Editor, "or you'll prevent me from being
able to sell out at a fair price. Your account is the biggest book debt
in the subscribers' ledger!"

"Your unkindly reference to the state of my account," said the Oracle,
"is most unseemly. That I am in your debt for a certain paltry amount is
true. Do you imagine that I can't pay?"

"Oh, no," said the Editor, "not at all; but I have an idea that you
don't! However, go on with the suggestions, and I'll lock the door and
send the Devil down to the corner for a billy can of beer."

"I should be only too happy to assist you in any little matter of that
sort," said the Oracle.

"I daresay," said the Editor. "In that branch of journalism you would
probably shine. But go on; you've made me give the comps. reprint
instead of fresh matter, so that I could spare the time to listen to
your suggestions, and now you'd better tell me what they are."

"In the first place," quoth the Oracle, "you want a column of short
paragraphs and little verses, something like this:

They gave John G.
A send-off spree
His health was drunk
And so was he!

"Something jocular, you know. When the lampooned party calls round with
a stick, ask him to select the person to form the subject of another
little jibe, and promise John G. a complimentary par about his nice
little orchard. That'll please him. Occasionally work up a sectarian
row; nothing sells a paper like a rattling good murder, a slashing
divorce (one with half a dozen co-respondents and a mother-in-law of
doubtful character), or a sectarian row. If you can't get anybody to set
the ball rolling, do it yourself. Write yourself a letter, headed 'Why
the celebration of the twelfth of July should be suppressed' and sign it
'Michael O'Rafferty', so long as there isn't anybody of that name in the
district. Then bring the letter under the notice of the Worshipful
Master of the local Orange Lodge. He will respond with quotations from
Liguori and Maria Monk, and there you are! If nobody steps into the
breach, dear friend, all you have to do is to again appear in the
character of Michael O'Rafferty, asking what consistency there is in men
who revere the memory of one Dutchman, the same being William of Orange,
denouncing so very Dutch a Dutchman as Oom Paul Kruger. See? Presently
somebody will take up the Catholic side of the argument and you can
leave that alone, too, and they'll half write your paper between 'em."

"Just so," said the Editor.

"Then," went on the Oracle, "there is the obituary poem idea. You can
always get an ad, referring to the dear departed and subsequent in
memoriam notices with 'Russian and Hungarian papers, please copy' in
them, if you sling 'em a bit of a jingle; something in this style:

We have lost our darling mother,
She has left us sad and lone!
And our hearts are filled with sorrow
'Cause we don't know where she's gone!

"Or this, for a widower:

In the cold ground
My wife doth lie;
She's happier now
And so am I!

"There is money in obituary poetry. The more grief-stricken the
relatives, the less likely they are to observe the ludicrous absurdity
of obituary and in memoriam verses. But the little jingle may be
cheerful in the births and marriages, especially marriages. People very
seldom get married unless they want to; but they very often have babies
whether they want to or not! Choose, if possible, a method that will
play upon the names. I read an excellent wedding quatrain once for a
couple named respectively John Smith--you've heard the name before,
perhaps--and Annie Bread. She wasn't a baker's daughter, either. This
was the quatrain; it took well:

"What were the words that Johnnie said? Oh, what did Johnnie mutter? He
said, "I will have Annie Bread, And won't have any but her!"

"And now," said the Editor, "can you give me any advice about libels?"

"Certainly," said the Oracle; "the only thing a responsible journalist
in this great free country--where any white man can come and live if he
isn't a hatmaker--needs to do in regard to libels is to refrain from
writing them. Praise everyone, and deceive the public. The public
doesn't mind being deceived. If you know a politician with four wives
who has (I mean the politician) never been known to go home sober, speak
of him as a highly moral citizen!"

"Thank you," said the Editor; "and as the billy-can is empty we will
repair to the Royal and cut out a bit more of that running 'ad'."

The Oracle smiled an acquiescent smile, and said he had always been an
advocate for irrigating the interior.

The Evening News, 13 February 1904


"You're next!" called the Barber, as the Oracle put his head in the
saloon on Monday morning. "Won't keep you a minute." The Oracle stepped
in to find, as usual, six men waiting to be shaved, each with a chin on
him as bristly as the barrel of a musical box.

There may have been at some time in some country a barber who told the
truth about how long the unshaven customer would have to wait; but, if
so, he is now in Heaven, with the only politician who ever told the
truth about the prospects of his party.

But the Oracle was in no particular hurry, and had not believed the
Barber when the latter told him he was "next". Nobody ever takes a
barber's word in a matter of that sort, without seeing that the saloon
is empty.

"It's a bit awkward in this business," said the Barber. "Can't help
keeping people waiting on Saturdays and Mondays. Can't put on extra
hands, because all the shops want 'em at the same time and if there were
enough to go all round on Saturdays and Mondays, three-fourths of them
would be unemployed all the rest of the week, as a good many are now."

"But I don't find customers growl much," proceeded the Tonsorial Artist,
as he scraped some more bristles off the neck of the gentleman in the
chair. "I don't know how women would stand waiting in a shaving saloon.
It's a good job they don't have beards."

"I suppose," whispered the Oracle to the Thin Man seated next to him,
and who looked as if he had swallowed a bird cage, and the wire were
growing out of his chin, "I suppose you know why it is that women don't
have beards?"

"I should imagine," said the Thin Man with the porcupine bristles, "that
it is in accord with the natural law under which the male animal is the
most beautiful. Compare the peacock with the peahen."

"Just so," said the Oracle, "one never hears of a peacock being
discounted, and subsequently dishonoured, but it is a thing that
frequently happens in the case of a P.N."

"Observe," went on the Thin Man, "the noble mane of the lion as
compared--I should say contrasted--with the smooth neck of the lioness."

"Exactly," said the Oracle. "Then there is the Lyre Bird and the Bird of
Paradise; how beautiful are the male birds! But the case of the Queen
Bee shows that the law of male superiority is not universal, as is
commonly supposed. And the reason that women have no beards has no
bearing on the question of sex superiority at all!"

"No?" queried the Thin Man.

"Certainly not," said the Oracle. "The reason that women have no beards
is that the Creator was aware that no woman could possibly keep her chin
still long enough to admit of her being shaved without being in imminent
danger of having her throat cut. That is why men have beards, and women
do not. Dowie has a fine beard."

"Yes," said the Thin Man. "Strange form of religion he has, isn't it?"

"There is nothing very new about it," said the Oracle. "Faith-healing is
as old as the hills, and has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of
people at various periods of the world's history. Oliver Cromwell was a
great believer in faith. What did he say at the battle of Marston Moor?
'Put your faith in the Lord and don't forget to keep the powder dry!'
Voltaire was also very strong on faith."

"Voltaire?" said the Thin Man, with the fencing-wire whiskers. "Why, he
was an atheist!"

"It is a common idea," said the Oracle, "but it is just as erroneous, as
it is common. When charged with atheism, Voltaire said he was not an
atheist, or an agnostic, but he went so far in the opposite direction
that he was profoundly superstitious. 'So far from believing in
nothing,' he said, 'I can believe in witchcraft and am confident that
with incantations (and arsenic) it is possible to poison a flock of

"Next!" called the Barber, and Thin Man went into the chair.

"If I had a stubbly beard like that," said the Oracle to the Fat Man who
had moved along the form, and came nearer, when the Thin Man took the
chair. "If I had a beard like that, I think I would run the lawn mower
over it before I had the impudence to bring it into a barber's shop to
be shaved off for threepence."

"Perhaps he doesn't own a lawn mower," suggested the Fat Man.

"Then he should use a keyhole saw or a jack plane," said the Oracle, "or
he should borrow a scythe blade. It isn't shaving at all; it is
harvesting a heavy crop, with plenty of thistles and cobbler's pegs
among the wheat!"

"What's your opinion," asked the Fat Man, "about this retrenchment
scheme? Pretty rough to make the civil servants pay for the extravagance
of the Government, ain't it?"

"It is," said the Oracle. "The trouble is they don't begin at the right

"That's it; they should cut down the big screws," said the Fat Man.

"I didn't mean that," said the Oracle. "What we want is a sliding scale
of payment for Ministers and members. Of course, they don't cause the
drought; but as they always take credit for a good season, we might as
well blame them for a bad one, just to even things up a bit. If I had my
way I'd have payment by results. The Treasurer shouldn't be allowed to
use any revenue to the extent of a cab fare until the money was voted by
Parliament, and Ministers' and members' salaries should be put on the
Estimates, and be liable to alteration every year. There never was a
Treasurer anywhere who even anticipated a deficit, and I don't remember
one in this country that ever had a surplus of more than about half a
crown, and he only got that by charging a million of current expenses to
loan account. What we want is to make the Treasurer run the finances so
that the balance at the end of the year will be something like what he
prophesied at the start."

"How on earth could you do that?" asked the Fat Man.

"Wait till I tell yer," proceeded the Oracle. "There are always a lot of
people in favour of retrenching somebody else; but I'd make it
compulsory for the politicians to retrench themselves."

"Well, they've done that now," said the Fat Man.

"They've reduced the numbers," said the Oracle, "but that's no use,
except that it saves a good bit of gas. The saving in salaries will only
be fooled away in some other direction. This is what I'd do. When the
Treasurer made his financial statement, and gave his forecast, I'd make
it a matter of direct personal interest to him and every other
politician to carry out the pledges given in the forecast. If the
surplus for the year was 10 per cent below the estimate, the
Parliamentary salaries, from the Premier's down to the Boghollow
representative's, should be reduced 20 per cent, and if the surplus was
10 per cent above the estimate, their salaries should be raised 5 per
cent. And no statement at the end of a financial year should be admitted
as correct unless signed by the Premier, and countersigned by the Leader
of the Opposition, who, when there was a surplus, could count over the
amount of it in hard cash. Suppose you were a member of Parliament--"

"I am," interrupted the Fat Man.

"Oh, you are, are yer? Well, you've got a good job, and I hope you won't
be one of the 35 unfortunates. Well, the amount of your screw should
depend on the correctness of the Treasurer's Estimates. When there was a
deficit, you'd lose 10 per cent, if the deficit was 10 per cent, and
when there was a surplus of the same amount, you'd gain 5 per cent.
You'd take jolly fine care that O'Sullivan didn't fool too much money
away in some other chap's electorate, and the other chap would have his
weather eye on O'Sullivan's beneficence in your back yard, and you'd all
see that the Treasurer didn't waste any money on statues of Australia
Making Faces at the Pawnshop. My word, when Parliament is the first
place to be retrenched in case of a deficit, you can take my tip
there'll always be a surplus!"

"Next!" called the Barber.

And the Oracle took the chair.

The Evening News, 20 February 1904


"Never been on a bowling green before, haven't you?" said the Oracle, as
he and the Thin Man seated themselves on one of the seats kindly
provided for spectators. "Why, it is the oldest of all games, and one of
the most scientific."

"Is it as old as cricket?" asked the Thin Man.

"Cricket be hanged!" replied the Oracle. "Why, hockey is the grandfather
of cricket, and hockey wasn't invented until bowling was as old as
Methuselah. The rolling bowl is as old as the flowing bowl, and Noah got
tight just after he came out of the Ark, if you remember."

"No, I don't remember," said the Thin Man. "I'm not quite as old as you
are. Were you in the Ark?"

"I was not," retorted the Oracle, "but if you had been there I have no
doubt they would have placed you in the monkeys' cage along with your

"You needn't be insulting," protested the Thin Man.

"I did not mean to be," said the Oracle; "but every time I look at you I
am inclined to wonder whether the Darwinian theory as to the origin of
species may not be true after all. But it is a grand old game. Don't you

"Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt!" added the Thin Man.

"Look here," said the Oracle, "if you're going to talk a parcel of
nonsense, I won't explain the game to you at all. Don't you remember, or
have you not read of, that immortal game of bowls played on the Plymouth
green, one side being Lord Howard and lieutenants Drake, Hawkins, and
Frobisher? All noted naval commanders. When the Spanish Armada was
sighted Howard wanted to stop the game at once; but Drake said there was
time to finish the game and beat the Spaniards, too. That's the story,
but there's probably no more truth in it than there is in the yarn that
the Duke of Wellington said, 'Up guards and at 'em!' at the Battle of

"I thought it was Bill Adams who said that?" remarked the Thin Man.

The Oracle ignored this little pleasantry, and just then the captain at
the other end of the rink threw a white ball, about the size of a
billiard ball, towards them.

"That's the jack! See?" said the Oracle.

"Oh! that's the Jack See, is it? Well, which is the Joe Carruthers?"

The Oracle frowned, and then his face broke into a smile. "By the way,"
he said, "this game always reminds me of Parliament. Now in that next
rink, where the jack is in the gutter, is what they call a dead head;
but this is a very good head."

"Oh," said the Thin Man, "I didn't know they had any very good heads in
Parliament; but, of course, we all know they have deadheads, at least I
am told that is the opinion of the manager of the refreshment room."

"Very likely," said the Oracle, "but the resemblance between the game of
bowls and the game of politics is remarkable."

"Is that so?" responded the Thin Man, encouragingly.

"It is so," said the Oracle. "The jack represents office, and the art of
the game of bowls is to get as close to the jack as possible. See? The
bowls represent the politicians, and a bowl that runs perfectly straight
will never get on to the jack if there are any other bowls in front of
it. All the bowls, like all the politicians, must have a bias. The bias
in a bowl or a politician causes a leaning to one side or the other;
that is why it is called a bias."

"Just so," said the Thin Man.

"If a bowl or a politician," went on the Oracle, "runs perfectly
straight, then neither of them achieve the object intended. They must
twist and turn and curve and lean to one side or the other. They mustn't
be too slow, or they'll never reach the objective, and they mustn't be
too fast, or they'll find themselves in the ditch, and the twisting and
curving must be nicely timed and judged, or the bowl, like the
politician, will be wide of the mark. Of course, all bowls have not the
same degree of bias."

"Haven't they?"

"Oh, no; they vary as much as politicians do. Some will go in any
direction that suits them; others are so nicely balanced that they will
run just as they are wanted to, if only properly directed. The degree of
bias varies considerably, but they all have some bias, which may be
easily noticed; just the same as with Mr O'Sullivan and Mr Law, when
they go to Mort's Dock picnic at Clifton Gardens. In the game of bowls,"
went on the Oracle, "with a full rink, there are eight players, four on
either side, a leader, a scorer, a measurer, and a captain, who play in
the order named. The leader is the person who moves the vote of censure;
the scorer is the member who reckons up how many votes they are likely
to get; the measurer takes the measure of the opposing side, and the
captain is--well, I don't know who the captain is on the Opposition
side, but on the Government side the captain, being the person who does
all the ordering about and all the directing, is, of course--"

"Jim M'Gowen," suggested the Thin Man.

"I do wish you wouldn't take words out of my mouth like that," said the
Oracle. "I am trying to explain to you the close resemblance between
bowls and politics."

"They don't allow ladies to take any part in bowls," said the Thin Man.

"Excuse me," said the Oracle, "it is a regular rule of all bowling
clubs, included in the code that ladies are specially invited to visit
the green while the matches are on." "But they don't let them play,"
said the Thin Man.

"Do you see that gentleman there?" responded the Oracle, "that tall
player, with one leg stretched along the green, pointing due east, while
the other leg is doubled up, with the knee pointing due west?"

"I observe him," said the Thin Man. "He's thinner than I am. Looks as if
he was in training to climb through a stovepipe for a wager."

"But do you notice his extraordinary attitude? Would you like to see a
lady in such an attitude as that?"

"Well, that all depends upon circumstances," said the Thin Man; "but
I'll admit the attitude is not graceful."

"These attitudes are not really essential to the game. Many gouty
gentlemen, who are not able to get into anything like such an attitude,
are excellent bowlers."

"Then why do some of them do it?"

"Because," said the Oracle, "bowling is one of the few games that sweet
woman has not yet invaded, and bowlers are usually, in fact, almost
always, men of conservative ideas. They do not wish to have lady
members, inquiring into the consumption of whisky in the bar, and all
that sort of thing, which, of course, they could do if members; and, as
the ladies who visit the green are all very respectable, and generally
relatives of the players, or personal friends, the bowlers have struck
the idea of performing remarkable feats in the way of striking attitudes
which no lady would dream of copying. Of course, the ladies naturally
suppose these attitudes are essential features of the game, and, though
they are, no doubt, sometimes greatly entertained by the acrobatic
performances of the gentlemen, they, being ladies, have not the least
desire to copy them. See the idea?"

"Yes," said the Thin Man, "but I thought they only struck these
attitudes by way of showing off. A bit of style, as it were!"

"Not at all," said the Oracle, "they only do it to keep the ladies from
wanting to play the game. Bowling is about the only game there is left
to men only. Why, in some places, ladies even play football. As for
cricket, the time is not far distant when a visiting English team will
have to play a match against the ladies. Billiards they are good at, in
tennis they lead. Bowls alone they have never attempted to invade, and
it's the artful notion of the impossible attitude which makes all ladies
shudder at the idea of wanting to play bowls."

Just then a stout old bowler came up to the Oracle, and shook hands,
remarking that it was a dry afternoon, and would they be his guests, and
try a "damper" in the refreshment room?

There is no need to record the reply.

The Evening News, 27 February 1904


"Hello!" SAID the Oracle, as he met the Thin Man on George Street,
"fancy me eating you! as the cat said to the mouse. Quite a treat to get
a dry afternoon in this drought-stricken country, isn't it?"

"We've certainly had a lot of rain here," replied the Thin Man; "but I
hear it is very dry in the interior."

"So it is," said the Oracle, "so it is. Let us, therefore, proceed to
irrigate the interior before we go any further."

And they entered a corner hostelry, whence they presently emerged, the
Thin Man wiping his mouth.

"If you must wipe your mouth after imbibing," said the Oracle; "you
should do so before leaving the hotel. It does not look well as you are
stepping out into the street."

"Oh, there is no pretence about me," replied the Thin Man, in a boastful
tone. "I am no humbug."

"Just so," said the Oracle, "that is your way of putting it. Another,
and perhaps, a more correct way, would be to say that you are lost to
all sense of shame."

"Sir!" exclaimed the indignant Thin Man.

"Don't get your hair off," said the Oracle; "you wouldn't look half as
pretty with a bald head."

The twain had walked along until they came abreast of a large music
warehouse, standing in front of which was a short, stout gentleman with
long hair, a Kaiser Wilhelm moustache, a pair of pince-nez, and a
broad-brimmed sombrero jauntily poised on one side of his head.

"Ah!" said the Oracle, "there is my friend, Herr Walzer Wiegenlied. I
have heard--but, of course, you needn't mention it--that his real name
is James Smith. Of course, he had to adopt another; no man could
possibly hope to succeed as a music teacher if he bore the name of James
Smith. He must also let his hair grow long. Some of them do that for
appearance sake, and others, perhaps, because they lack the necessary
sixpence demanded by the relentless tonsorial artist."

"Sir Arthur Sullivan," said the Thin Man, "did not use to get himself up
like Buffalo Bill or a Spanish brigand, did he?"

"Well no," said the Oracle. "On the contrary, Sir Arthur wore a
moustache of modest size, mutton-chop whiskers, and short-cropped hair.
He also dressed like an ordinary person, and looked more like a
stockbroker or an attorney than a musician. But Sullivan was immensely
successful with his beautiful melodies; and could, therefore, afford to
despise the idea that eccentricity is genius! But Walzer Wiegenlied is a
very good fellow, indeed. He has often told me that the broad hat and
long hair idea is absurd; but, at the same time, he feels compelled to
follow the fashion of the musical world, lest it should be thought that
by getting his hair cut short, and wearing a hard felt hat, he was
trying to show off. It is not a matter of personal taste; it is a
question of professional necessity. The public would never believe a man
was a first-class violinist if he had his hair cropped short, and called
himself Jim Smith. So our friend has long hair and calls himself Herr
Walzer Wiegenlied--Walzer, of course, is waltz, and Wiegenlied means a
lullaby--'Mummer's Little Alabama Coon', as it were. But he knows me
well, and he'll wonder what we've stuck here so long for, jabbering
away. Come along and I'll introduce you. Good fellow, Jim is; always
willing to do the amiable with a couple of friends when he has

"Ah, mein Herr! Gut morgen!" said the Oracle to Professor Wiegenlied.

"Morgan was a bushranger," muttered the Thin Man to himself, "this cove
looks more like a circus cowboy."

"The others did not hear this sotto voce criticism, and the Professor
and the Thin Man were duly introduced.

"I am always pleased to meet a musician," said the Thin Man, as he shook
hands with Professor Wiegenlied. "'Music', as Shakespeare says, 'hath
charms to soothe the savage beast'."

"Breast," corrected the Oracle; "savage breast, not savage beast."

"Oh," said the Thin Man, "I always thought it was savage beast; in fact,
I thought that explained why people generally put a brass band round a
bulldog's neck!"

"Well, gentlemen," said the Professor, "my class is over for this
morning, and I was about to drink success to a new venture I have in
hand. Will you join me? I am neither as rich as Rockefeller, nor as poor
as Job; but fortunately I had a pupil taken away by an indignant parent
this morning."

"Do you call that fortunate?" was the Oracle's dubious query.

"Certainly," said the Professor, "very fortunate. I had to teach the
young lady to sing and to play also, and she could do neither, and never
will. She has no ear at all. It would make your blood run cold to listen
to her. But her parents thought she could be taught. It is impossible;
she doesn't know a bar of music from a bar of soap, and she never will.
I am very glad she is gone."

"But you lose a pupil," said the Oracle.

"I lose a pupil, but I get my pay," said the Professor. "There are some
parents who while their children are doing well never think of paying,
but let the fees run on. But, of course, when they grow indignant
because you haven't made another Melba of their own little Mary Ann, and
resolve to take the pupil away, they must pay up, if only to preserve
their own dignity. Let us come in here and have a chat until lunch
time," he added, pushing open the side door, and entering the saloon

The three sat around a marble table, and Professor Wiegenlied "did the

"I am sorry you don't speak German," said the Professor, "as I have to
keep in practice. My own compositions are of the Wagnerian order. I
adopted the Wagnerian because it is the easiest, and suits my
professional name best."

"I thought," said the Oracle, "that Wagner's music was very difficult."

"It is very difficult to understand," said the Professor, "and that is
why so many people pretend to appreciate it; but, to a musician, the
Wagnerian style is like rolling off a log, for though you must write a
lot of chords, and break off here and there into a minor key that sounds
like a dog moaning with the stomach ache, you need no tune."

"No tune!" exclaimed the Oracle.

"I don't mean that Wagner never composed a melody," said the Professor,
"because that would be absurd; but much of his music is so smothered in
strange chords that the melody hasn't a possible chance to get into the
ear of the auditor; it is crowded out for want of space and Wagner's
disciples, of whom I am one, have abandoned the idea of having any tune
in the music. Makes composition so much easier; that is why I took up
Wagner, and adopted a German name. Don't you know German at all?"

"Only wurst and sauerkraut and pretzel and lager bier," said the Oracle,
"and we could hardly keep up a conversation on that.

"And you?" asked the Professor of the Thin Man.

"I know only this," said the Thin Man:

Gott erhalte unzern Kaiser! Unzern gooten Kaiser Bill!

"I'm afraid we'd better stick to the vernacular tongue of Balmain,
Bloomsbury and the Bowery," said the Professor.

"Although I am not a professional musician," said the Oracle to the Thin
Man, "I understand a good deal about it and more particularly of the
business part of the profession. It is on my advice that our friend
proposes to recommend that no fewer than six of his pupils shall be sent
to Paris to finish their musical training under Madame Whatsthis."

"Marchesi," interpolated the Professor.

"Ma Casey!" repeated the Thin Man. "Is she Irish?"

"Of course not! She's French," said the Professor.

"Name sounds Irish," murmured the Thin Man.

"Six entertainments," went on the Oracle, "will be given in the Town
Hall, and subscription lists will be opened. Other teachers of music
have been content to discover one genius at a time; it is on my advice
that our friend has determined to discover half a dozen. The Sydney
people are always willing to send some really good singers abroad. If
the singers are only middling, or so-so, as Touchstone says, we are loth
to part with them; if they are bad we refuse to part with them at any
price; but when they are really good we insist upon them going away
to the other end of the world, and staying there as long as possible. We
do the same with musicians as with singers; we provide them with the
means to go away and stay away. The rule in England is just the
opposite. When a German band is playing outside a house in the West End
of London, the footman or the page boy is sent out to inform the
bandmaster that he will get a half-crown to go away at once, a shilling
if he gets through in ten minutes, and nothing at all if he stays for a
quarter of an hour. They pay bad musicians to go away; we offer
inducements to the best musicians to leave; and if a violinist happens
to be born in Sydney and hampered with the unclassical name of Brown,
his only possible chance of appreciation in his native village is to
wear a sombrero like our friend here, let his hair grow long, and call
himself Monsieur Le Brun. With a foreign name and a foreign appearance,
an Australian musician has a chance in his own country; with his hair
cut short and a hard-hitter hat he has no more chance of being fairly
appreciated than the late lamented Mr Buckley."

"Fillemupagen," said Professor Wiegenlied to the lady behind the bar.

"Is that German?" asked the Thin Man.

"No" said the Professor, "that's Volapuk, the universal language!"

"Ah," said the Oracle, "they may talk of singers as they please, but I'd
sooner have a fiver than a tenor!"

Then they arose and departed their several ways.

The Evening News, 5 March 1904


"Plays," said the Oracle to the Thin Man (as they sat in the third row
of the gallery, waiting for the curtain to rise for the due performance
of that popular melodrama The Glazier's Revenge, or the Bloodstained
Putty Knife), "plays are not as good as they used to be."

"No," said the Thin Man.

"Actors are not as good as they used to be."

"Certainly not," said the Thin Man.

"Scenery is not as good as it used to be."

"You're right again," said the Thin Man. "Nothing is as good as it used
to be; in fact, nothing ever was as good as it used to be!"

"What?" said the Oracle.

"Nothing ever was as good as it used to be," repeated the Thin Man.

"Are you trying to be sarcastic?" asked the Oracle. "If you are, I
advise you to abandon the idea, because sarcasm is unsuitable coming
from persons of your complexion." "What's the matter with my

"It's your nose," said the Oracle. "It is such a very red nose that you
should not draw attention to it by trying to be sarcastic at other
people's expense. Persons whose noses shine like the starboard light of
an Orient steamer entering Port Jackson at midnight when there is no
moon cannot afford to be disagreeably jocular in respect to the peculiar
personal attributes of others."

As the orchestra finished the overture, and the drop scene rose (it is
called the "drop scene" because every time it is let down between the
acts the male portion of the audience goes out to have a "drop", and
comes back chewing cloves and coffee beans), the two friends observed
immediately in front of them a lady wearing a hat the size and shape of
a wash basket. Unfortunately, she was a short lady with scarcely any
neck. If her neck had been long enough to carry her hat a couple of
yards nearer to the ceiling, it would not have been in the way; but
then, of course, she wouldn't have worn it.

"We won't be able to see anything for that hat," grumbled the Thin Man.

"You keep calm for a second and watch me," said the Oracle. "I'll soon
make her take that hat off," and he immediately put on his own hat, and
sat bolt upright.

"Take that hat off! Take yer rat off! Give us a chance ter see a bit o'
the stage!" and similar cries came from the people behind.

The Oracle removed his hat; so did the lady!

"I knew that would fetch her," said the Oracle to his friend; "it is an
old London dodge. She naturally thought the crowd behind were singing
out at her. Now we shall be able to see something of the show."

The first scene of Act One showed the interior of a poorly furnished
room in Soho. Enter fair-haired young man with long legs, who begins

"What would my landlady say if she but knew that I, known here as Jim
the Glazier, am really nephew to the Earl of Cucumberland; that I am the
Honourable Eric Trehowmuch; and that only one life prevents me becoming
Viscount Purplebeak and heir to the earldom? Ha! And what would the
lovely Lady Ermyntrude Plantagenet, only daughter of the Duke of
Wollongong, say, did she but know that I, Eric Trehowmuch, am
masquerading as a journeyman painter and glazier of Frith Street, Soho?
Yet even now must I, the possible heir of 20 earls, prepare the putty
for the day's work! As the immortal bard says, "'Tis true 'tis putty,
and putty 'tis, 'tis true!" (Slow music.)

"Is he the villain or the hero?" whispered the Thin Man.

"The hero, of course," said the Oracle. "Why do you ask such foolish
questions? Can't you see his hair is fair and wavy? Heroes always have
fair, wavy hair. In melodrama the villain always has very dark hair,
heavy black eyebrows, and black moustache; the hero has blue eyes and
fair, wavy hair."

"Ain't there any heroes in Japan?" asked the Thin Man.

"Of course there are," said the Oracle. "Why don't you read the cables
about the war?" "Well," said the Thin Man, "I never saw a Japanese with
fair, wavy hair and blue eyes." "We're not talking about Japan," replied
the Oracle, irritably; "we're talking about melodrama."

"Oh, close your 'tater traps down there!" called a gentleman, in a back
seat, with the charming politeness for which occupants of the gallery
are universally remarkable. "Must be a cranky-tempered chap, that,"
murmured the Thin Man.

"Not at all," whispered the Oracle. "This isn't the dress circle. People
come to the gallery to listen to the play. If they want to chatter and
jabber all the time, same as they do in the drawing-room, after worrying
some reluctant vocalist to sing, they go into the dress circle with the

"The deadheads?"

"Yes; the dramatic critics of the papers, who come on business and would
far sooner be somewhere else playing billiards, and the other people who
get in on the nod; they're all bundled into the dress circle in Sydney

"But," said the Thin Man, "the price of a seat is much more there."

"Of course it is," said the Oracle, "but it's always half-empty, except
when there's something very special on. That's why they draft all the
pressmen and deadheads into it. Everybody pays in the gallery; that's
why the manager takes so much notice of the gallery's opinion. It isn't
that the gallery has more brains than the dress circle, but its opinion
is honest. It doesn't applaud what it doesn't like; it feels under no
obligation to clap its hands when a play is absurd; it sometimes hisses
the villain because he is a good actor, but it always ends with a cheer
when he is called before the curtain. The gallery crowd doesn't pay much
individually, but there is a lot of them, and they all pay. Their
opinion settles the fate of any play. When Mr Haddon Chambers, of this
township, went to London with a play called Captain Swift, Mr Beerbohm
Tree offered to stage it at a matinee as a trial. 'If the gallery likes
it, I'll take it,' said Mr Tree. The gallery did like it and Mr Chambers
jumped from being a Sydney newspaper reporter to be a front-rank London
playwright. Sometimes an actor will lose his temper when the gallery
hisses, but it only hisses the villain as a rule, which is a compliment
to the actor in the part. It is when the gallery hisses the play that
actors of mediocre ability lose their tempers; but whether they do or do
not, the gallery is nearly always right, and even if it isn't right its
opinion is the honest public opinion of any show, from a problem play to
a skipping rope dance. And it won't stand any inversion of moral
principles; it must have virtue triumphant, and vice and crime duly
punished. It is the opinion of the gallery that has made many problem
plays a dead loss, despite the efforts of able managers and famous
artists. Of course there are people in other parts of the house who
belong to the same class as the folks in the gallery, only they are a
bit better off, and can afford a bit better seat, but they are mixed up
with others, and--"

"Shut up!" called the man behind, as the drop scene went up again.

"Certainly," said the Oracle. "We seem to have a descendant of the
celebrated Earl of Chesterfield in the gallery this evening."

In the second act, the two lives that stood between the glazier and the
earldom of Cucumberland were skilfully removed, in accordance with the
ancient traditions of melodramatic art. They were not blown up and
exploded in a motor car, as they might have been, if Mr Bland Holt or
some other up-to-date manager had been in charge--their bodies were
found stabbed, and beside the bodies was found a putty knife, bearing on
the handle the name and address of a glazier in Frith Street, Soho!

In Act Three the hero was tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and
released under the First Offenders Act; and solemnly declared his
innocence, which nobody believed, except Lady Ermyntrude.

In Act Four, Lady Ermyntrude takes the role of a female edition of
Sherlock Holmes and, dressed in male attire, she haunts the
neighbourhood of Frith Street, Soho, and discovers, by the fingerprint
system of identification, invented by Pudd'n'head Wilson, that the
double murder was really committed by a Russian Nihilist, named
Blowmenozoff, who stole the putty knife to commit the murders, in order
to throw suspicion on the hero. This momentous discovery was greeted
with loud applause.

"I don't see," said the Thin Man, as he and the Oracle wended their way
out to the nearest bar, to see what time it was, "I don't see why that
Russian cove wanted to kill 'em." "Did it for practice," said the

"Practice?" queried the Thin Man.

"Certainly," said the Oracle. "They're always trying to find a way to
kill the Czar, and this is a new idea. A window gets broken in the
Winter Palace, and the glazier, a Nihilist in disguise, comes to put in
a new pane. The Czar looks to see how it is being done, and is stabbed
with the putty knife! Of course, the Nihilist would have to practise on
somebody else before he tackled the Czar, for fear he made a mess of

"I see," said the Thin Man. "Shall we go back?"

"If you like," said the Oracle, "but there's no need. In the last act
the glazier is acknowledged as the rightful Earl of Cucumberland,
marries the Lady Ermyntrude amid general rejoicing, and they decide, in
view of the dreadful disclosures about the declining birth rate, to
raise a considerable family, and live happy ever afterwards!"

The Evening News, 12 March 1904


The 10 p.m. tram from Ridge Street to Milson's Point on Monday night
stopped where all North Shore trams stop, halfway up the hill called
Alfred Street. The object of stopping halfway up the hill instead of
going right down to the ferry boat is to give the passengers, especially
the fat passengers of asthmatic tendencies, a chance to take some
healthy exercise in running to catch the boat. It is a recognised rule
of vehicular engineering in this enlightened country that the terminal
point of any railway or tram line shall be as inconvenient as possible.
I am inclined to think this is one of the causes of the declining birth
rate. It is no wonder people object to being born in a country which
always leaves the railway outside the town, same as New South Wales
does. The city of Sydney is the only town of any considerable size on
the earth's surface which hasn't got a railway station in it. There is a
railway station across the harbour in North Sydney, and there is one in
the suburb of Redfern, but those are the nearest points by which the
visitor may reach Sydney by train. Tramway terminal points are made
similarly inconvenient, the object being, of course, to give the
passengers plenty of exercise.

On Monday night, when the tram stopped halfway up Alfred Street as
usual, the passengers hurried out, and, softly muttering fervent
blessings on the New South Wales railway and tramway system, ran down
the hill for about a quarter of a mile to catch the boat.

Among the passengers who scampered down the mountainside and on to the
boat was our friend the Thin Man, and whom should he meet on the boat
but the Oracle.

"Well, I'm blest!" exclaimed the Oracle. "'Here you are again', as the
clown says in the pantomime! I suppose when I pass out of this vale of
tears I shall meet you on the Golden Shore."

"That all depends upon how you behave yourself," said the Thin Man. "I
have known wickeder men than you are and more immoral men, but not

"Thank you," said the Oracle, "though I must confess that the compliment
can hardly be called fulsomely adulatory. What are you doing on the
North Shore at this time of the night?" "I came over to hear George
Reid," said the Thin Man.

"That's queer," said the Oracle, "so did I. But I didn't see you, though
there weren't 50 men at the meeting--nearly all women."

"It was really a women's meeting under the auspices of the North Sydney
Women's Liberal League," said the Thin Man, "that's why the audience
were nearly all ladies. There were no men on the platform, either, only
George, but quite a bevy of ladies."

"Quite a what?" asked the Oracle.

"Quite a bevy," said the Thin Man.

"What's a bevy?" asked the Oracle.

"I don't know," said the Thin Man, "but you often see the term in the
papers. They talk of a mob of cattle, a flock of sheep, a swarm of bees,
a pack of wolves, a herd of swine, a crowd of people, a bevy of ladies,
and so on. But the meeting wasn't up to much. Of course, the ladies on
the platform knew as much about politics and public meetings as men do,
and more than most men; but the average woman merely goes to these hen
conventions out of curiosity, and takes more notice of the other women's
dresses than she does of what the party on the platform is saying. But,
of course, George Reid recognises that women have votes, and he hopes to
secure their support by delivering addresses to them; still, it is dull
work. Even when they understand what he's driving at they cannot applaud
by clapping their hands for fear they might burst their gloves. There
never was a woman who bought a pair of gloves big enough to fit her,
that's why they can't clap their hands without taking their gloves off;
and if they did that their hands would get hot with the clapping, and
then they wouldn't be able to get their gloves on again. It would be all
right if they would buy gloves big enough to fit them, but they
won't--no woman ever did."

"I'm surprised at Mr Reid being so strongly opposed to Mr Chamberlain,"
said the Oracle. "Why?" asked the Thin Man.

"Well, there seemed to be a natural affinity between them," said the
Oracle; "they are so much alike."

"So much alike!" cried the Thin Man. "Why, there are no two men more
unlike. One is short and rotund, and the other is long and lean. If they
were both shipwrecked on a cannibal island the natives would make Joe
their King and cook George for the coronation banquet."

"I did not refer to any physical resemblance," said the Oracle,
"although they are the only two well-known statesmen in the British
Empire, if not in the world, who look out upon their fellow-creatures
through a pane of glass in the right eye, and both Reid and Chamberlain
are opportunists."

"Do you mean that Australia's only George is a mere opportunist?" asked
the Thin Man.

"I mean that all politicians are opportunists," answered the Oracle,
"and must be so. They can't go the whole hog; any man who wants the
whole hog in politics will find himself very short of bacon. That's why
the single taxers carry no weight. If you refuse to believe that the
single tax will cure the measles they say you're an ass."

"I don't believe in single tax," said the Thin Man. "All the single
taxers I ever met with were liable to go off like an alarm clock about
single tax on the least provocation and to keep on whirring for an hour.
I once had a single taxer follow me five miles just for the sake of
having someone to talk to. He talked to me till I thought my ear would
fall off."

"Yes," said the Oracle, "that's what they do. They get together and talk
at each other. If there was a tax on talk--"

"You'd have more taxes than you do now," said the Thin Man. "Here's the
wharf. Goodbye!"

The Evening News, 19 March 1904


"I MUST say," said the Oracle to the Thin Man, as the latter stepped
into the tram on Tuesday morning, and found his friend already there
reading the cable news about the war, "I must say that I agree with
General Blowmenozoff in regard to the unseemly behaviour of the Japanese
in starting the war before the Russians were ready. Admirable as the
Japanese may be in some respects, they seem to be lacking in

"Oh! Is that what Blowmenozoff says?" said the Thin Man. "In my paper
the expression of opinion was attributed to Admiral Boskertoffski; but
whichever it was, I don't see much sense in it."

"Ah!" said the Oracle, "that is because you do not really understand.
Politeness in warfare should be closely observed. There is a great
advantage in politeness. It was, I think, a captain in the French Army
who was ordered by his colonel during an action to take a body of men to
the left. The captain bowed his acquiescence, and as he bowed a cannon
ball passed over his shoulders and took off the head of the man behind
him. If the captain hadn't bowed he would have lost his head. I entirely
endorse the views of General Blowmenozoff."

"You may be right," said the Thin Man, "but my paper says the remarks
you refer to were made by Admiral Dimitri Boskertoffski. But it doesn't
matter which paper is right. It is nonsense anyhow."

"Not at all," said the Oracle. "All war should be conducted in a polite
manner. The Japanese commander should have waited until the Russian
troops and warships were ready. Then he should have sent to the Russian
commander a note, saying: 'The Marquis de Matsu Nagasaki will have much
pleasure in bombarding the forts of Port Arthur on Monday next,
commencing at 6 a.m., if not inconvenient to His Excellency General

"Or Admiral Boskertoffski," muttered the Thin Man.

"But the Russians are occasionally lacking in courtesy also," went on
the Oracle. "A Russian captain has been very cruelly treated. With a
view to turning an honest penny, he is alleged to have sold Russian army
plans to Japan, and, for doing so, has been executed."

"What was his name?" asked the Thin Man.

"Katchokoff," said the Oracle.

"I don't think that was it," said the Thin Man.

"Well," said the Oracle, "if it wasn't Katchokoff it was Borrowokoff, or
Snavelokoff, or Grabokoff, or something like that."

"You mean Irokoff," said the Thin Man.

"The difference between hiring a cough and borrowing a cough," said the
Oracle, "is not so very obvious."

"Well, war is a terrible thing, anyhow."

"Not a bit of it," said the Oracle.

"But this war may ruin Japan, even if she wins. It will compel her to
increase her national dept enormously, in any case."

"That's the beauty of it," said the Oracle.

"The beauty of it?" echoed the Thin Man. "Do you mean to say it is a
good thing to be deeply in debt?"

"Of course it is," said the Oracle. "I never met such a dull,
beef-witted person in my life. Don't you know that the deeper in debt
you are, the more friends you have? A large national debt is the best
security a nation can have. What is the bulwark of Britain? The British
National Debt! Yes, sir. There in Britain you have a people to whom the
Government owe eight hundred million pounds! Everybody in the country is
not a creditor; they have not all money in the Funds--they call 'em the
Funds because there are no Funds--but such an immense number of people
have, that revolution is impossible. The British people will never
revolute worth a cent while the Government owes them all that money.
About the only sensible thing our State Government ever did was to
firmly resolve to live on borrowed money. While the people are not
taxed, they don't care how much money is fooled away in building statues
of 'Australia making Faces at the Pawnshop'. And being in debt renders
the country safe from invasion."

"Well, I'm blest!" ejaculated the Thin Man.

"You will be when you get a bit more sense," said the Oracle. "Suppose
we had never borrowed any money from Britain or anybody else, what would
our position be? We should be without a friend in the world! Or, at all
events, we would have nobody directly interested in our welfare, except
as a mere matter of national sentiment. But now that we have borrowed
until we can borrow no more, we can refuse to contribute to the cost of
the navy that defends us from foreign invasion and we can imprison
English hatmakers as alien immigrants, and do all sorts of other things
that we couldn't possibly do if we were not over head and ears in debt.
Our bondholders are our best friends, and the more heavily mortgaged we
are, the better friends they are likely to be. Do they want to see
Sydney bombarded by a foreign fleet? Certainly not. Do they want to see
foreign soldiers break into the New South Wales Treasury and steal Mr
Waddell's deficit? No fear! The fact is, my boy, that you don't
understand the true inwardness of national finance. The British national
debt saves the country from revolution, our national debt saves us from
invasion; that is why we always borrow the money to pay the wages of our
members of Parliament. Some of them say they object to our borrowing,
but they none of them carry the objections so far as to refuse to accept
their wages out of borrowed money."

"Would you, if you were a member of Parliament?" asked the Thin Man.

"If you refrain from asking senseless questions, you will be less likely
to receive offensive answers," said the Oracle. "We were speaking of war
and debt. And what is true of a national debt is true of a private debt.
Who is interested in the success of a business if the person conducting
the business is not in debt? Nobody but the man who has the business. No
one else, except his wife, perhaps, and his children, if his wife allows
him to be a parent. The man who is deeply in debt is the man who has
friends anxious for his welfare. They'll keep the claws of the bailiff
off his furniture; they'll pay his life insurance premium for him; if he
is out of employment they will spare no effort to get him a decent
billet; they will do all sorts of things for him that they would not do
if he were not in their debt. Did you ever hear of a landlord putting
himself about to find a billet for a tenant who always paid his rent
regularly? No chance. But let the rent fall in arrears, and let the
tenant explain that he is out of employment, and the most sincere friend
the tenant will have will be the landlord, who will do his utmost to get
him something to do."

"That explains it," said the Thin Man.

"Explains what?" demanded the Oracle.

"Why, I heard your landlord begging a friend of his to offer you a job
in his office. I was surprised, because I thought you didn't get on well
together; but now I understand why he was so anxious for you to be
offered a billet."

"I don't owe my landlord a shilling," said the Oracle, warmly.

"No?" said the Thin Man. "Then why do you look so annoyed?"

"I don't look annoyed," said the Oracle.

"You are annoyed," said the Thin Man.

"I'm not," said the Oracle.

"You are."

"No I'm not."

"Yes, you are!"

"If you say that again, I'll punch your nose, just to prove that I'm in
the best of tempers!" "Oh, well, I thought you'd be pleased for
everybody to know you're in debt." "I'm not in debt," said the Oracle.

"Then, according to your philosophy, you ought to be ashamed to admit
it," said the Thin Man.

"My philosophy is all right," said the Oracle, "but I don't like your
offensively personal application of it. If it were not for debt, half
the judges and lawyers in the country would have nothing to do. And look
at the debt collecting agencies and the bailiffs, with wives and
families to keep. The country would be ruined if everybody got out of
debt; completely ruined. Here we have the City Council threatening to
sue the Harbour Trust and the Commonwealth Government for rates alleged
to be due. Then the High Court has reversed the judgment of the Full
Court in the case of the Borough of Glebe versus the Gas Company, and
allowed the borough's claim for rates. Possibly the Gas Company will
appeal to the Privy Council. I don't know whether these are legitimate
debts or not, but that makes no difference. Any kind of debt is good for
business; but you would like to see no debt at all, and would like to
see a lot of judges, lawyers, bailiffs, and bad debt collectors
compelled to join the unemployed! Here we are at our corner. Let's get
out and lubricate."

The Thin Man assented, and the pair left the tram.

The Evening News, 26 March 1904


"My granddaughter," said the Oracle, when he met the Thin Man on Monday
morning on the Block in George Street, "my granddaughter, who was
married about a year ago, was kind enough to present me with a
great-grandson yesterday."

"Good gracious!" said the Thin Man.

"Yes, it makes a person feel a trifle patriarchal," admitted the Oracle,
"but the young mother is but little more than forty years my junior. She
is my daughter's daughter. I have suggested that the little boy who made
his debut yesterday shall be named Methuselah."

"After yourself?"

"Certainly not. Old I may be, but not so old as all that. The original
Methuselah, although not a Government pensioner, lived to be 969 years
old, and if he were possessed of any considerable property his heirs and
assigns must have grown extremely tired waiting for the old gentleman to
'throw the seven', if I may be allowed a somewhat flippant expression.
Among patriarchs in days of old, of course, 400 or 500 years was not
regarded as unseemly delay in giving somebody else a chance, but the
effort of Methuselah to last for ten centuries--in which he very nearly
succeeded--could not be considered a fair thing by those naturally
entitled to the reversion of the old gentleman's real and personal
estate. I wish my great-grandson to be called Methuselah, in the hope
that he may live as long as his historic namesake, for I feel a desire,
my friend--a strange yearning, as it were--to gaze upon the face of some
human creature who may live to see the Federal capital established in
New South Wales, as provided in the Constitution Act. Should the little
Methuselah who appeared for the first time yesterday live for ten
centuries or thereabouts it is possible that he may see the terms of the
compact carried out. Such a sight is not for our eyes, my friend, nor
for the eyes of our children or grand-children; but I have a lingering
hope--something tells me--that should my little great-grandson live for
ten centuries he will see the Federal Capital established, unless
Australia is annexed by the Japanese in the meantime."

"Oh, we'll have the capital long before that!" said the Thin Man,

"You think so," said the Oracle, "and so do other people, but I don't. I
am not one of those who believe in underestimating the astuteness of a
rival. The politicians of Victoria are more astute than ours. The
boycotting of Sydney as a capital was a stroke of genius--positive
genius! If Sydney could be selected, New South Wales would be
practically unanimous as to where the capital should be. Inside the
proscribed area more than half the people live; outside the proscribed
area there are 495 districts, all struggling against each other to be

"Nonsense," said the Thin Man.

"Nonsense?" repeated the Oracle. "You mustn't suppose that, because only
half a dozen possible sites are mentioned, there are no others. There
are dozens and scores of other possible sites--any site is possible, so
long as it isn't within a hundred miles of where it ought to be. But
they don't want to trot them all out at once--half a dozen rival sites
at a time is quite enough to prevent anything definite being done; and
then, if any agreement should be come to about them, they have official
inspections and picnics for another half dozen. The Constitution doesn't
bar Albury or Broken Hill, Bourke or Tenterfield. There are quite 495
places that have a chance of being selected; in fact, any place that is
not within 100 miles of Sydney may have a chance."

"Buckley's chance," said the Thin Man.

"Just so," said the Oracle, "but legally they all have a chance. If the
representatives of N.S.W. would work together to see the bargain adhered
to, the matter might be settled in a couple of centuries, or even
earlier; but everything is in favour of delay, not merely temporary
delay, but eternal, everlasting delay. What are all these fresh picnic
excursions for?"

"I suppose they like picnics," said the Thin Man.

"Of course they do," said the Oracle; "but if they ever do select a site
in N.S.W. there will be no further excuse for picnics. Talk and tucker
is one main factor of delay, feeding and orating!"

"Is that why they call it Feed-oration?" asked the Thin Man.

"That's one reason," said the Oracle. "The picnic obstacle is being
worked for all it is worth. Because there are some new members in the
Federal Parliament, they all have to be taken on picnic excursions to
the possible sites. Was there ever a Parliament dissolved of which all
the members were re-elected? Never in the history of the British Empire.
There are always new members in every new Parliament, and if the picnic
inspection is to be renewed for the guidance of new members after every
general election, that alone will be quite sufficient to delay the
matter for ever. But that's not the only factor."


"No, indeed," said the Oracle. "Suppose the Federal Parliament
determined to select a site at once, and did so?"

"That would settle the matter," said the Thin Man.

"Oh, would it?" said the Oracle. "In the first place, Mr Chapman wants
the capital in his electorate, and Sir William Lyne is the same, and so
are all the other members in regard to their electorates, or nearly all
of them. It is almost impossible for them to agree upon a site. Mr
Chapman hasn't made up his mind yet as to which part of his electorate
he would prefer to see selected as the capital; neither has Sir William
Lyne. And they are the N.S.W. members of the Federal Cabinet! But
supposing all these rivalries were got over and the Government
determined on one site, and Mr Watson were given a portfolio to induce
the Labour Party to support, and the Opposition, for the sake of
political honesty, offered to support the selection of any site at all,
what then?"

"Surely that would settle the question?" asked the Thin Man.

"No, it wouldn't," said the Oracle, "not by a jugful! I suppose you know
that if the capital ever is in New South Wales there will have to be
public buildings for Parliament, the Law Courts, the Government
departments, and so on."

"Certainly," said the Thin Man.

"Well," said the Oracle, "will all these palatial buildings spring up
like mushrooms when Alfred Deakin waves a magician's wand over the
selected area? Is Alfred Deakin the modern embodiment of Aladdin of the
Wonderful Lamp?"

"Of course he isn't," asserted the Thin Man.

"Well how are these palaces to be built when the State of N.S.W. can't
borrow enough money to pay the interest on what it owes already?"

"We wouldn't have to pay all the cost," said the Thin Man.

"The other States would very properly take all sorts of care that we
paid our full share of it, if not more. In the Centennial year--sixteen
years ago--Lord Carrington laid the foundation stone of new Parliament
Houses for New South Wales in the Domain. The foundation stone is still
there, unless somebody has run away with it; but where are the new
Parliament Houses? Not there, my child! Not there!"

"Don't call me a child," said the Thin Man.

"You are but an infant to me," said the Oracle. "Do you think, if a site
were selected, say at Dead Horse Gully; in Sir William Lyne's
electorate; or at Cow Flat, among Mr Chapman's constituents, do you
think Alfred Deakin would hire a tent from Fitzgerald Brothers' Circus
to be the meeting place of the Federal Legislature? Would he ask the
Governor-General and suite to camp in a stringybark hut? Would you like
to see Sir Samuel Griffith and his brother judges of the High Court
sitting on gin cases in the bush to hear an appeal case, from the New
South Wales Supreme Court?"

"But," protested the Thin Man, "the politicians ought to settle the
capital question."

"Settle it?" repeated the Oracle. "Settle the capital question? They are
capable of settling anything, and if they haven't settled Australia
altogether it isn't for want of trying! Yes, I hope that great-grandson
of mine may live to be as old as the original Methuselah, and then he
may see the Federal capital in New South Wales. Let's go in here and
drink his health."

And they did.

The Evening News, 9 April 1904


The business of the bazaar begins at daylight. Overnight the stalls have
been cleaned up, fresh straw put down, and neat tan rides laid on the
ashphalt, and at daylight the stable hands are off to meet horses
arriving by trains and steamers--terrified, bewildered horses, rushed
hurriedly in from their grass paddocks and hustled on board of coasting
craft, with the long swell of the ocean swaying before their astonished
eyes, and a chattering, old-fashioned steam winch making a terrifying
din just alongside them. Or else they have been crushed and jammed into
a railway truck, bumped off their feet each time that the engine
shunted, and frightened half out of their lives each time that a
screaming, flying monster of a passenger train rushed past with a
dizzying, nerve-destroying roar and rattle. No wonder that by the time
they arrive in Sydney the country horses have become dazed, and the
stable hands go in among them in the yards or on the steamers, pushing
them about in a style that makes the uninitiated wonder how it is that
some of those men don't get their brains kicked out every week. But the
men know that to be afraid is the surest way to make the horses afraid,
so they push them about like so many old cows, and before long the
string are clattering up to the bazaar, each horseman riding one horse
and leading two or three others, each horse being tied to his mate's
neck. Then they are hosed and cleaned, a process that would startle the
life out of them, only that they have been through so much already, and
then they are put into the stalls ready for the day's sale.

After breakfast the town horses begin to arrive--the dealers' horses,
who are passed from hand to hand; "swell" horses, who, perhaps through
overfeeding, have become too flash for their owners, and are sent in to
be sold for what they will fetch; carthorses, sold by hard-up men, who
have given up any hope of making a living at their work; race ponies
that cannot race fast enough to win, or else that have got themselves so
much up in the weights that they are no longer valuable; gigantic
draughts and small boys' ponies, all come threading their way in, and
take up their positions in the stalls. The vehicles, too, begin to
arrive--the sulky of the broken-down sport, with the flash trotting pony
in the shafts; the four-wheeled buggy, with lamps and hood, and a sturdy
old slave attached to it; the traveller's waggon, with two road-worn,
wiry, long-distance horses in the pole, and the splotches of the Darling
River mud still on the wheels and under-gear.

All sorts and conditions of horses and vehicles find their way to the
bazaar; and as they arrive the regular attendants at the sales--the
dealers and exporters, and buyers with commissions to execute--drop in,
too, and walk round the stalls scrutinising each horse. Some they
dismiss with half a glance, while others are carefully inspected, their
legs felt, their mouths opened, their eyes looked at, and their feet
picked up. As each possible buyer examines a horse there gathers round a
little group of the bazaar hangers-on, the human flotsam and jetsam that
attend each day at the sales. They never buy anything; they never even
bid for anything; but day in and day out they are there scrutinising the
horses, watching the sales, and criticising the wisdom or folly of each
purchase. They are mostly broken-down men that have been in racing
stables or have been horse dealers or coachmen.

From long practice they can tell to within half a sovereign what each
animal should fetch, but if they see a novice examining a horse they
always make out that the animal is first-class and should be secured at
all risks. This is known as "bearing up" for the owner of the horse, and
is done in hopes that the owner may come along and reward them with a
beer, though it sometimes has quite another effect, as the following
anecdote will show. A dealer was trying to sell to a novice a pony for
saddle work, and was talking hard, trying to convince him that the pony
was all that could be desired, but the buyer thought that the pony was
too heavy, and said, "He'd make a nice buggy pony." A casual passer-by
happened to hear this last sentence, and seeing that a "deal" was going
on, he dashed into the fray with enthusiasm. "Buggy pony," he said,
"why, o' course he's a champion buggy pony! What else is he but a buggy
pony? He ain't one of those all-sorts-no-sort 'orses! He's a buggy pony
and nothin' else." "That's just it," said the buyer. "I want a saddle
pony." The dealer was naturally a bit put out, and he turned on the
"casual" in style. "Why can't you keep your mouth shut?" he said. "What
business have you comin' puttin' your oar in?" "Well, Bill, I was only
bearin' up for you," said the poor casual humbly, and the deal was
declared off.

As the forenoon wears on, a good crowd has collected. The casuals, the
dealers, the sporting men who buy for India, have gathered together. The
auctioneer mounts his box, and after hammering on the sides of it for a
time to attract attention, he starts the sale.

The earlier lots are nearly always equine derelicts, poor old worn-out
horses shifting uneasily from one infirm limb to another; "radicals"
that have been starved and bullied into some kind of submission, eyeing
the crowd with hostile glance; showy cripples that surprise the onlooker
by their apparent cheapness. All these are offered at the start of the
sale, and are dealt in almost exclusively by a few dealers who know
where they can place their purchases at a profit--possibly with
rabbit-oh vendors. Now and again among those castoffs one sees an old
horse of good type, whose strong constitution and iron limbs have been
proof against all the assaults of starvation, overwork and
ill-treatment. Such a one only wants feeding and fair working to become
once more a valuable horse; but, as a rule, the early lots do not
contain many of this description. The saleyard crowd do not pay much
attention to these derelicts, but when a start is made with the
advertised lots there is a closing in, and dealer and loafer, swell and
bearer-up, all alike gather to inspect, to criticise, and perhaps to
bid. Then it is that the cognoscenti get in their fine work. A horse is
brought out and ridden up and down at a great pace, with much shouting,
whip-cracking, and general flourish. A small group of buyers stands
looking on, and from the moment that the animal appears, each buyer's
eye at once fastens on his weak spot. Perhaps it is a slightly enlarged
fetlock; perhaps the mark of an old blister; perhaps an incipient curb
on the hock. Whatever it may be, it is safe to say that ninety out of
every hundred in the bazaar will have noticed it before the horse has
gone ten paces. The odd ten will be the non-professional buyers who have
just dropped in to see if they can pick up a twenty-pound horse for a
tenner--a thing that they invariably persuade themselves they have done
till they try to realise their bargain. And it is this anxiety on the
part of the public to get twenty-pound horses for tenners that leads to
all the lying and chicanery of the horse trade. A dealer always says his
horse is worth double what he is asking for him, because he knows that
the would-be-sharp purchaser will not buy unless he thinks he is getting
twice the value of his money. To the expert, the bazaar value of each
horse is as definite as the value of a bale of wool to a wool buyer, and
the guileless novice must remember that if he likes to go to the bazaar
and buy at the dealer's price, he must also take the dealer's risk. The
auctioneer will tell him what the owner represents the horse to be, the
trials promised must be performed, and from then on the buying is easy,
because, as a sale ring Solon put it: "You've only to nod your head, and
you can find out afterwards what you've got".

The Evening News, 3 December 1904

The Mystery of the Governor's Message and the Missing ----

Those who have followed the career of the marvellous detective Sherlock
Holmes, and his assistant, Dr Watson, will remember that the final
exploit of the great Sherlock, as recorded by Conan Doyle, was the
recovery of a missing despatch box lost by the Prime Minister of
England. This adventure is supposed to have closed the history of the
great detective so far as English readers are concerned; but such a
master mind could not remain long unoccupied; such a genius must find an
outlet for its energies; and there are indications that various
mysteries now puzzling Australians--such as why Pye was left out of the
Australian eleven, and the Missing Diamonds, or the Mystery of the Mont
de Piétè, will before long engage the attention of his giant intellect.
In other words, Sherlock Holmes is in Australia.

If any confirmation were wanted of this statement, it would be found in
the solution recently worked out of a labyrinthic mystery which Sherlock
Holmes and Company alone could have successfully solved.

Suppressing, for obvious reasons, the real names of the parties, let us
proceed to narrate how Sherlock Holmes unravelled the mysterious
telegram sent by one whom, for the purposes of the story, we shall call
Sir Tarry Hawser, the Governor of New South Carolina.

It was midnight of a sweltering Sydney summer night. The streets were
quiet, except for the usual crowds round the betting shops, and Sherlock
Holmes, disguised as an Officer of Detective Police, paced restlessly up
and down his official sitting-room, holding in his hand a telegram. From
time to time he glanced restlessly at the door. A step was heard
without, and three knocks were given. The door slid noiselessly into a
groove in the wall, admitting Sherlock's old and true friend, Dr Watson,
now disguised as a policeman. Without looking round, Sherlock motioned
him to a chair, saying, "Sit down, Watson. I have a small matter in

"How did you know it was me?" said Watson, gazing admiringly at the back
view of the greatest detective the world has ever known. "I never spoke,
nor gave my name to a soul."

"My dear fellow", said Sherlock, with calm superiority, "I knew it was
you the moment that you started to come up the stairs. I knew it was you
by the heavy way you put your feet down. When I heard the sound on the
stairs, I said, 'This is either Watson, or a draught horse,' and as no
draught horse could get round the angle in the first landing, I knew it
was you the moment you had passed that point. But there is a small
matter, a mere official trifle, which is likely to afford us a little
work. It is a matter which, as a rule, I would hand over to the traffic
constables, with instructions to inquire whether any strangers had been
seen in town lately; but as our old friend, Sir Tarry Hawser is
concerned in it we must attend to the matter ourselves." So saying, he
tossed to Watson a telegram timed 11 p.m. and bearing the Hoss Valley
telegraph stamp.

Watson held it up to the light, and read it aloud. "Hawser, Hoss Valley,
to Sherlock, Sydney. Have just come home from the amateur races. Very
hot. Have lost--what's this he has lost--'exiguous co-ordinate'?"

"That's where the difficulty is," said Sherlock. "That part is in
cipher, and we have lost the key. It is evident he has lost something. I
deduce that from the fact of his sending the telegram, and from the
further fact that he goes on: 'Send two detectives at once.'"

"And what do you think he has lost?" said Watson.

Sherlock smiled his inscrutable smile, and threw himself into an easy
chair. "I think I recognise the hand of Moriarty in this," he said.

"Do you mean Moriarty, the Crown Prosecu--"

"No, I mean Moriarty, the great chief of crime, the Napoleon of
iniquity. See here, Watson", he went on, stepping over to the window,
and drawing aside the curtain; "look out, and tell me what you see."

"I see Phillip Street, and a cab at the corner, and a man over the way
going into a pub, after hours."

"What does he look like?"

"He looks like a beer fighter."

Sherlock smiled his slow smile of satisfaction.

"Watch that man," he said, "and tell me if he looks round as he goes
into the bar." "Yes, he does."

"Does he beckon with his hand, and is he joined by another man?"

"Yes, he is."

"I thought so. Moriarty, at every turn! This is no ordinary emergency. I
would go myself, but--" And here he paused, lost in thought.

"Why not telegraph Sir Tarry, and see--"

"What, and have the telegram intercepted by Moriarty? Watson, you
surprise me. Oblige me by pressing the bell."

A velvet-footed official came to the door.

"Are all arrangements made?" said Sherlock sharply.

"They are, sir."

"Have you rung up the press, and told them at what time the detectives
leave, and where they are going, and by whom they are wanted?"

"We have, sir."

"Have they been photographed, and their descriptions circulated among
the criminal classes?"

"They have, sir."

"Have they got a banner, and masks for their faces, and a bloodhound to
follow the tracks?" "They have, sir."

"Excellent, excellent," said Sherlock Holmes. "It is a great aid to
detective work, Watson, to notify beforehand what you are going to do.
It lowers the number of convictions, and enables Neitenstein to effect
a saving in gaol expenditure. And now let us snatch a few hours' sleep.
We can do nothing till the morning. Good night, Watson. Mind the step."

Next morning there was a great to-do. People were asking: "What had the
Governor of New South Carolina lost? Had the miscreants been arrested?
Had Roshdestvensky's fleet appeared on the Upper Murrumbidgee, and
begun to shell the Barren Jack Reservoir? Was a Russian emissary
disguised as a commerical traveller trying to sell fire-extinguishers to
the burnt-out settlers?" The public mind was all unrest, and all looked
to the great detective to know what had been done.

Meanwhile, the detectives had started for the railway station with the
utmost secrecy, accompanied by a German band, a banner, and a
bloodhound. The time and place of their departure and the object of
their visit were all chronicled in the society columns among the
fashionable intelligence, and were read with interest by the criminal

They followed up the bloodstained trail. "A Russian spy has passed along
here," they said. But the desperado was found to be only an ordinary
swagman, and the sleuth hounds of the law were puzzled. "Strange!" they
said, "that the criminals are not here to meet us after our departure
was so extensively advertised." They returned as unobtrusively and
secretly as they set out, and were met by four hundred people at the
railway station, who cheered them heartily.

Public excitement ran higher than ever. The mysterious message--what was
it about? Had the detectives arrested anyone?

It was then that the genius of our friend Holmes shone out more
brightly, with more lustre and luminosity than on any occasion in his
history. He rigidly refused to give any information. "We have told the
criminals what we were going to do," he said, "but it would never do to
tell the public what the affair was all about. Enough for them to know
that the criminals, whoever they were, were taken no unfair advantage
of. Let it never be said that Sherlock Holmes descended to the low
expedient of surprising a burglar. Any officer giving any information
whatever will be sacked."

Later on in the day, the Prime Minister, by one of those singular lapses
of which even the greatest minds are capable, actually made public the
details of the affair. There was nothing to make a fuss about, he said.
There had been no crime committed, and he didn't see why the public
should be kept in a state of unrest. He said that Sir Tarry Hawser had
merely wanted two detectives to look after some unsaleable bonds that
the Carruthers Government were trying to palm off on the British
moneylender; but the public would not believe this story at all. "Why,"
they said, "should he wait till the middle of the night to remember
about the bonds? No; there was a mystery in it, and Sherlock Holmes is
the only man who can tell us."

When this was reported to Sherlock, he again smiled his deep,
enigmatical smile.

"To the ordinary superficial observer, Watson," he said, "there was
nothing in it. But the trained, deductive intellect discards all the
theories of guarding bonds. The great master mind of crime was at work
in this."

"And what was it then that Sir Tarry Hawser wished the detectives to do?
What did he wish them to guard?"

Sherlock Holmes looked round furtively, and drew his questioner close to

"The family washing," he hissed. "He didn't like sending it down,
considering the people that were about. Look out, Watson, and tell me
what you see in the street."

"I see the same pub, and I think the same man going in to have a drink."

Sherlock Holmes gave his usual chuckle of triumph. "There you are,
Watson," he said, "that proves that my suspicions were correct. Moriarty
is yet at large."

The Evening News, 28 January 1905

DISPATCHES Motoring to Melbourne



Monday, February 20 1905 There is nothing very granite-like about the
roads in Australia, worse luck. Ruts and loose metal, sidelings and sand
drifts, washed-out creeks and heartbreaking hills--these are the items
on the bill of fare before the cars that start on the reliability trial
to Melbourne tomorrow. If an English or French automobilist was told
that a "reliability" trial in Australia consisted in running 600 miles
in five days on a main public road between two capital cities, at
sixteen miles an hour running time, if he were told that this
constituted a "reliability" trial, he wouldn't see where the "trial"
came in. On English or Continental roads such a trial would be a
mockery, as every car would get full marks, and as for sixteen miles an
hour, they wouldn't call that motoring; they would only call it oozing
along. They would tell you that a good motorist ought to be able to get
out and push the car as fast as that. But if the same English or
Continental motorist had a look at our roads, he would whistle softly
and would withdraw his car. In those old-fashioned places they don't
care about racking a car to pieces by teaching it to jump down the side
of a hill from one rock to another.


And right here it is worthwhile to say a little about motoring in
England. The roads in England require to be seen to be believed. Even
narrow little country lanes, overhung by great oaks, and littered
ankle-deep in leaves, even these have a surface as smooth as glass,
whereon the motorist can let her out to his heart's content, drawing the
leaves and dust to a whirlwind after him. Down about Brighton, which is
the happy hunting ground of the London motorist, in dry weather each car
flies along, raising a cloud of dust that moves like the pillar of fire
that guided the Israelites, but a trifle faster. And it is just the
excellence of the roads that has made the motorist so unpopular in
England. When a man has got a machine under him that can travel at
thirty miles an hour and a good road to run her on, it isn't in human
nature to throttle her down to six miles an hour. So they let her out
and the Bumbles and Parish Council prosecute and fine them relentlessly,
planting policemen in hedges to take the time of the flying motors from
one milestone to another, and the motor clubs pay men to track out these
policemen and to stand outside their hiding places and wave a red flag,
so that the motorist can see where the danger lies and can slow up in


In rural England they do not love the motorist. The local squire, who
has never been hurried in his life, is condescending to cross the
village street at his usual leisurely strut, when "booh! booh! whizz!" a
motor is all but over him, and he has to skip in a very undignified way
for the sidewalk if he wishes to save his precious life. Giles
Jollyfowl, the farmer, taking a load of manure home, sleeps peaceably on
top of his load as usual, and lets the old horses go their own way. Next
thing there is an appalling whizz and a racing Panhard or Gladiator
tears past like a long streak through the atmosphere, the old horses
wheel round, and rush off the road, and Giles Jollyfowl finds himself in
the ditch with his load of manure on top of him. That is why the English
papers are full of complaints against motorists. They don't like being
hurried in England. But the motorist is a good deal to blame, for a sort
of professional pride exists among gentlemen motorists and their
chauffeurs, and it is considered de rigueur to drive full speed just
where the traffic is thickest, to cut corners by the merest
hairsbreadth, to graze vehicles as closely as possible in passing--just
to teach them to give a bit more room another time--and, above all,
always to pass a traffic constable so close as almost to shave the
buttons off his uniform. They are great people for "the correct thing"
in England, and "the correct thing" in motoring is to make all created
things step lively when you are on the road.


And how will it be with the overland to Melbourne trip? The Australian
is not so conservative as the Englishman, and the only objection to the
cars is that they frighten horses, but the Australian looks upon a race
of any sort as a sacred thing--all business and public interests must be
suspended in favour of a race, so that the cars on the reliability trial
are being warmly welcomed and a country mayor is actually going to
entertain the motorists in his public capacity. In England, he would
take all their names and "summons" them.


A Sydney car had a trial run as far as Picton and back last Saturday.
Roads were not bad, but how they will be for eighteen or twenty cars, if
it is dusty, goodness only knows. However, sufficient unto the day is
the evil thereof. It's no good anticipating trouble, as they told the
steeplechase rider who wanted to know whether the horse he had to ride
could jump the fences or not. "You will find that out," they said, "as
you go along." So we will, no doubt, find out a good deal between here
and Melbourne.

Cras ingens iterabimus aequor. Tomorrow we start on a reliability trial,
as our old friend Horace used to say.



Thursday, February 23 1905 When a friend asked me to go in a motor car
trip to Melbourne and said that over twenty cars were going, I had an
idea that the whole commando would go together, and visions arose of a
horde of motors flying along in clouds of dust, hooting like fiends in
torment. But such expectations were agreeably disappointed. The cars
were despatched at intervals of three minutes or so--enough to put about
a mile between each car--and there seemed to be little or no closing up
in the running. The motorcycles started first, and went spluttering and
shaking their way along at a great pace, each rider's head nodding over
the handles like the head of a Chinese mandarin. Every man to his taste,
of course, but I am of the opinion that the man who would ride a
motorcycle for pleasure would go to the infernal regions for pastime.
Anyhow, these get away first each day, and the light cars, and then the
heavy cars. After a few miles, one begins to come up with the
motorcyclists--mostly camped by the roadside mending something.

One such unfortunate hailed us with a frenzied appeal for petrol, and he
was so pathetically anxious to get along that our driver stopped and
gave him a lot, though he risked losing points by delay. This is written
at Goulburn after the first day's run and at time of writing only about
half the motorcyclists have showed up. The rest are scattered far and
wide, by mount, and stream, and gully. One of the first to get in was so
elated with his success that he told us, "It was dead easy"; he had time
to stop at every pub if he'd liked. The others who have not arrived
would probably have a different tale to tell.


As a rule, one sees very little of the other cars. Sometimes on climbing
a hill there appears far ahead a little doll-like vehicle climbing the
next hill, flying for dear life, with two little hunched-up figures
sitting in it. Then after a hill or two the big horsepower begins to
tell, and though all cars can go much the same pace down a hill, the
uphill grades bring back the low-powered cars, and while a twenty-four
horsepower will stride up a hill without turning a hair, the little cars
have to use their lowest speed and go up slowly, clattering like
threshing machines.

As one car overhauls another the leader is bound to give room to pass,
and so far there has been nothing but the best of good fellowship over
it. The car that is leading, if it carries on to a bit of dangerous
road, will signal to the car behind, the signal being given by a
vigorous waving of arms. Whether this brotherly love will continue all
the way remains to be seen. The amateurs who are competing do not
particularly care whether they are in first or not so long as they get
in by the specified time, but the agents of various cars are anxious to
get in first, and there may be a little more rivalry later on.


Though it is all right overtaking a car, it is a different thing when
you hear "toot, toot" behind you and you have to pull to one side to let
a car go by. It was much more annoying to us than to the surprised
swagman upon whom we came suddenly. We had to let the French (Brasier)
car with the French driver go by and he was letting her spin, too. He is
said to have won a Grand National, or something equivalent to it, in
France. But nothing could catch the Darracq that is driven by the
Melbourne agent for these cars. He said he came through with his spark
retarded (I think this is the right expression), but the other drivers
don't altogether accept the statement. In fact, the motorist is just
like the hunting man that always jumps the biggest fence. Each motorist,
by his own account, has used less petrol and less spark and has been in
bigger ruts and his car has jumped higher and side-slipped more than any
other car. It is quite a new language that has to be learned--something
like golf language--when one goes motoring.


There is an awful bit of luck about it, too. The car that the writer was
in hit nothing, jumped nothing and picked up nothing. Another car picked
up two nails--punctures each time--and blew out a tube once by plunging
into an unexpected washaway. Next day the luck may be reversed. At time
of writing, it is said that the only car driven by a lady is stuck in a
river about four miles from anywhere, but this, like many other rumours,
may be disproved later on.


In a previous article, reference was made to the sacredness of a race in
Australian eyes. We had abundant evidence of it in this run. Everywhere
the people cheered the cars on, even though their children and poultry
were snatched by hairsbreadths from untimely graves. Men ran to show us
the turnings and volunteered the information. "He's just ahead of you.
Go at him. You've got him!" as if they were cheering on a friend in a
foot race. None of the cars did any racing--the road is too bad for
that, but occasionally, in stretches of good road, one could "let her
out" a bit, and then it really was enjoyable. Occasionally a horse will
object to us, but nothing serious in this way has so far happened.


It is only now and again that you get the full advantages that motoring
can offer. When you get a bit of really good road, clear away as far as
you can see, smooth gravel for choice and the car is at her best, the
engine working with a rhythmic hum but everything else as noiseless as
the tomb, and you feel her answer to every least touch of acceleration,
while the milestones slip past one after another in surprisingly rapid
fashion, and you put the watch on her and find she is doing thirty miles
an hour and only sauntering along at that. Then one knows for a few
brief minutes what motoring really is. But when the smooth looking
stretch of road is constantly crossed by the apparently harmless
waterways that rack and jolt the car two or three feet in the air, if
you let her rush into them or when the hills are long and steep and
dusty and loose metal lies thickly and she doesn't seem to answer
properly when you liven her up a little, that is the depressing side of
the sport. But one gets a glorious rush through fresh air, laden with
scent of half-dry gum leaves, and sees the homesteads flying past, and
catches glimpses of far-off blue hills and deep gullies, that make the
ride worth having, even if there were no race or trial at all. The car
is like an untiring horse that breasts the hills gallantly and then
flies away again as fresh as ever on each stretch of smooth road.


There is not much intercolonial jealousy among the competitors, though
three states are represented. Motorists are cosmopolitans and the only
rivalry is as to the make of the car. American, German, English, and
French workshops have turned out their best work to enable us to fly
through Australia a little faster than we could otherwise do. And the
various owners--Australian, English, or foreign, think only of their
cars. It is a contest of foreigners. The chauffeur is more important
than the driver. To compare it with horse racing, the driver is the
jockey, while the chauffeur is the trainer. The driver must take the
risk of sending her along, must save every bit of bad road, and let her
out on the level, and a lot depends on his skill, nerve, and judgment.
But the chauffeur has to know by the slightest sound if anything is
wrong, and he must know what is wrong. If any stoppage occurs and he
takes an hour to find out what is the matter, then the best driving in
the world can't serve him. Anyone with a little skill in steering, or
fair share of pluck, and a quick decision, can drive and perhaps drive
well, but it takes years of training to make a man a really first-class


By common consent, breeches and gaiters similar to those used for
riding, seem to be adopted as the correct motor costume. Add to these a
high-peaked cap, a white macintosh, a pair of awful goggles, and
possibly a mask with a false leather nose, and you have some idea of the
visitors who are stirring up the City of Goulburn at the time of

There is a famous expression used by Mark Twain in the Innocents
Abroad--"We made Rome howl." That is just what the motorists are doing
here. They are making Goulburn howl. From 11.52, when H. L. Stevens'
Darracq car rushed into Goulburn ahead of the ruck, up till 4 p.m., the
main street has been blocked by a singing, jabbering, mass of small
boys, agriculturists, and local oracles, all explaining to each other
all about motor cars. As each fresh car comes in there is a wild rush,
and the small boys push each other nearly under the wheels, and just as
the throng is thickest a Yankee driver, with a face like granite, sends
two thousand pounds' weight of priceless mechanism in amongst them, and
the mob scatters and drifts up and down the street, fingering the cars
that are waiting by the roadside filling up and making adjustments
before being handed over. Each fresh chauffeur is a thing of less beauty
than the last, and Goulburn has not got reconciled to their peaked caps,
their goggles, and their iron features. One hears of bicycle face. Motor
face is the same, but a good deal harder. Concentrated watchfulness is
the essence of the motor face--the watchfulness of the man who may hit a
drain, or take a side-slip and spin off the road at any moment and land
in the ditch with a lot of nearly red-hot machinery on top of him. They
say the crack drivers in the old country have to be in full training to
do one of their long speed runs, and when one sees the wreck that can be
made by the hundredth of a second's carelessness, one can easily believe


So far everything has worked all right, and the officials are in high
good humour. Tomorrow we strike worse roads, deeper washaways, and
steeper grades. We go through Gunning and Yass. At the former town the
residents asked that the cars should be allowed to go through full
speed, so that they might see a race. But the only Yass resident yet met
with said cautiously, "Well, look out yer don't run over some of my
crossbred ewes!" But, undismayed by bad roads, big hills, and crossbred
ewes, we point her nose for Gundagai in the morning, and only hope that
she will eat up the miles till we get there.



Friday February 24

It is a "reliability" trial sure enough. The second day's run was enough
to fix that in the minds of the competitors. Eighteen miles an hour over
bush roads tries the best car, and there is a lot of luck needed to get
through. The extra speed necessitates driving for all she is worth on
the level, and if the level happens to be bisected by a drain, you
haven't time to step out; must just bump over it. The result is that
constant bumping and straining weakens the axles, and the wheels begin
to lean in towards each other. Quite three-fourths of the competing cars
are "developing bowed tendons", as the racing men would say. The axles
are all bending a little. And coming round sharp curves through loose
metal causes a side strain that sooner or later tells on the wheels. Two
cars today--Messrs Rand's and Langford's--pulled their wheels right off.
Of course, an occasional "interesting adventure with cattle" is met
with, but nothing of a serious character.

In fact, disasters began early, as the lady competitor--Mrs
Thompson--got into difficulties soon after leaving Goulburn. The French
demon driver, who has so far formed the chief topic of conversation on
the trip, came to some sort of grief at Gunning. We passed him, but, as
Mr Jorrocks says the pace was too good to inquire. From Goulburn to Yass
you get the best bit of road we have seen so far; and being delayed soon
after the start, we had to make the most of that bit of road.


In an English magazine lately appeared a picture of a car going at full
racing pace. It is called the delirium of speed. The last car to leave
on each day has some such sensation. With all the others ahead, and with
a perfectly clear road and good grades, the driver bends over his wheel,
and, so long as the road is clear ahead, he lets her rip. Hill after
hill, level after level, we fly behind, till at last a car is sighted in
front, and then the driver knows that he is holding his place. It is a
good deal like "picking up the wheel" of a racing cyclist; but when once
the cars have settled to work it becomes a terrible, nerve-straining
contest against time. The motorist must have one eye on the watch and
the other on the road. The other cars are almost sympathised with, as
they, too, have their struggle against the common enemy. And as the bad
roads are met, signals pass from car to car, and warnings are shouted as
cars pass each other.


During the run the people whom we have met have, as a rule, taken an
agreeable interest in the race. There was one exception, who cursed us
with great fluency.

Gunning went by like a flash. Yass full of people, had a lovely road for
eight miles or so on either side of it, and the Victorians, who had
driven their cars over, had a big advantage, as they knew where they
could safely "let her out". At Jugiong they were holding a race meeting,
the march of civilisation having as yet made no mark on Jugiong. The
Murrumbidgee was running yellow, probably with melted snow water from
the mountains. And then we plunged again into the stringybark ranges. By
the way, though the guide-book issued by the Dunlop Company says that
there is a "nice drop down" to Jugiong, the road we struck nearly landed
us in Jugiong in one jump from the top of an adjoining hill, as the
metalled road suddenly ceased, and the unmade track nearly led to
disaster. But after Jugiong we got out into the good flats about Colac,
and so on to Gundagai, all good country, and good road.

Incidents were few and far between today. J. M. Arnott's big Innes car
passed all the small cars on the hills, and as she is fitted for touring
and carries three passengers and a lot of luggage, it is a good
performance for the Sydney-owned haste waggon. The next stage they say
will try the cars more thoroughly than anything yet met with. Stevens,
in his Darracq, again headed the procession, and as things now are, with
the Frenchman and Rand out of it, it looks like a well-deserved win for
the Darracq, but there is a lot of road between here and Melbourne, and
already the drivers are offering to bet that not half a dozen cars



Saturday February 25

Gundagai to Albury was the hardest of the three days in the New South
Wales ride, and it was hard enough for anyone. The metalled road ceases
soon after Gundagai, and the track is an ordinary bush affair, rusty and
dusty, and the bushfires had burnt nearly all the culverts.

The Sydney cars did badly on this part of the run. Mark Foy's Panhard
car got along all right, but he is only out for an airing, and is very
indifferent whether he scores full points or not. J. M. Arnott's big
Innes car being new, ran hot, and two of the four cylinders ceased work.
This stuck us up for hours, and we lost 68 points. Trying to make up
points was the fun; during the afternoon we had 70 miles to do in under
two hours--a quite impossible task on such roads, but the car was sent
headlong into such dust and holes as we would have pulled up for on the
first day.

Once she took charge in a sand drift, and spun away to one side like a
skidding bicycle, and picked up a log and did a sort of waltz with it,
and then regretfully dropped it again, and was coaxed back on to the
road. The rest of the journey was run in a dust storm that nearly hid
the front of the car, and nearly blew the chauffeur out of it; but no
amount of hard driving would pull up the deficient points.

H. R. Arnott, the third Sydney car, just saved his points by steady and
careful handling of his car; but the advantage of knowing the road is
very great, and Stevens, the Victorian, again did fast time; while his
rival, the Frenchman, lost several points.


The French driver, who knows no English but the two words "bad
road"--was asked how our glorious highways struck him. He said there are
no roads in all France anything like as bad as what we saw here, but
there are some in Scotland nearly as bad, which is rough on Scotland. He
does not despair of getting to Melbourne, as he considers the pace
nothing--in fact, his great trouble is to go slow enough. The other
drivers predict that he will snap an axle doing some of his steeplechase
driving; but his car seems to stand anything.


Mrs Thompson, the South Australian lady, had an awful time. Her car is
one of the slow but sure order, and her great ambition is to do the run
irrespective of what points she gets. All hope that her pluck will be
rewarded. Her car stuck in the sand, and was towed out by "yokels", who
seemed to spring up out of the ground. She arrived in Albury a lot late,
but undaunted. Another Melbourne car dropped out, Mr Stewart not having
showed up.


Friday's run is only set at 14 miles an hour, so the road must be awful.
The contestants are all pretty tired of it, half blinded with dust, and
bruised and shaken by being jolted about in the cars like a pea in a
pod. It is really hard work to sit in a car on some of the most jolty
places; but those who have got full points, or near it, mean to see it
out, unless they break something. One chauffeur said, "I reckon it's
worth five pounds a minute to drive over such roads." The result of the
hard knocking about is that no one feels equal to attending the
entertainment very kindly arranged by the Mayor of Albury.


Euroa (Vic.), Saturday morning

The last stage of the motor trial was entered upon today. The weather is
fine, and the roads good. For the last sixty miles into Melbourne they
are reported to be like a billiard table.

It is almost impossible to make any change in the order of points. The
competitors who tie will have to run off in a trial to Ballarat.

Mrs Thompson got through yesterday. She started again today. She is very
plucky. The Adelaide car, Nichols' Darracq, is only one point off the
full number of marks. He intends to appeal against the Dunlop Company on
the ground that the timetaker at Gundagai delayed taking his time.

The Sydney cars are out of it. We did not know what to expect in the way
of bad roads, but will know more another time.

The Frenchman intends to drive his car back again. His chauffeur was
thrown almost out of the car yesterday. The driver managed to clutch
him. He says that in the big Continental races the chauffeur is tied in.

A big reception is being arranged at Melbourne. Each car as it enters
will be preceded by a cyclist.


The contest will finish in Melbourne this afternoon, and at the end of
the fourth section it seemed almost certain that contestants in each
class would finish with the same number of points.

Of the motor cyclists, B. James and V. Gard have each scored the
possible 2,000; and in the light-car class J. G. Coleman, J. H. Craven,
and S. Day have done the same; while four have got the maximum number in
the heavy-car section--H. L. Stevens, H. Tarrant, S. Stott, and W. Ross.

The conditions deal with a tie, and those who tie will have to compete
in a further eliminating road contest, from Melbourne to Ballarat, a
distance of 70 miles.

The Evening News, 1905


The circus was having its afternoon siesta. Overhead the towering canvas
tent spread like a giant mushroom on a network of stalks--slanting
beams, interlaced with guys and wire ropes. The ring looked small and
lonely in the midst of the circle of empty benches which seemed to stare
intently at it, as though some sort of unseen performance were going on
for the benefit of a ghostly audience. Now and again a guy rope creaked,
or a loose end of canvas flapped like faint, unreal applause; as the
silence shut down again, it did not need much imagination to people the
ring with dead and gone circus riders performing for the benefit of
hundreds of shadowy spectators, young men and old men, women, and
children, packed on those benches. An empty circus or a stage by
daylight is an uncanny thing.

In the menagerie portion matters were different; here there was a free
and easy air, and the animals seemed to realise that for the present the
eyes of the public were off them, and they could put in the afternoon
just as they chose. The big African apes had dropped the "business" of
showing their teeth, and pretending that they wanted to tear the faces
off the spectators and were carefully and painstakingly trying to fix up
a kind of rustic seat in the corner of their cage. They had got a short
piece of board, which they placed against the wall, but every time that
they sat on it, it fell down, and the whole adjustment had to be gone
through again. The camel had stretched himself full length on the tan,
and was enjoying a luxurious snooze, oblivious of the fact that before
long he would have to get up and assume that far-off ship-of-the-desert
look that so much impresses a curious audience. The remainder of the
animals were, like actors, resting before their turn came on, and even
the elephant had ceased to sway about, while a very small monkey,
perched up on a sloping tent pole, was actually so fast asleep that he
had an attack of nightmare and would have fallen off his perch only for
his big tail; in fact it was a regular land of the lotus-eater:

A land
In which it seemed always afternoon.

But these visions were dispelled by the entry of a person who said,
"D'ye want to see Dan?" and before long Mr Dan Fitzgerald, the man who
knows all about the training of horses, came into the tent, with Mr
Montgomery, the ringmaster, and between them they proceeded to expound
the methods of training horseflesh.

"What sort of horse do we buy for circus work? Well, it depends what we
want 'em for. There are three sorts of horses in use in a circus--ring
horses, trick horses, and school horses; but it doesn't matter what he
is wanted for, a horse is all the better if he knows nothing. A horse
that has been pulled about and partly trained by one man has to unlearn
a lot before he is any use to us. The less he knows, the better he is."

"Then do you just try any sort of horse?"

"Any sort, so long as he is a good sort, but it depends on what he is
wanted for. If we want a ring horse, he has to be a quiet sober-going
animal, not too well-bred and fiery. A ring horse is one that just goes
round the ring for the bareback riders and equestriennes to perform on.
The human being is the star, and the horse is only a secondary
performer, a sort of understudy--yes, that's it, an understudy--he has
to study how to keep under the man."

"Are they hard to train?"

"Their work all depends on the men that ride them. In bareback riding
there's a knack in jumping on the horse. If a man lands awkwardly and
jars the horse's back, the horse will get out of step and flinch at each
jump, and he isn't nearly so good to perform on. A ring horse must not
swerve or change his pace; because if you're up in the air, throwing a
somersault, and the horse swerves from underneath you--where are you?"

"Some people think that horses take a lot of notice of the band--is that

"Not that I know of. If there are any horses in the show with an ear for
music, I haven't heard of them. They take a lot more notice of the

"Does it take them long to learn this work?"

"Not long; a couple of months will teach a ring horse; but of course,
some are better than others.

"First of all we teach them to come up to you, with the whip, like horse
breakers do. Then we run them round the ring with a lunging rein for a
long time; then, when they are steady to the ring, we let them run with
the rein loose, and the trainer can catch hold of it if they go wrong.
Then we put a 'roller' on them (a 'roller' is a broad surcingle that
goes round the horse's body), and the boys jump on them and canter
round, holding on to the roller, and standing up and lying down, and
doing tricks till the horse gets used to it."


"Well, you give 'em a couple of hours of it, perhaps, and then dry them
and feed them, and give them a spell, and then bring them out again.
They soon get to know what you want; but you can't break in horses on
the move. The shifting and worry and noise and excitement put it all out
of their heads. We have a fixed camp where we break horses. And a horse
may know his work perfectly well, when there is no one about, but bring
him into the ring at night, and he is all abroad."

"Do you have to give them much whip?"

"Not much. If a horse doesn't know what you want him to do, it only
ruins him to whip him. But once he does a thing a few times, and then
won't do it, then you must whip him." "Then, what about trick horses?"

"A trick horse rolls a barrel, or lies down and goes to bed with the
clown, or fires a pistol--does any trick like that. Some small circuses
make the same horses do both trick and ring work, but it isn't a good
line. A horse is all the better to have only one line of business--same
as a man."

"How do you teach them tricks?"

"Oh, it takes a long time and a lot of hard work and great patience.
Even to make a horse lie down when he's ordered takes a couple of months
sometimes. To make a horse lie down, you strap up one leg, and then pull
his head round, and after a while he gets so tired of the strained
position that he lies down, after which he learns to do it at command.
Then, if you want him to pick up a handkerchief, you put a bit of carrot
in it, and after a while they know that you want them to pick it up--but
oh! it takes a long time. And then a strange hand in the ring will
flurry them, and if anything goes wrong, they get all abroad. A good
active pony, with a bit of Arab blood in him, is the best for tricks."

"Then what's a school horse?"

"Ah, that's a line of business that isn't enough appreciated out here.
On the Continent they think a lot of them. A school horse is one that is
taught to do passaging and to change his feet at command, to move
sideways and backwards; in fact, to drill. Out here no one thinks much
of it. But in Germany, where everyone goes through military riding
schools, they appreciate it. The Germans are the best horse-trainers in
the world; and the big German circus-proprietors have men to do all
their business for them, and they just attend to the horses."

"How long does it take to turn out a school horse?"

"Well, Chiarini was the best trainer out here, and he used to take two
years to get a horse to his satisfaction. For school horses, you must
have thoroughbreds; because their appearance is half their success. We
had a New Zealand thoroughbred that had raced, and was turning out a
splendid school horse, and he got burnt after costing us a year's
training. But that's the luck of the game, you know. You keep at it year
after year, and sometimes they die, and sometimes they get
crippled--it's all in the luck of the game. You may give fifty pounds
for a horse, and find that he can never get over his fear of the
elephant, while you give ten pounds for another, and find him a
ready-made performer almost."

We passed out through the ghostly circus, and through the menagerie
tent, down to the stable tent, where among a lot of others, a
tranquil-looking animal was munching some feed, while in front of him
hung a placard, "Tiger Horse".

"That's a new sort! What is he, ring, trick, or school horse?"

"Well, he's a class by himself. I suppose you'd call him a ring horse.
That's the horse that the tiger rides on."

"Did it take him long to learn that?"

"Well, it did not take this horse long; but we tried eleven others
before we could get one to stand it. They're just like men, all
different. What one will stand another won't look at. Well, goodbye."

Just like men, no doubt; many men have to carry tigers of various sorts
through life to get a living.

Written c. 1905: published the Evening News

By Knott Gold
Author of "Flogged for a Furlong", "Won by a Winker", &c., &c.


Algernon de Montgomery Smythers was a merchant, wealthy beyond the
dreams of avarice. Other merchants might dress more lavishly, and wear
larger watch chains, but the bank balance is the true test of mercantile
superiority, and in a trial of bank balances Algernon de Montgomery
Smythers represented Tyson at seven stone. He was unbeatable.

He lived in comfort, not to say luxury. He had champagne for breakfast
every morning, and his wife always slept with a pair of diamond earrings
worth a small fortune in her ears. It is things like these that show
true gentility. All others are shoddy.

Though they had been married many years, the A. de M. Smythers had but
one child--a son and heir. He was brought up in the lap of luxury. No
Christmas Day was allowed to pass by his doting parents without a gift
to young Algy of some trifle worth about £150, less the discount for
cash. He had six playrooms, all filled with the most expensive toys and
ingenious mechanical devices. He had a phonograph that could hail a ship
out at the South Head, and a mechanical parrot that sang "The Wearing of
the Green". And still he was not happy.

Sometimes, in spite of the vigilance of his four nurses and six
under-nurses, he would escape into the street, and run about with the
little boys that he met there. One day he gave one of them a sovereign
for a locust. Certainly the locust was a "double-drummer", and could
deafen the German Band when shaken up judiciously; still, it was dear at
the price of a sovereign.

It is ever thus.

What we have we do not value, and what other people have we are not
strong enough to take from them.

Such is life.

Christmas was approaching, and the question of what should be given to
Algy as a present agitated the bosom of his parents. He had nearly
everything a child would want; but one morning a bright inspiration
struck Algy's father. Algy should have a pony.

With Mr Smythers to think was to act. He was not a man who believed in
allowing grass to grow under his feet. His motto was, "Up and be
doing--somebody". So he put an advertisement in the paper that same day.

"Wanted, a boy's pony. Must be guaranteed sound, strong, handsome,
intelligent. Used to trains, trams, motors, fire engines, and motor
buses. Any failure in above respects will disqualify. Certificate of
birth required as well as references from last place, when calling.
Price no object."


Down in the poverty-stricken portions of the city lived Blinky Bill the
horse dealer.

His yard was surrounded by loose boxes made of any old timber,
galvanized iron, sheets of roofing felt, and bark that he could gather
together. He kept all sorts of horses, except good sorts. There were
harness horses that wouldn't pull, and saddle horses that wouldn't
go--or, if they went, used to fall down; nearly every animal about the
place had something the matter with it.

He kept racing ponies, and when the bailiff dropped in, for the rent, as
he did every two or three weeks, Bill and the bailiff would go out
together, and "have a punt" on some of Bill's ponies, or on somebody
else's ponies--the latter for choice. But the periodical punts and
occasional sales of horses would not keep the wolf from the door. Ponies
keep on eating whether they are winning or not and Slinky Bill had got
down to the very last pitch of desperation when he saw the advertisement
mentioned at the end of the last chapter.

It was like a ray of hope to him. At once there flashed upon him what he
must do.

He must make a great sacrifice; he must sell Sausage II.

What, the reader will ask, was Sausage II? Alas, that such a great
notability should be anywhere unknown!

Sausage II was the greatest 13.2 pony of the day. Time and again he had
gone out to race when, to use William's own words, it was a blue duck
for Bill's chance of keeping afloat unless the pony won; and every time
did the gallant race pony pull his owner through. Bill owed more to
Sausage II than he owed to any of his creditors.

Brought up as a pet, the little animal was absolutely trustworthy. He
would carry a lady or a child, or pull a sulky; in fact, it was quite a
common thing for Blinky Bill to drive him in a sulky to a country
meeting and look about him for a likely "mark"; if he could find a fleet
youth with a reputedly fast pony, Bill would offer to "pull the little
cuddy out of the sulky and run yer for a fiver". Sometimes he got beaten
but, as he never paid, that didn't matter. He did not believe in
fighting, except under desperate circumstances, but he would always
sooner fight than pay.

But all these devices had left him on his uppers in the end. He had no
feed for his ponies, and no money to buy feed; the corn merchant had
written his account off as bad, and had no desire to make it worse.
Under the circumstances, what was he to do? Sausage 11 must be sold.

With heavy heart Bill led the pony down to be inspected. He saw Mr
Algernon de Montgomery Smythers and measured him with his eye. He saw it
would be no use to talk about racing to him, so he went on the other

He told him that the pony belonged to a Methodist clergyman, who used to
drive him in a "shay". There are no shays in this country; but Bill had
read the word somewhere, and thought it sounded respectable. "Yus, sir,"
he said, "'e goes lovely in a shay," and he was just starting off at
twenty words a second, when he was stopped.

Mr A. de M. Smythers was brusque with his inferiors, and in this he made
a mistake. Instead of listening to all that Blinky Bill said, and
disbelieving it at his leisure, he stopped his talk.

"If you want to sell this pony, dry up," he said. "I don't believe a
word you say, and it only worries me to hear you lying."

Fatal mistake! You should never stop a horse dealer's talk. And call him
anything you like, but never say you doubt his word.

Both these things Mr Smythers did; and though he bought the pony at a
high price, yet the insult sank deep into the heart of Blinky Bill.

As the capitalist departed leading the pony, Blinky Bill muttered to
himself, "Ha! ha! Little does he know that he is leading Sausage II, the
greatest thirteen-two pony of the century. Let him beware how he gets
alongside anything. That's all! Blinky Bill may yet be revenged!"

We shall see.


Christmas Day came. Algy's father gave orders to have the pony saddled,
and led round to the front door. Algy's mother, a lady of forty summers,
spent the morning superintending the dinner. Dinner was the principal
event in the day with her. Alas, poor lady! Everything she ate agreed
with her, and she got fatter and fatter and fatter.

The cold world never fully appreciates the struggles of those who are
fat--the efforts at starvation, the detested exercise, the long,
miserable walks. Well has one of our greatest poets written, "Take up
the fat man's burden". But we digress.

When Algy saw the pony he shouted with delight, and in half a minute was
riding him up and down the front drive. Then he asked for leave to go
out in the street, and that was where the trouble began.

Up and down the street the pony cantered, as quietly as possible, till
suddenly round a corner came two butcher boys racing their horses. With
a clatter of clumsy hoofs they thundered past. In half a second there
was a rattle, and a sort of comet-like rush through the air. Sausage II
was off after them with his precious burden. The family dog tried to
keep up with him, and succeeded in keeping ahead for about three
strides. Then, like the wolves that pursued Mazeppa, he was left yelping
far behind. Through Surry Hills and Redfern swept the flying pony, his
rider lying out on his neck in Tod Sloan fashion, while the ground
seemed to race beneath him. The events of the way were just one hopeless
blur till the pony ran straight as an arrow into the yard of his late
owner, Blinky Bill.


As soon as Blinky Bill recognised his visitor, he was delighted. "You
here," he said, "Ha, ha, revenge is mine! I'll get a tidy reward for
taking you back, my young shaver." Then from the unresisting child he
took a gold watch and three sovereigns, which he had in his pocket.
These he said he would put in a safe place for him, till he was going
home again. He expected to get at least a tenner ready money for
bringing the child back, and hoped that he might be allowed to keep the
watch into the bargain. With a light heart he went down town with Algy's
watch and sovereigns in his pocket. He did not return till daylight,
when he awoke his wife with bad news.

"Can't give the boy up," he said. "I moskenoed his block and tackle, and
blued it in the school," meaning that he had pawned the boy's watch and
chain, and had lost the proceeds at pitch and toss. "Nothing for it but
to move," he said, "and take the kid with us."

So move they did.

The reader can imagine with what frantic anxiety the father and mother
of little Algy sought for their lost one. They put the matter into the
hands of the detective police, and waited for the Sherlock Holmeses of
the force to get in their fine work. They heard nothing.

Years rolled on, and the mysterious disappearance of little Algy was
never solved. The horse dealer's revenge was complete. The boy's mother
consulted a clairvoyant, who said, "What went by the ponies, will come
by the ponies"; and with that they had to remain satisfied.


It was a race day at Pulling'em Park, and the ponies were doing their
usual performances. Among the throng the heaviest punter is a fat lady
with diamond earrings. Does the reader recognise her? It is little
Algy's mother. Her husband is dead, leaving her the whole of his
colossal fortune, and, having developed a taste for gambling, she is now
engaged in "doing it on the ponies". She is one of the biggest bettors
in the game.

When women take to betting they are worse than men.

But it is not for betting alone that she attends the meetings. She
remembers the clairvoyant's "What went by the ponies will come by the
ponies." And always she searches in the ranks of the talent for her lost

Here comes another of our dramatis personae--Blinky Bill, prosperous
once more. He has got a string of ponies and punters together. The first
are not much use to a man without the second; but, in spite of all
temptations Bill has always declined to number among his punters the
mother of the child he stole. But the poor lady regularly punts on his
ponies, and just as regularly is "sent up"--in other words, loses her

Today she has backed Blinky's pair, Nostrils and Tin Can, for the
double. Nostrils has won his race, and Tin Can, if on the job, can win
the second half of the double. Is he on the job? The prices are
lengthening against him, and the poor lady recognises that once more she
is "in the cart".

Just then she meets Tin Can's jockey, Dodger Smith, face to face. A
piercing scream rends the atmosphere, as if a thousand school children
drew a thousand slate pencils down a thousand slates simultaneously. "Me
cheild! Me cheild! Me long-lost Algy!"

It did not take long to convince Algy that he would be better off as son
to a wealthy lady than as a jockey subject to the fiendish caprices of
Blinky Bill.

"All right, mother," he said. "Put all you can raise on Tin Can. I'm
going to send Blinky up. It's time I had a cut on me own, anyway."

The horses went to the post. Tons of money were at the last moment
hurled on to Tin Can. The books, knowing he was "dead", responded
gamely, and wrote his name till their wrists gave out. Blinky Bill had a
half-share in all the bookies' winnings, so he chuckled grimly as he
went to the rails to watch the race.

They're off. And what is this that flashes to the front, while the howls
of the bookies rise like the yelping of fiends in torment? It is Dodger
Smith on Tin Can, and from the grandstand there is a shrill feminine
yell of triumph as the gallant pony sails past the post.

The bookies thought that Blinky Bill had sold them, and they discarded
him for ever. He is now a bottle-oh!

Algy and his mother were united, and backed horses together happily ever
after; and sometimes out in the back yard of their palatial mansion they
hand the empty bottles, free of charge, to a poor old broken-down
bottle-oh. It is Blinky Bill. Thus has his revenge recoiled upon

Written c. 1905: published the Evening News




Up to Albany nothing of importance occurred in the voyage of the troops
of the Imperial Force. Sunday, November 1, was a red-letter day in the
history of Australia, for on that day our big fleet of transports put
out from Albany for the long trip across half the world.

The ships arrived at Albany in ones and twos and threes, till at last
all the fleet was gathered. They anchored in the roadstead outside the
inner harbour of Albany. There they swung at anchor for five clear days,
while water and coal were taken in by the vessels that required them.
Each day there was a report that we were to sail on the following day,
but day after day passed, and no move was made by any of the ships.

A couple of small men-of-war came and went but the vessels that were to
escort us still waited. At last on Saturday October 31, word passed
round in the mysterious way in which word does pass round at sea that
the transports would leave next morning. Two sick men and one sick
officer were sent ashore from our vessel, and all hands turned in with
the serene hope that this at last was the real signal to move.


Grey dawn sees pretty well everybody astir and all eyes keep turning to
the flagship of the transports. All sorts of hours have been rumoured as
the time of departure. Time goes on, and still no move. A red sun rises
behind a long island away out to seaward, on which is a lighthouse,
sharply silhouetted against the sky.

The island is at the end of a long sea lane or waterway, landlocked on
either side by bare rugged hills, with here and there a patch of gorse
showing yellow against the sombre green of the coastal scrub, or the
dull brown of the rocks. Not a sound, nor any movement of any living
thing, comes from the frowning hills on either side of the waterway. It
is as if they were watching the transports getting ready for sea. From
these, too, comes no noise at all that can be heard from one ship to
another. The watcher on the deck of the inshore vessels sees the three
long rows of ships lying silent as painted ships at their anchors.

The only sign of life is the column of smoke pouring from each funnel,
and this alone it is that tells us that Australia's greatest maritime
venture is about to put out to sea. Each ship seems to stand out double
her natural size, every spar and rope showing clearly outlined against
the rosy sky. The sea is dull, still grey, without a ripple. A vague
electric restlessness is in the air. What are those coming out of the
inner harbour? Two grim, gliding leviathans, going majestically out to
sea to take their places as guardians of the fleet.

There is something uncanny in the absolute silence with which everything
is done. They glide past the frowning cliffs, whose feet are awash with
the sea, through the long lines of waiting transports, and are soon lost
to sight steaming right out into the eye of the sun.


Then there is a stir at the stern, a gliding, oily rush of water, which
tells us that the screw is turning at last. At least a thousand pairs of
field glasses are centred on her anchor chain. Link by link it comes
inboard and the leader of the fleet is under weigh. Noiselessly the
great ship gathers speed and moves ahead through the waiting fleet; and,
as she goes out the vessels that are to follow her in line get silently
under weigh and fall in line behind her.

Now is seen a very pretty evolution as the leader draws out past the
lighthouse and turns sharply to the west, rising to the lift of the open
sea, and as each big vessel clears the gateway of the harbour she, too,
swings around to the west and after her leader, and seems to dip her
head into the waves with a sort of enjoyment at being once more on the
trail. As gracefully as a fleet of swans after some great leader, they
drop into place and soon are rising to the sea.

Suddenly, we too realise that we are under weigh. So silently does the
anchor come in, so smoothly do the turbine engines work, that only the
sailors on board know that we are moving, till the rocky headlands begin
to glide past us and we pass the waiting ships of our own fleet. As we
pass each one it gets up its anchor and glides after us.


The New Zealand transports all painted the same greyish-black colour,
with black funnels, are still at their anchorage as we steam past, and
they give us Honi Heke's old warcry, "Ake, Ake, Ake, Kia Kaha": "We will
fight on for ever and ever." Past the frowning cliffs and the lighthouse
we draw out to the sunlit sea, our division following in beautiful
order, each ship swinging gracefully round into line, as we set our
course for the Leeuwin and draw slowly up alongside the other two lines.

Thirty thousand fighting men, representing Australasia, are under way
for the Great War.


From the leading ship of our line we saw a great string of ships
steaming along in our rear, the one just behind us keeping always her
distance, the white foam always at her bows, her great frame lifting and
sinking rhythmically to the swell.

Day and night she is always there, just behind us, until the pursuit
becomes a sort of haunting thing. One looks aft sometimes to see if by
any chance she may have relaxed her pursuit for an instant, but the
great bow and the towering deck houses and bridge are always there just
behind us; and behind her always trails the long line of ships. The only
change is when a vessel going a trifle too fast finds herself closing on
the one in front of her and falls out of line and makes a slight detour
so as to lose a little distance without slowing her engines. Sometimes
there are two or three vessels out of line at once, and it is a positive
relief after the long, grim line of vessels.

It is a great experience for the merchant captains this navigating in
line by day and night. Men-o'-war navigators are trained to it all
through their career, and rush through manoeuvres at full speed with
only a couple of cables' lengths between the vessels; but the captain of
a gigantic merchantman has no practice at playing tricks with his
vessel, and the further away he can keep from all others the better he
is pleased. It is fairly safe to say that not one captain left his
bridge during the whole of the first night.

It would never do to make a blunder with all those brethren of the cloth
looking on; and not a blunder was made. It is not exactly the easiest
thing in the world to keep accurate distance and direction at night with
only a stern lamp ahead and a masthead light behind to give distance and


The engineers had a field day, too. The pace had to be kept down to the
pace of the slowest of the transports. With a fourteen-knot vessel to
handle care had to be taken not to overrun the constable, so to speak,
and the engine room bells tinkled pretty constantly until the pace was
finally adjusted. A speed cone hung in each vessel's rigging, and was
lowered or raised according as she was slowing down or making speed. At
night a crimson light took the place of the speed cone.

All eyes were on the slowest ship. It was expected she would prove the
slowest of the fleet, but at first she hung on to her pacer, as the
bicycle men say, surprisingly well. No doubt, the engine room staff and
stokers were getting every ounce out of her, and for a while she did
quite well. But a head sea made a big difference, and the gap between
the flagship and her chaser lengthened and lengthened until the fleet
had to be slowed right down every now and again to let that line catch
up. Once she was given a rather long chance to close up, and managed to
get right on the flagship's heels, whereupon she proudly lowered her
speed cone to half pace, which of course suggested that the flagship was
too slow to get out of her road. She did not get many more chances to
lower her speed cone.


Away ahead of the whole fleet, just in sight, on the edge of the
horizon, is a pillar of smoke--a cruiser is clearing the way for us,
setting the pace, giving the direction, and keeping a watchful eye out
for enemies. Far away to starboard, just visible on the skyline, is
another pillar of smoke keeping guard, and another pillar of smoke and
dimly seen low-lying vessel on the horizon to port show where a cruiser
is day and night keeping her watch over our movements.

So we move across the ocean like a large regatta of great steamships,
always the same order being inflexibly kept. It is sometimes hard to
believe that 120 miles have been covered since one saw them last, they
seem to be so exactly in the same place. And always behind us are the
great towering leviathans of merchantmen, each loaded with men, horses,
and war material.

It is the most wonderful sight that an Australian ever saw.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 8 December 1914


Our unit is a base unit, and does not have to hustle and shift about;
our cook-house, therefore, is more a permanent structure than is usual
with Army cook-houses. It consists of a brick oven, frequently out of
action, half a dozen Sawyer--or should it be Sayer--stoves, a
brick-floored, mat-sided, reed-roofed shed, a meat house, and a mat
shed, used indifferently by the cook-house gang as a debating hall, a
gymnasium, and a shelter from the heat. Here, when the day's work is
over, the wits of the squadron assemble and discuss various topics in
the cool of the evening. Anybody can have, at any hour of the day or
night, a drink of tea, an argument, a punch on the nose, or a duel of
wits, by applying at our cook-house. Not that there is much, or, indeed,
any fighting ever done there, though, to hear the talk, one would expect
to see about six fights a day. The fights never come off, though they
are there if you want them: and all the talk of fight is good-natured
banter, intended to pass the time pleasantly and to draw out whatever
mother wit there may be in the troops.

Our work as a unit consists in the supply of helmets and steel
burnishers for bits and stirrup irons to the Australian Forces. So we
are not a very popular unit; but such as our work is, we do it to the
best of our ability: and we are enabled to employ a number of
middle-aged men, too old for the fighting line. Thus our cook is well
over forty-five and has run to flesh somewhat: he is an old soldier and
knows how to carry himself; and only that his chest has slipped down a
bit, he still has a fine military figure. During his years of military
service he has learnt how to handle men. So he affects a ferocity of
demeanour and language that serves it purpose by keeping the younger men
in order; while he is quite ready, nay, even eager, to enter into an
argument with the seasoned old soldiers, who tell him to "cut out the
bluff and talk sense". In private life he is a quiet and successful
tradesman, whose life is devoid of incident; but here he has to cope
every day with the problem of feeding two hundred hungry Australians,
some of whom have known the best, and others the worst, cooking in the
world. As he says himself, "It's not the blokes that lived at the Hotel
Australia that grumble; it's the men that's been in the Northern
Territory, livin' on water-lily roots and goannas, cooked by black
gins!" But he does not lose any sleep over the grumblers--not like the
French king's cook who hanged himself because the fish was not done
enough. Our cook would persuade any grumblers that they did not know the
right way to cook fish!

His staff consists of three--an offsider, who is supposed to understudy
the cook, and two helpers, who cut wood, peel vegetables, wash pots,
carry firewood and do the hundred and one other jobs of a cook-house in
a base camp. As birds of a feather flock together, so the cook has got
round him the philosophers and sages of the unit. His offsider is a
bushman of the old school, a tall, lean and very old giant, who has
carried a swag to many a station and swung a pick in many a mine, always
on the new rushes and to the far out stations. He is silent, shrewd and
good-natured to a fault. He it was who cut out the pictures from the
Australian weeklies--oddly varied here and there by cuttings from La Vie
Parisienne--and pasted them on the cook-house walls. When you come to
think of it, no true outback Australian cook could possibly inhabit a
cook-house for long without pasting some pictures round it. His taste in
illustrations follows the old groove, and the present-day Australian
racehorses and high jumpers look out in effigy on the grey Egyptian
desert. His part in the daily cook-house comedy is that of the oracle of
Delphos. If anybody comes up looking for a fight, they are told they
must fight Donnelly; if any very knotty point arises in argument, it is
always referred to Donnelly; and many a grumbler has had to go away,
snorting under the assurance that his grievance will be reported to
Donnelly first thing in the morning. Donnelly is supposed to have fought
all the leading pugilists, beaten all the leading runners, to have dug
up the biggest nuggets, and to have had more adventures of an amorous
nature than Don Juan. With true Australian fatalism, he meekly accepts
this outlandish role, and always plays up to the cook in business and
dialogue without any previous rehearsal. "It keeps the boys amused," he

The other two members of the cook-house are cast for thinking parts (as
the actors have it), and say nothing, except that they come in
occasionally, like the chorus of a Greek play, with observations that
lend point and confirmation to their chief's arguments--one of them, it
should be mentioned, is a pocket Hercules, as fearless as a bulldog; and
everyone knows that, if they really went looking for trouble in the
cook-house, they could easily find it: consequently, nobody ever looks
for it, and the most bloodthirsty threats are taken as they are meant to
be, in a purely figurative and diplomatic sense.

Let us suppose, now, it is after tea in camp. The boiling Egyptian sun
has slid down into his couch of fleecy clouds and the cool desert breeze
brings life and cheerfulness on its wings. The cook-house gang, all
smoking, sit on the form outside their shed, prepared to take on
anybody. A fair sprinkling of men are lounging about, smoking after tea,
and there is a constant coming and going of men from the tents. A dixie
of water is simmering on the fire, and this has to be kept to make the
tea for a detachment of men, who have been away delivering helmets and
steel burnishers to brother Australians further up the line. There is a
concert on at an adjoining camp, where many "sisters" will be present;
so every man who has leave for the concert wants to get some of that hot
water to shave with. And first comes up one, "Bluey", a character, mug
in hand, and sidles towards the dixie, with one eye on the cook.

"Now then, 'Bluey'," says the cook, "cut it out! You can't have none of
that water. I want it for the boys that are coming in late."

"Bluey" is a large, red-headed, good natured youth, full of joie de
vivre, and, occasionally, other liquids: he is no debater, but is always
ready to join in any sort of rough-house gambols that will serve to help
the afternoon performance along. He puts his mug on the ground, and
adopting an exaggerated version of the Hughie Mehegan smother, he
advances on the cookhouse.

"Now then," says he, "I've fought and beat every man in this cook-house,
except one." "Which one is that?"

"Donnelly! Come on, Donnelly, you've lived too long! Come out here and
stack your apparel, till I kill you."

The words "till I kill you" are apparently Donnelly's cue, as he at once
takes the stage and grapples with the intruder. They wrestle and bump
about among the stoves and firewood. The spectators cheer impartially.
"Stay with him, Donnelly!" "Good on you, 'Bluey'!" "Uppercut him,
'Bluey'!" "Come off the stove!" From distant tents come hoarse cries of
encouragement: "Choke him!" "Put the boot in, Donnelly!" And so on.
After a while, the Cook, seeing that the "turn" has lasted long enough,
signals to his next in rank. "Jack", he says, "go over there and throw
that man 'Bluey' out. Donnelly might kill him."

Jack makes a short rush, puts his arms around the struggling pair, and
rushes them out into the open. Here "Bluey" is sorted out from his
antagonist, his mug is thrown after him, and he disappears from the
stage, not without applause.

Next comes a tall, angular, morose-looking soldier, very dirty. He is
known as "The Nark", being a man of trouble-making disposition; on more
than one occasion he has put in a complaint to the orderly officer about
the cookery. He has a great flow of invective, and spectators rouse
themselves in anticipation as he bears down on the cook-house. The cook,
on the principle that attack is the best defence, gets in the first

"Now, 'Nark', what do you want? It's no good your comin' after water.
You'd only say that it wasn't boiled the way you like it."

The audience laugh, but "The Nark" regards the cook coldly, and says
nothing. Following up his initial success, the cook is emboldened to
further flights.

"Ho", he says, "'The Nark's' a good soldier. When you roust on him, and
he knows he's in the wrong, he don't answer back; just stands there and
takes it."

"The Nark" shows his teeth in a dry grin. "Was you roustin' on me?" he
inquires, in great surprise.

"Corse I was roustin' on you. Who else would I be roustin' on?"

"I thought most likely you were talkin' to some of those pot-washin'
staff coves of yours. They want roustin' on. If the whole lot of you
went cookin' in a shearin' shed, you'd be lynched."

"You hear that, Donnelly!" says the cook, in horror. "He says you
wouldn't cook for shearers! You that was voted in as cook seven years
runnin' in the biggest shed in Queensland, with two hundred shearers!
Wasn't you, Donnelly?"

"I suppose I was," says Donnelly. But "The Nark", like a good General,
throws on his forces on the weakest point of defence.

"Donnelly," he says, "put in most of his life helping to put new roofs
on public houses!" And with this parting blow, which is generally
conceded to be somewhat of a bit below the belt, he slouches off with
the dishonours of war.

Next comes a little London cockney, who has joined up with us in
Australia. He has the Londoner's readiness of tongue.

"Cook", he says, as he swaggers up, "why don't you call those men of
yours to attention when I come past? I'll 'ave that stripe off you, if
you ain't careful!"

"I'll put Donnelly on to you," says the cook, for want of any better

"I'll job Donnelly on the bread basket. Why ain't he boilin' up some
water for me, instead of loaf in' there?"

"Why don't you go out and pinch some firewood, and I'll give you plenty
'ot water?" "Garn! If there was enough of you there to put up a decent
fight with me, I'd go in and knock the lot of you."

Thud! Thud! Thud! Three bad potatoes, skilfully thrown by the cook-house
gang, land on him like machine gun fire, and he ducks and bolts off, to
the accompaniment of Homeric laughter from the troops.

"There you are," says the cook. "I was keeping them potatoes to show the
orderly officer, and you go and waste them on that!"

But now there is a tramp of feet in the gloom, and the detachment
marches in, hungry, tired, and bad-tempered, as men are after a long day
in the Egyptian sun. While they are having a wash, the cook bustles
about dealing out the stew, and making tea. Two mess orderlies come up
to draw the stew, and the cook ladles out the steaming mixture. The
first man gets his allowance and departs, and the cook, glancing
casually into the stew pot, says, "How many have you got, Mick?"

Mick is a harassed youth who takes everything seriously.

"Nine, and all gormandisers," he says.

"Do they like ungyuns?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Well, here you are then. There's a beautiful lot of ungyuns in this."
And the cook ladles out a mixture in which the "ungyuns" advertise
themselves with no uncertain voice. The mess orderly has learnt to fear
Greeks bringing gifts, so he inspects the dish narrowly.

"Why," he says, "it's all onions. There's hardly any meat."

"Go on! There's plenty meat. And you said you wanted plenty ungyuns."

And the mess orderly retreats with his steaming dish, merely pausing to
throw over his shoulder, the remark, addressed apparently to the
universe in general, "Cooks always is the lowest dorgs in the Army!"

But the cook takes no notice. The day's work is over, and turning to
Donnelly, he asks him whether he thinks he could keep one down; and
Donnelly feeling equal to the task, they go off to the canteen together.

The Kia-Ora Coo-ee, October 1918


"When's the General's inspection?" inquired the cook, uneasily, of the
Orderly Room Sergeant. The Sergeant, being Scotch, and in daily converse
with "The Heads", was always supposed to know everything about everybody
in the military world.

"What are you worrying about?" he said.

"You never know what a General'll want", the cook explained. "One's all
for drill, another for shootin'; and all that. One come one day, and it
seems his dream was to have every officer know the men's names and all
about 'em. Our captain had been put fly to this, so he sez to us, just
before the General came round, 'Whatever name I give you men today, see
you answer to it', he says. So the General come along the line, lookin'
at our boots and feelin' our toonics between his finger and thumb,
because some of 'em were different issue to the others; and all of a
sudden he points to me, and he sez, 'What's that man's name?', he sez.
An', of course, our Captain knew my name all right; but bein' ast sudden
that way, he got rattled and outs with the first name he can think of.
'His name's McFarland,' he says. Well, there was a McFarland about ten
paces further down the line; and just as the General comes opposite to
him, he halts and snaps out, 'Trooper McFarland, two paces to the front,
march!' He wanted to see if our Captain had give me the right name or
not. So o' course, this real McFarland, he steps out, and I steps out,
too. And the General lamps us a bit, and he says, 'What's this?' he
says. 'Is there two McFarland's, are you brothers?' he says. So I says
'Yes, sir', and the other real McFarland he says, 'No, sir', both
together, just like that: and, of course, the General went off a treat.
So you see, Scotty, you want to know what this one will ask?"

The Orderly Sergeant was quite in the dark as to what form the General's
questions were likely to take, so he side-stepped the problem.

"Nobody keers whit happens tae a kuk," he said.

"Oh! don't they!" said the cook. "That's all you know. I bet you the
General'll ask me more questions than any man in the Regiment."

All this Scotty pondered till you could almost hear his brain working;
and then he put forward a valuable suggestion.

"He'll go tae the Light Horrse lines before he comes here", he said.
"You step over to yon Light Horrse kuk-house, and find out what he asks
them, an' ye'll be a' richt!"

It was a quarter of a mile to the Light Horse cook-house; and a half
mile walk on a hot day over loose desert sand did not appeal to our
cook, who is a credit to his own cooking: but he saw nothing else for
it, so he set off doggedly to plod over the sand in the blazing heat and
disappeared among the Light Horse tents. Soon we saw the cavalcade of
the inspecting General moving slowly up the Light Horse lines, and with
our mental vision, we could see, and with the ear of imagination we
could hear, the General pointing with his cane and asking why the tent
flaps were not rolled evenly, and why there were so many Egyptian beds
in the tents.

There came a long halt before the Light Horse cook-house: and it is a
singular fact that Generals often show great interest in the doings of
cooks. One has been known, after shaking everybody from the C.O. to the
Company Sergeant Major to their foundations, to speak quite pleasantly
with the cooks, and ask them what they did for a living before the war.
Possibly the reason for this is, that an army travels on its stomach,
and the cook is really a very important man. "No cook, no company" would
be a very good military maxim to be elaborated in lectures at Duntroon
and elsewhere.

At last the General moved away from the Light Horse cook-house, and soon
afterwards we could see our own cook in the distance ploughing his way
back through the sand. When he arrived he was sweating profusely, but
wore a contented look. The Orderly Room Sergeant had made a job for
himself to take some papers to the Quartermaster's, so as to escape for
a while from the state of high nervous tension that prevails in orderly
room when a general inspection is on. He hailed the cook as he passed.

"Find oot onything?" he said.

"I think so", said the cook. "I went to both cook-houses after the Head
had been there; and he ast each of 'em whether they gave the men roast
meat or only stool. He roared one of 'em up a treat for not having an
oven to roast meat in. Roast meat!"

By this time the General rode up, with his A.D.C., and the local
Commandant the regulation distance behind him. He noted whether the
Officers' Mess room was in good order, and whether the mess orderly was
tidy. For it is by details that military shows are judged: and incident
to this it may be mentioned that one of the greatest station inspectors
in Australia once said that he always judged a station manager by his
gates. If the gates were in good order, then everything else was likely
to be in good order: by their gates ye shall know them! But to return to
the inspection.

The General, having immediately awarded full points for neatness of
turn-out to the officers' mess, and for speed, style and action to the
mess orderly, set off round the camp. At the first squadron, the
squadron leader rode up and saluted and fell in beside the General to
receive whatever of praise or blame might be coming his way. Now, the
squadron leader had put in a couple of anxious hours going about his
lines, seeing that the white stones round the camp were nicely
whitewashed, all dunnage and litter out of the road, everybody dressed
correctly, and so on. But he had made his inspection on foot, and, not
being able to see to the roofs of the sheds, had missed the fact that
all the natives employed in the lines had stacked their gallabiehs on
the roof of one of the sheds. The General's eagle eye fell on this:
"What have you got up on that roof", he said, "an old clothes store?"
Then he found a fire bucket empty and volunteered the remark, that fire
buckets without water in them would not be of much use in case of a
conflagration. "You can't put out fires with 'eye-wash', you know", he
said, pointing to the rows of beautifully whitewashed stones on which
such hopes had been built. In fact, things were going badly all along
the line, and it was felt that it rested with the cook-house to redeem
the day. Had not all the cook-house staff once been awarded a prize of
two pounds for the best and cleanest cook-house in camp? All was not yet

The General rode up to the cook-house and the cook came out, saluted,
and stood to attention. The General asked the usual questions as to how
long the cook had been at the job and whether he was a cook in civil
life, to which latter question he received the reply that the cook, in
private life, was a revolving window shutter manufacturer! Not being
able to carry the conversation further in that line, the General turned
to the cook-house.

"Very good", he said. "No flies. Sink in good order. Brick floor. Very
clean. What did the men have for breakfast this morning?"

"Porridge and bacon, Sir; and most of 'em buys a few eggs, and I fry
'em." "Very good. And what did they have for dinner?"

Now the men had had stew for dinner, but the cook wasn't going to say
so. He had not walked half a mile in the heat and sand for nothing.

"They had roast meat and baked potatoes and puddin' ", he said.

"Very good, very good. That's it. Not too much stew. Feed men well, and
they'll do well at any job. Very satisfactory."

The day was saved. Our cook had redeemed the honour of the Regiment; but
alas, just as the General drew his bridle to move off, his eye lit on
the cook's bare, hairy chest, which was exposed by an open shirt.

"Where's your identity disc?" said the General.

A personal search revealed, that not only the cook, but two of his
assistants were minus their discs. The General moved on without a word.
And thus it was that our report of the inspection contained the dreadful
sentence: "A little more attention to details would be desirable". And
thus it was that our cook trod the orderly room tarpaulin next morning
on a charge of "neglect, to the prejudice of good order and military
discipline in that he omitted to wear his identity disc".

"There you are", said the cook, "me walkin' all that way to the Light
Horse for nothin'. I wish I'd told him the men had stoo for dinner. He'd
a gone that wild, he wouldn't ha' noticed the identity disc!"

The Kia-Ora Coo-ee, November 1918


There are three sorts of hospitals with an army: first, the base
hospitals, where some of the greatest specialists in the world
experiment, toiling ceaselessly with the infinite patience of genius to
isolate and destroy some microbic enemy of the human race--an enemy so
small that it can not be seen by the naked eye, but more deadly than all
the machine guns of the enemy; next, the stationary hospitals, which get
a bit nearer to the front than the base hospitals and frequently belie
their name by having to shift themselves to a new location; and,
thirdly, the casualty clearing stations, which work within sound of the
guns and have, on various occasion, served as targets for German
aeroplanists. In a base hospital everything is done according to the
drill book; in the stationaries you keep as near as you can; but in the
casualty clearing stations you do the work first and think about the
drill book afterwards.

Nursing sisters do not, as a rule, figure on the staff of a casualty
clearing station; but this war has seen many stranger things occur, and
it so happened that, at a certain casualty clearing station in a front
line camp, a nurse found herself in a hospital tent with every bed
occupied and wounded men lying on stretchers in all spare corners.

In private life, when out of her nurse's uniform, she was a small,
unaggressive person, with very little to say for herself; but in the
soldiers' ward no Commander-in-Chief is more absolutely and implicitly
obeyed than the army nurse. This girl had, in her own phrase, always
been lucky, which is to say that she had been on transport work in the
early days of Gallipoli and had helped the doctors working like driven
devils twenty-four hours out of the twenty-four, doing their best to
keep up with the rush of work all day and performing urgent operations
all night--red-eyed from want of sleep, sickened with the constant smell
of anaesthetics, untended wounds and unwashed humanity. Later she had
been at an advanced stationary hospital in Palestine, where the Hun
aeroplanes came over once a day, and where there was a constant coming
and going of troops and guns, camels, Arabs, soldiers--in fact, a sort
of daily picture show with most of the actors alive. And now she had got
a chance to do some work in a casualty clearing station, where the men
came in fresh from the battlefield and all hands were working feverishly
to keep up with the rush. Truly, if there is ever a parade of troops in
order of merit, the medical and nursing units should march very near the

Amongst the patients was one boy shot through the head; by some queer
freak the brain injury had not been immediately fatal, and he kept
trying to tear the blood-stained bandages from his head, and to get out
of the cot and go back to duty. By all the rules of military novels, the
nurse should have sat by his side and held his hand and soothed him; but
this particular nurse had a good deal else to do--she had all the rows
of men, with patient eyes turned to her every movement, watching her
with much the same look that one sees in the eyes of starving horses as
they watch their owner go past. So she put two men, who had fairly
slight bullet wounds in the leg, to sit, one on each side of him, and
prevent him doing himself any harm. Being brother "diggers" they
cheerfully took it on, one merely remarking, "It's up to a bloke to do
what he can." And the nurse went about her work among the rest of the
maimed and suffering men that were waiting for her.

After a while she came and stood by the bed.

"How is he getting on?" she said.

"Not too good," replied one of the amateur nurses, judicially. "He's a
signaller, and he will keep on trying to call his mates up; won't keep
his hands still at all."

Here the patient broke in with a rush of words half reasonable, half
delirium, with his poor shattered brain still trying to set the organs
of speech and action in motion.

"Can't raise 'em," he said. "We went together all through it, me and
Charley and Bluey. And...there, is that a flag?...Regimental signallers
we were...Ack-emma, ack-emma .. . What does he keep sending ack-emma
for?...Regimental signallers is no catch...half the time lying on your
stomach in the sand with a Turk whanging at you, and trying to work the
flag over your head...I'll ring 'em again...This is Brigade...this is
Brigade...Do you get me?...They put me on Brigade signalling, but I'd
sooner be back with the old Regiment...Let me try if I can raise 'em
with the flag; line's cut somewhere..." And again he struggled to get
his hand free.

The nurse looked at him in silence for a while. She had seen birth and
death, had seen plenty of suffering--querulous hypochondria and silent
heroism. Death, the great mystery, was around her every day; and yet she
never had got quite used to it; some nerve vibrated always at sight of a
man passing out into the great unknown.

Then the patient broke out into an army song with one or two
questionable verses in it. "Cut it out, digger, cut it out," implored a
watcher. "Don't sing that, there's a nurse here."

"Let him sing," said the nurse, briefly. "I have heard that--and worse."

Then an idea struck her. "Give him this fan to hold," she said, "it
might keep his hands quiet. It's very good of you boys to look after
him; and I'll be back in a minute."

As soon as the fan was placed in his hand, the patient began to wave it
from right to left and back again in a sort of figure of eight. "I'll
call up G.H.Q.," he said. And for a while he lay fairly quiet, the
motion of his hand apparently serving to keep him contented. Then he
made another struggle to get out of bed, but the watchers held him.

"I must go and raise G.H.Q. on the wire," he said. "If I did well with
Brigade, I must report to G.H.Q....I don't like leaving the Regiment
though...It's a rise to get on G.H.Q....all among the heads there...Is
that a flag!...See me on G.H.Q.; you won't know me..." And again he
relapsed into unconsciousness.

The wind sprang up suddenly, as it has a way of doing in the Desert, and
set a small piece of green tent lining fluttering at the door. The
patient's eye caught it and he waved his fan in answer.

"There they are," he said, "that's Charley callin' up...and they're all
right...all the boys...I don't feel too good...Take the flag a

And a few seconds later the signaller had marched out to report to

The Kia-ora Coo-ee, December 1918


Twenty-odd years ago a man who had sent anonymous contributions to the
Bulletin newspaper was startled and surprised by seeing in the Answers
to Correspondents column a brief notice saying, "Please call on editor."
The Bulletin of these days was a sort of literary chameleon that changed
its aspect according to the eyes of the beholder. In the eyes of all
"right-thinking people"--a class which its editor held in sincere
detestation--it was a scurrilous rag, certain to do a great amount of
harm; in the eyes of the ordinary, heedless, unthinking man in the
street, it was a very good comic paper; to such few iconoclasts,
uplifters, and regenerators of society as then existed, it represented a
new gospel.

Figure to yourself, then, oh reader, the progress of the contributor who
by the way, was neither right-thinker, comic man, nor uplifter, down
Pitt Street to the small, shabby brick building hidden away among ship
chandleries, fish shops, and wool stores, up a narrow and never dusted
flight of stairs into a narrow and equally undusted passage, with hardly
room for two men to walk abreast. Off this passge there opened two or
three little cubicles of rooms, each about the size of, and in many ways
resembling, a racehorse's loose box--if one can imagine a loose box
furnished with a table and a chair, dust illimitable, piles of
newspapers all about the floor, and its walls decorated with ink stains
and newspaper illustrations. The first loose box contained a sallow
young man who with feverish haste was writing paragraphs. That was
Wilfred Blacket, sub-editor, now a King's Counsel, and man of
respectability. Without pausing in his manufacture of sausage-machine
literature, without even looking up from his task, he indicated with a
jerk of his thumb the loose box next door as the editor's room, and
there Archibald was found.

Racially, Archibald looked like a Jew. He had the hawk nose, the open
eye, and the quick movement of the Oriental people; physically he was a
fairly strong and well-set-up man of medium size, long in the arms,
untidy in dress, wearing a moustache and pointed beard. He was not at
any time a man who had the commercial traveller's gift of making himself
at home with strangers; it took him a long time to size a man up, a
process in which he often made curious mistakes. At that first interview
little was said except that the contributor was asked to send in copy,
and was instructed in the art of cutting out the copy when it appeared,
sending it in, and getting paid for it. But next day's mail brought a
long letter from Archibald, a letter which contained much that is worth
reading by those who aspire to journalism.

"I want you," he wrote, "to remember that Australia is a big place, and
I want you to write stuff that will appeal not only to Sydney people,
but that will be of interest to the pearler up at Thursday Island and
the farmer down in Victoria. On all public questions the press are apt
to sing in chorus. If you go to a concert you may hear a man sing a
discord which is put there by the composer, and that discord catches the
ear over the voices of the chorus. Well, don't be afraid to sing the
discord. Even if you are wrong, you will have drawn attention to what
you want to say, and you may be right. In my experience the man who
sings the discord is generally right nowadays.

"For the same reason, do not be afraid to cheer for the underdog in a
fight. You will have all the cheering to yourself, for one thing, and
the underdog may come out on top."

A singular letter for a man to write in those days, when all
right-thinking people got their ideas, their boots, their shirts, their
titles, their jobs, their political, moral, and religious standards from
England. It was looked upon as "blow" and bad taste for an Australian to
talk of anything that Australians had done. We were patronised by
imported Governors, insulted by imported globetrotting snobs, exploited
by imported actors and singers, mostly worn-out and incompetent. These
people rode rough-shod over us, and we meekly submitted.

Archibald was about the first Australian to "call" the English bluff. In
pursuance of his policy of cheering for the underdog, he asserted that
an Australian lawyer, or doctor, or inventor, or singer, or actor was
every bit as good as any importation. The Governor of those days
happened to be a worn-out diplomat with a hobby for fowls, so Archibald
drew him--or caused his artists to draw him--as a broken-down swell
leading a muscovy drake by a string and carrying a broken top hat full
of eggs. Such a cartoon nowadays would pass unnoticed in the general
whirligig of things, but at that time it was lèse-majesté; Australian
irreverence, Australian ignorance, sacrilege; in that cartoon Archibald
certainly "sang the discord".

"A good journalist," said Archibald once, "should be free of all
trammels. He should have no family ties or connections, because they are
sure to sway him and prejudice his judgment. A man without a country
would be an ideal journalist, because then he could tell the truth about
any place without hurting his own national pride; and he should not be
tied up to any religious belief, because a man who always tells the
truth must sometimes shame whatever God he believes in. In fact, the
ideal man to reform the world would be a bastard atheist born at sea.
Such a man would start free from ties and prejudices, anyhow."

An iconoclast, a questioner, a critic, a fearless fighter, he was all
these, but had he any constructive genius? Alas, no. Your constructive
genius does not go into journalism, and Archibald had all the defects of
the born journalist. He could expose a wrong, detect an injustice, but
he had no Morrison's pill to cure national disorders. He was a great
diagnostician, but after detecting the disease he left the cure to
others. To his type of mind the exposure of the Mount Rennie injustices
was of more importance than the construction of any national land or
industrial policy. He could tell people when they were on the wrong
road, but he could not point out the right one.

His services to Australia, therefore, may be summed up in four words:
"He made people think." Breaking away from traditions, holding no shams
sacred, he was one of the first to make the Australian believe in
himself. To that extent he rendered a service to his country, and this
good at any rate lives after him: the rest of his work is interred with
his bones.

Even after his death he has done something to carry on the advancement
of Australia, as he has left a fairly large sum of money to provide for
the purchase each year of the best portrait painted in Australia of any
Australian distinguished in art, literature, or research, and this in
itself speaks the character of the man's mind. Cynic and pessimist as he
was, he never lost faith in the ultimate success of Australians, and
when in the process of time his name is forgotten and people ask, "Who
was this Archibald who left this bequest?", the question can be answered
by saying, "He was the first man who believed in the home-made
Australian article."

The Sydney Sportsman, 25 January 1922

An Unpublished Drama
A Winter's Turf Tale

As the public have "stood" uncomplainingly the publication of a portrait of
the Supreme Being, they may accept the following drama as the work of
William Shakespeare.


SCENE: The saddling paddock at a racecourse.
Citizens, Battlers, Toffs, Trainers, Flappers, Satyrs, Bookmakers and Turf
Experts. Enter Shortinbras, a Trainer, and two Punters.

FIRST PUNTER: Good Shortinbras, what thinkest thou of the Fav'rite?

SHORTINBRAS (aside): This poltroon would not venture a ducat on David
to beat a dead donkey; a dull and muddy-mettled rascal.
(To Punter): Aye marry Sir, I think well of the Favourite.

PUNTER: And yet I have a billiard marker's word
That in this race to-day they back Golumpus,
And when they bet, they tell me, they will knock
The Favourite for a string of German Sausage.

SHORTINBRAS: Aye, marry, they would tell thee, I've no doubt,
It is the way of owners that they tell
To billiard markers and the men on trams
Just when they mean to bet. Go back it, back it!

(Tries to shuffle off, but Punter detains him.)

PUNTER: Nay, good Shortinbras, what thinkest thou of Golumpus?
Was it not dead last week?

SHORTINBRAS: Marry, sir, I think well of Golumpus.
'Tis safer to speak well of the dead: betimes they rise again.


They pulled him barefaced in the mile,
Hey, Nonny, Nonny.
The Stipes were watching them all the while;
And the losers swear, but the winners smile,
Hey, Nonny, Nonny.

Exit Shortinbras.

SECOND PUNTER: A scurvy knave! What meant he by his prate
Of Fav'rite and outsider and the like?
Forsooth he told us nothing. Follow him close.
Give him good watch, I pray you, till we see
Just what he does his dough on. Follow fast.

Exeunt Punters


The same. Bookmakers call: "Seven to Four on the Field!"
"Three to One, Bar One!" "Ten to One, Golumpus."

Enter Two Heads

FIRST HEAD: How goes the Battle? Did thou catch the last?

SECOND HEAD: Aye, marry did I, and the one before,
But this has got me beat. The Favourite drifts,
And not a single wager has been laid
About Golumpus. Thinkest thou that both are dead?

Re-enter Punters

PUNTER: Good morrow, Gentlemen. I have it cold
Straight from the owner, that Golumpus goes
Eyes out to win today.

FIRST HEAD: Prate not to me of owners. Hast thou seen
The good red gold Go in. The Jockey's Punter
Has he put up the stuff, or does he wait
To get a better price. Owner say'st thou?
The owner does the paying, and the talk;
Hears the tale afterwards when it gets beat
And sucks it in as hungry babes suck milk.
Look you how ride the books in motor cars
While owners go on foot, or ride in trams,
Crushed with the vulgar herd and doomed to hear
From mouths of striplings that their horse was stiff,
When they themselves are broke from backing it.


Enter an Owner and a Jockey.

OWNER: 'Tis a good horse. A passing good horse.

JOCKEY: I rose him yesternoon: it seemed to me
That in good truth a fairly speedy cow
Might well outrun him.

OWNER: Thou froward varlet; must I say again,
That on the Woop Woop course he ran a mile
In less than forty with his irons on!

JOCKEY: Then thou should'st bring the Woop Woop
course down here.

OWNER: Thou pestilential scurvy Knave. Go to!

Strikes him.
Alarms and excursions. The race is run and Shortinbras enters,
leading in the winner.

FIRST PUNTER: And thou hast trained the winner, thou thyself,
Thou complicated liar. Didst not say
To back Golumpus or the Favourite!

SHORTINBRAS: Get work! For all I ever had of thee
My children were unfed, my wife unclothed,
And I myself condemned to menial toil.

PUNTER: The man who keeps a winner to himself
Deserves but death. (Kills him)

Enter defeated Owner and Jockey.

OWNER: Thou whoreson Knave: thou went into a trance
Soon as the barrier lifted and knew naught
Of what occurred until they neared the post.

(Kills him)

Curtain falls on ensemble of punters, bookmakers,
heads and surviving jockeys and trainers.


The Sydney Sportsman, 8 May 1923


Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war; here is the story of
a man of peace who became a hero overnight.

In the last war there was a bloke named Cherry, a scientist of sorts,
though nobody seemed to know how he got there. He was retiring as an
Italian general, and if he had seen a keg of beer without an owner he
would not have known what to do with it.

It turned out that he was an agricultural professor and had been sent
out to uplift the troops, but he didn't seem to know where to take hold
of them. He said that he wanted to go home, as he was not doing anything
to earn his pay. Fancy wanting to go home when you were drawing a
major's pay and didn't have anything to do! That was the kind of bloke
he was.

One of the troops happened to ask him how the barren country around
Jerusalem had ever carried the big population you read about, and that
started him. He was only a prawn on war, but he was a whale on
Jerusalem. The big camp at Moascar, like every other big camp anywhere,
at any time, in the history of the world, had the usual percentage of
lead-swingers and refugees from the front line; and if two men were
talking together, they soon had a crowd round them like a two-up school.
Before long, the Professor had to ask them to stand back and give him

"It was this way," he said. "All those mountains about Jerusalem used to
be covered with soil up to the tops, with trees growing all over them
and holding the soil together. There is overwhelming evidence of a vast
population and exuberant fertility. When the Persians invaded Palestine
they are said to have massacred 90,000 Christians in Jerusalem, but I
suppose we must allow for some little exaggeration by the Persian war

"The tribes, who had got some flocks and herds together, cut down the
trees to improve the grass for their stock. The rain got at the soil and
washed it all away, and now anybody who wants to start a farm at
Jerusalem has to carry the soil up on donkeys."

One would hardly think that this sort of talk would capture the troops,
but it did. The big stadium built by Arnott at Moascar would not hold
the Professor's audiences.

And why should troops take any great interest in such a dry subject as
alterations in the Earth's surface? They are trying to alter it
themselves a lot of their time. Soldiers are given sweets for their
stomachs and cinemas for their souls and these things are supposed to
satisfy them; but deep down in the minds of most of them, like a streak
of pay dirt under a lot of overlay, there is a craving for something
more substantial whereon to exercise their mental teeth. You must let
them choose provender for themselves. Don't try to make them eat it.

The A.I.F. News, 8 February 1941


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