Under the Southern Cross
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A most curious and remarkable example of birdlife and bird-instinct was pointed out to us, in the instance of what is known as the bower-bird. This peculiar little creature builds a cunning play-place, a tiny shady bower, which it ornaments with vines and high-colored feathers of other birds, besides the yellow blossoms of the wattle-tree and dainty ferns. In this ingeniously devised sylvan retreat the feathered architect runs about and holds a sort of carnival, to which he apparently invites others of his tribe. At all events a select company come hither and join the builders for an hour or so, chirping vigorously and strutting about together in a most ludicrously demonstrative manner.
Scarcely any of the animals found in other countries were native to this land. There were no apes, no ruminants, no lions, tigers, or wolves. We were told about the wild dog, already spoken of, familiarly known as the "dingo," which is such a serious pest to the sheep-raisers, and which closely resembles the Scotch collie. This creature is the wildest and fiercest animal found in the Australian bush, evincing a destructive propensity merely for the sake of spilling blood. Its habit is to kill a dozen sheep when it attacks a flock, though one would more than suffice to satisfy its hunger. It seizes the unresisting victim by the throat, and its fatal work is quickly accomplished. A price is placed upon the head of the dingo by Government, and there is a class of men who are particularly fond of hunting it, and who obtain a living by waging a constant war upon the species. Undoubtedly this animal was introduced here by Captain Cook when he landed a second time in the country, and a century of wild life has given to it a new nature. The hunters of the dingo also make rabbits a special object of onslaught, for which Government pays a liberal premium of so much per brace, the heads being required as evidence of their destruction. But all efforts to destroy these prolific creatures have so far proved inadequate.
A packet ship arrived from London with emigrants while we were at Melbourne, its passengers being of a very mixed character. Some few of them were doubtless real workers honestly desirous of benefiting their circumstances in a legitimate manner; but the majority seemed to be idlers, of little use to themselves and hardly desirable additions to the colony. These new arrivals appeared entirety unlike the emigrants who come in such vast numbers to our own shores from all parts of Europe. While a majority of these Australian immigrants were obviously from the lower classes of the big English cities, the arrivals in America consist mostly of those coming from the rural districts of Northern Europe.
As already intimated, characters which cannot be whitewashed in England are often encouraged to emigrate to Australia. Originally such persons were sent hither by the courts; now they come by the persuasion of their friends. We believe there is enough of sterling worth and responsibility established in Australia to overrule the unfortunate elements thrown upon her shores by the inflow of questionable humanity.At all events such a class of immigration is the inevitable outgrowth of circumstances beyond the control of the colonists. They have so successfully lived down the early penal associations attached to their country, that the best result may be hoped for as regards this matter. Australia is certainly a good place to bring people to their true level. The shiftless and helpless quickly sink to the bottom, while energy and tact, whether in the low born or those from the higher walks of life, cause their possessors to rise to the surface and become a power in the land.
The author saw some examples of a sad and painful character in the cases of individuals who had been reared in luxury at home, in England, but who were nearly starving in Melbourne. They would willingly have worked their passage back to the old country, but as they could not be rated as able-bodied seamen, they could find no such chance. There is room and opportunity enough in Australia for any number of sober, hardy, frugal men and women who have a special business or regular calling. An industrious and worthy person is sure to make a good living there, and perhaps to realize a fortune; but he cannot pick it up, – he must work it up. That which comes by laborious effort and self-abnegation remains with us, and constitutes a lasting capital. The gold nuggets which are occasionally found here never amount to much as regards the benefit of the finder. It is upon the whole a fortunate day for the respectable immigrant who has any degree of ability, when he concludes to turn his back upon gold-digging and adopt some more legitimate business. The great elements of success are the same in Australia as in California, Africa, or Massachusetts; namely, steadiness of purpose, application, and temperance. One thing we would impress upon every one: let those who cannot resist the fascination of the bottle, avoid Australia; for it is the very hot-bed of dissipation, and no place for the weak and irresolute.
The laboring classes of Melbourne and Sydney especially make great efforts to prevent emigration from Europe, on the ground that it will have a tendency to reduce wages, – a view palpably narrow and contracted beyond all reason. There cannot be too many good immigrants; and any policy tending to limit their numbers is as short-sighted as most of the ignorant schemes of organized Labor Unions. Even a larger number of the despised Chinese would be desirable in the present state of things in Australia; but the landing fee of fifty dollars acts almost as prohibitory in regard to the Asiatic race, besides which all sorts of lawless impediments are instituted to operate against their well-being.
We shall now leave Victoria and take the reader into another colony, by no means less interesting than those already visited. The distance from Melbourne to Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, is about the same as that from Sydney to Melbourne, – say, six hundred miles. Australia is an immense territory, and its capital cities are a long way apart. The cars upon this route are constructed upon both the American and English plan, and one is not annoyed by having to change cars to accommodate a difference in the gauge, as upon the Sydney route, where for this purpose he is aroused at midnight on the borders of Victoria. On passing the limit of South Australia the traveller finds his watch to be twenty-five minutes too fast, and makes the necessary alteration to accommodate the local time in accordance with western longitude. It is a tiresome journey, – or at least we found it so. There were few first-class passengers, none of whom particularly interested a stranger beyond general observation; moreover the road passes through what is called the Ninety-mile Desert, which is desolate and barren indeed. The miles seemed interminable; and it was a great relief at last when a wooded country was reached, and there came into view open, well-fenced fields, with here and there small groups of choice breeds of cattle and sheep, and an occasional neat homestead.
In the course of this journey the Murray Bridge was crossed. This iron structure spans the breadth of that great Australian water-way here known as the Murray River, but which finds its source thousands of miles to the north, in Queensland, where it is known as the Darling River. After leaving Murray Bridge two large engines were necessary to draw our train up the steep incline among the hills and mountains which separate Adelaide from her eastern territory. These mechanical giants puffed and panted with an almost human expression, in their vigorous struggle to drag the train forward, – now and again hovering upon the very verge of inability, and then, as it seemed to us, by putting forth renewed energy and extraordinary effort, pressing forward and finally surmounting the steep way. The aspect of the scenery rapidly changed for the better as we advanced, and our spirits rose accordingly. Everything looked bright and thrifty. Gardens, orchards, well-cultivated fields, and pleasant roadside stations, with the summer residences of the citizens of Adelaide, were rapidly passed, until Mount Lofty station was reached and the descent toward the plains began. The traveller was soon gratified by a bird's-eye view of the capital of South Australia, lying spread out upon the plain, with the broad sea beyond glittering with mottled sunshine.
Adelaide is surrounded by an amphitheatre of wooded hills rearing their heads not far away from the city, and forms a very fine picture when thus approached. The capital is so perfectly level that to be seen to advantage it must be looked upon as a whole from some favorable elevation. Though this colony is called South Australia, it should be known as Central Australia in respect to its actual geographical position. It is destined in the near future to merit the name of the granary of the country, being already largely and successfully devoted to agriculture. This pursuit is followed in no circumscribed manner, but in a large and liberal style, like that of our best Western farmers. Immense tracts of land are also devoted to stock-raising, for the purpose of furnishing "dead beef" for shipment to England in fresh condition. South Australia contains nearly a million square miles, and is therefore ten times larger than Victoria, and fifteen times the size of England. It extends northward from the temperate zone, so that nearly one half of its area lies within the tropics, while it has a coast-line of five hundred miles along the great Southern Ocean. A vast portion of its interior is uninhabited and indeed unexplored. The total population of the whole colony is about four hundred thousand. Wheat, wool, wine, copper, and meat are at present the chief exports.
Though gold has been found in this province to a very large extent, it is not so abundant here as in other parts of Australia, – and yet since these notes were begun new gold-fields have been discovered in this section which are reported to be exceedingly rich. Statistics show that somewhat over seventeen million pounds sterling in gold have been exported from South Australia since its first discovery here. One mine alone, known as the Moonta, has paid its shareholders in dividends the large sum of twelve hundred thousand pounds sterling. Gold-digging as a business, however, grows less and less attractive in the colony, though the precious metal must continue to be produced here for many years to come, by well-organized companies who possess ample machinery for raising and crushing the quartz rock. But good wages, equalling the average earned by miners, are now paid here by a dozen easier and more legitimate occupations, – among the rest the large vineyards which produced last year over three million gallons of pure native wine. The great trouble is to procure laborers at all, notwithstanding the liberal scale of wages paid. No community or section of country has ever yet reached a permanent success, according to the usually accepted idea of success, upon what may in this connection be denominated a gold basis. "Let us cherish no delusions," said a San Francisco preacher on a certain occasion; "no society has ever been able to organize itself in a satisfactory manner on gold-bearing soil. Even Nature herself is deceitful: she corrupts, seduces, and betrays man; she laughs at his labors, she turns his toil into gambling and his word into a lie!" The preacher's deductions have proved true in California, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. And yet we have freely admitted in these pages that the finding of gold mines has stimulated labor, immigration, and manly activity in many directions, and has thus indirectly been the agent of good in other than its own field.
As we find gold king in Victoria, so in Adelaide we have pastoral millionnaires. Some of the men who have become enriched by this means possess fortunes of over two million pounds sterling, and have gone back to England to enjoy their wealth in their native land; others, and these are the larger portion of the successful settlers, still remain here, promoting the local interests of the colony.
Adelaide, thus named for the queen of William IV., we found to be the depot of a large and growing trade in wool and grain especially derived from the fertile agricultural district of which it is the capital, and is furnished with numerous arterial railways to bring these products to market. We were told by reliable parties here that there are at present about four million acres of land under the plough. Preference is universally given to the grain produced in this colony, because of its uniform excellence. New South Wales and Victoria hamper their people in the use of this grain by the imposition of most unreasonable and aggravating tariff laws. "Protection," said an earnest citizen of Melbourne to us, "does anything but protect; it makes much of our food cost us twenty per cent more than it would naturally if the ordinary laws of trade were permitted to adjust themselves." The mass of the people favor free-trade, but the leaders and the officials favor high tariff, for they realize a living through the collecting of dues that arise under its provisions. It was admitted to the author by local political economists that it costs fifty per cent of the aggregate sum collected to keep "the machine" moving, – a fact which alone forms a strong argument against the entire system.
Adelaide, with a population of a hundred and fifty thousand, has a noble University, quite equal in standing to that of any city in the country. When we remember how youthful she is, it becomes a matter of no small surprise that Adelaide has achieved such a condition of progress in all the appointments and possessions which go to make up a great city of modern times. This remark will apply indeed to all the Australian capitals, none of which are deficient in hospitals, libraries, schools, asylums, art galleries, and charitable institutions generally. Few of the European cities of twice the size of these in Australia can boast a more complete outfit in all that goes to promote a true civilization. We must not forget, however, that a city established in the nineteenth century has a lamp to guide its feet in the experience of all who have gone before, – thus enabling it to start upon a wise and proper basis from the very outset.
Though South Australia presents little of the glamour of auriferous fields to attract new settlers, those who come here are as a rule of the best class. This colony offers officially the most liberal inducements to new-comers, while the natural advantages of its agricultural and stock-raising districts are unsurpassed in either of the other colonies. A land-order is given gratuitously to every qualified person upon his arrival at Adelaide, which is good for one hundred dollars for each adult, and fifty dollars for each child, at the Government Land Office; besides which other liberal inducements are offered that are calculated to interest representatives especially of the agricultural class of Great Britain.
King William Street is a broad and elegant thoroughfare, the principal one of the city. It is lined on either side with grand palatial buildings, – banks, insurance offices, warehouses, shops, and hotels. On this street also are the Post-Office and the Town Hall. One looks about at the solid and pleasing architectural effect of all these buildings with no small degree of surprise. Everywhere within the limits of the city, especially extending eastward and westward of the Post-Office, spacious edifices are to be found, either completed and occupied or in course of construction. The material used for building purposes consists very largely of a handsome white stone, which produces a remarkably cheerful general effect. By ascending North Adelaide Hill one gets an admirable view of all the space between Mount Lofty and the city proper, which space is dotted with villas, gardens, and pleasant domestic surroundings, and profusely ornamented with trees. There is an aspect of thrift and business prosperity in the very atmosphere; civic and suburban improvement is the order of the day. The churches of all denominations are numerous and handsome. Comparisons may be odious, and especially so as regards different portions of these colonies, between which there is rampant a spirit of exaggerated and endless jealousy; but we cannot refrain from saying that to the casual observer Adelaide manifests greater evidences of enterprise and rapid growth than either Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane. The citizens are especially alive to all educational interests. There is here a Minister of Education, a Training and Model School, three Colleges, and an ample number of common and primary schools. The South Australian Institute and Museum is designed for the promotion of art studies, science, and philosophy.
King William Street is nearly two miles long, certainly rivalling in many respects Collins Street in Melbourne, and is more elegant and effective as a whole than George Street in Sydney. Some enterprising parties should introduce a few hundred Hansom cabs into the city, to take the place of the hideous four-wheeled vehicles which are drawn about town by two horses. Victoria Square, situated in the very heart of Adelaide, is a busy quarter, where at a single glance one has a view of the principal public buildings, including the Town Hall, a noble structure, the colonnade of which is built over the surrounding foot-way. Opposite this building is the General Post-Office, the main features of which are like the Post-Office of Sydney, – a tall square tower rising from the centre, which seemed in both instances quite out of place. The city is remarkable for the compactness of its business centre. Queen Street runs from bank to bank of the river, so that the masts of the shipping are visible from either end of the thoroughfare.
The city proper is separated from its suburbs by a wide belt of park lands, and all the approaches are lined with thrifty ornamental trees. Great liberality and good judgment presided over the laying out of Adelaide. All the streets are broad and regular, running north and south, east and west. There are no mysterious labyrinths, dark lanes, or blind alleys in the city; all the avenues cross each other at right angles and are uniform in width. Somehow we missed the irregular ways of old European cities and those of the far East, where one can get delightfully lost and bewildered now and then.
Adelaide has been called the city of churches, and as already intimated it certainly is well supplied in that respect; but it is still better entitled to be called the city of public parks.
There was a grand Industrial Exhibition open at Adelaide during our visit, to which all the sister colonies had contributed; and hosts of strangers were consequently attracted to the town, imparting a business aspect to everything and a general life to its streets which doubtless was not its normal condition. Still, be this as it may, the capital of South Australia is growing steadily in population and material wealth. The present Exhibition Building stands in the Adelaide Park lands, fronting North Terrace, adjacent to the Botanical Gardens. A direct line of railway, seven miles long, connects the Exhibition with the wharves at Port Adelaide, where ships of the largest tonnage can lie at the pier and discharge their cargoes. The completeness, thorough organization, and amazing variety of this Exhibition of Industries here in the South Seas was a subject of great surprise and admiration to us. It is not, however, our intention to go into a description of the Exhibition, but it was certainly worthy of all commendation.
The Australian ladies of this section are essentially unlike their sisterhood of the colonies in general. They are characterized by a bright, buoyant, piquant manner which charms and captivates the stranger who is so fortunate as to enjoy their proverbial hospitality. Without being in the least flippant, they are debonair and winsome in the display of their many accomplishments, which always embrace music, drawing, and dancing. They are more like the women of America in height and general figure than their English progenitors. They have none of the English stoutness which indicates a plethora of blood and vigor; indeed, there was a marked delicacy generally apparent in the matter of health, which is to be attributed doubtless to climatic influences, – and yet statistics show a low scale of mortality in Adelaide, as in most parts of Australia. Regarding amusements, dancing is a favorite one, quite as much so here as among the ladies of Spain. Among gentlemen belonging to what is termed the best society in Adelaide, it is a fact worth remarking that one finds no idlers; all have some legitimate calling, and would evidently feel ill at ease without it. Idling is not popular; each citizen is expected to contribute in some form to the general condition of thrift and progress, as well as to do his share toward developing the natural resources of the State. This is imperative in a youthful colony, and not out of place in any community.
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