An Australian Parsonage/Chapter I

SKETCHES IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA.

CHAPTER I.

Approach to Australia—Sea birds—Size of waves—Caught in gale off St. Paul's—First sight of land—Reminiscences of voyage—Drowning of German sailor—Man overboard, but saved—Description of emigrants—Suspiciously short hair—Petty thefts—Captain asked to take charge of photographs—Channel weather—A Wick herring—Birth of children—Soirée in the steerage—Fortune-telling cake—Drop anchor—First sight of Bush—A lonely landing-place—White beach—One-eyed native—Description of Fremantle—Scenery of River Swan—Arrival at Perth—Profusion of flowers.

December 10, 1863.—We were now rapidly approaching the shores of Australia. The great ocean birds, which had proved our chief source of amusement ever since we had passed the Cape, had vanished of a sudden. Whether the same identical flock had followed us for the last few weeks, or whether it had been daily replaced by a facsimile, it would be hard to say; at all events, each morning seemed to bring back the familiar feathered friends of yesternight. In them, and in the wild-looking Southern Sea on which they were at home, we had found inexhaustible attractions, for what the scene had lost in colouring as we proceeded southwards it had gained in grandeur. Even when there was but little wind the waves appeared to us to be of far greater size than any which we had previously seen, and it was pleasant to know that this was no mere landsman's fancy, but that their magnitude had long ago been chronicled by Captain Cook, in his account of his first voyage on the great Southern Ocean.[1] When we could dispense with the deadlights, on days when a strong breeze was blowing, I used to spend many hours gazing at the view from our open stern-window, and watching its alternations as the vessel rose and fell. At one time I could see nothing but a huge hill of water shutting out all other objects than itself; then, as the ship rose upon the wave, would appear an immense furrowed plain, enlivened by birds of all sizes, from the albatross to the stormy petrel; some following close in our wake, others hovering around us in all directions, whilst others sat tranquilly upon the heaving waters, clustered together as quietly as ducks and geese upon a pond.

On one occasion, when near the islands of St. Paul and Amsterdam, we were caught upon the edge of a heavy gale from the south-west, before which we might have run merrily onwards towards our port, had not our lower deck been filled with emigrants, rendering it impossible to batten down the hatches. We were, therefore, obliged to "lay-to" for some hours—a somewhat provoking delay; but one which enabled us to store up in our memories another picture of the sea, never to be forgotten, its waves all foam and rage, whilst the albatrosses kept holiday amongst them. We had now come so near to our journey's end that our friends the birds deserted us, not liking the warm sea and air of Australia. Having watched and admired them so frequently and so long, we took leave of them with regret, and did not consider the Cape Leeuwin pigeons and the seagulls which met us near the land at all good substitutes for the albatrosses, frigate-birds, and other mid-ocean wanderers.

Early on the morning of the 13th of December, 1863, we espied from our cabin port-hole a lighthouse, standing upon a long green ridge of land, which we knew at once to be Rottnest Island. As this little island is the pilot station for the port of Fremantle we might now consider our voyage as completed, since a very few more hours would bring us to the anchorage. I was not tired of our ship life, but the sight of land, after being so many weeks at sea, brings with it a sensation of pleasure which can scarcely be imagined by those who have never experienced it.

Unhappily our pleasure was not shared by all with whom we had lost sight of the Lizard, since some of our fellow-voyagers had not lived to reach the shore. An emigrant's child had died on board of illness, and a poor young German seaman had fallen overboard. Whilst employed in painting some part of the ship's prow, he fell from a seat slung over the bows, and was drowned before our eyes. We had crossed the southern tropic about a week before, and though the day was fine there was a strong breeze, and a considerable swell upon the water. Five minutes nearly must have been spent in lowering the boat and getting the cork jackets for her crew, so that when the ship's head was brought round, and the boat was able to get away, but very small hope of saving the poor fellow remained. The sailors who manned the boat did their best, remaining so long absent on their search, that all sight of them from the maintop was lost, and the captain began seriously to fear that they too had perished. Their re-appearance was, therefore, a great relief to us all; but they came up the ship's side with tired and disappointed looks, unaccompanied by their poor comrade, and not having been able even to recover the life buoy which had been thrown overboard the moment that the accident was discovered. The irrepressible curiosity of the emigrants (of whom we had a good many on board) during so much excitement and alarm, led them to invade the forbidden precincts of the poop itself, where they created so much confusion, that the captain not only ordered them all off at once, but, as a punishment, sent them down below under hatches, to remain there until the return of the boat.

A little time afterwards, as I was descending the poop-ladder, my eyes encountered the strange apparition of a female head upon a level with the quarter-deck, reminding me of the heads without bodies ranged upon the shelves of Madame Tussaud's Chamber of Horrors. To strengthen the resemblance, the throat of the solitary head was bound by the narrow red rim of a deck-ventilator; but the illusion thus created was counterbalanced by the strong expression of curiosity in the wide open eyes, utterly unlike the closed orbs of the decapitated models in Baker Street. I recognized the features as those of one of the emigrant girls, who, having pushed her head through the orifice as if it had been a chimney, was now resting her chin in a raised position upon the edge of it—an attitude which would have been considered martyrdom if otherwise than self-imposed, but cheerfully sustained, in the hope of circumventing the captain by obtaining a glimpse of what was going on.

It takes but a little time to wind up the worldly affairs of the poor, and in the evening of the same day on which the poor young seaman was lost, his very small chest was sealed up and stowed away in an empty cabin, to be sent hereafter, if possible, to his relations at home. These sad circumstances received additional pathos when we heard from another of the crew, who was also a German, that the poor fellow had sailed upon his voyage without his parents' knowledge, and that he had of late expressed much regret on this account. His death, though a sad and solitary one, was not without its tribute of tears, for one of the emigrants' children, to whom he had often given part of his Sunday dinner, cried very bitterly for his loss.

Though we lost but one man by drowning, it was not the only time that the agitating cry of "man overboard!" was heard. We were roused early one morning by a great noise on deck, as of all the yards and sails being let fall at once, and, on looking from our stern window, we saw a boat rising and falling on the waves, first hidden for a few seconds, and then again the red shirt of the steerer rising into view. Our inquiries received for answer that a man had tumbled into the water through sheer negligence, and a minute or two afterwards we heard the doctor bidding the steward to have plenty of hot water and mustard ready, in case they should be wanted. All this care proved quite needless, as the missing man was soon seen returning, not only in his senses, but in such excellent case as to be hard at work baling out the boat which had picked him up. Being a good swimmer, he had easily kept himself afloat, and the sea was so warm, as we were then in the tropics, that his fear of drowning was very secondary to his dread of sharks. He did not obtain much sympathy for his ducking, as he was known to have gone overboard through gross carelessness once if not twice before, and it seemed the general opinion that any repetition of the manœuvre was to be regarded as an aggravation of an old offence.

I have mentioned the emigrants as forming a large proportion of the passengers on board our ship, and we could not avoid thinking that some of them were not exactly of a character to make a favourable impression when they should land in their new home. They were divided into three classes,—married couples with their families, single women, and single men. The three classes were berthed apart, and all communication down below carefully cut off. The married folks were mostly decent, respectable people, but both the single men and the single women were decidedly wanting in propriety of behaviour, though the women were worse than the men. They were all under the official charge of the doctor, and a great deal of trouble did they give both to him and to the captain. My husband had offered to act as chaplain while on board, if given the necessary official authority and position, but he was told at the Emigration Office that chaplains were no longer appointed to either emigrant or convict ships, "religious instructors" being substituted for them in the latter vessels, while the former are left to take their chance; he accordingly possessed no official character whatever on board, although he usually performed divine service on Sunday whenever the weather would permit.

Of the single girls we had more than sixty on board our ship, and one fortnight's acquaintance with them had sufficed to show us that they were a most unpromising set; and moreover, our early impression that several of them had made acquaintance with the inside of a jail was not at all effaced by the experience and events of the voyage. One of them, whose hair when she came on board was cropped suspiciously short, accounted for it by saying that her sister-in-law used to pull it out when they had a quarrel; but she was not the only one who might have been supposed to have been under the hands of the prison barber, for several others were in a similar predicament as to the paucity, or rather brevity, of their locks.

There were perpetual complaints throughout the voyage, caused by the petty thefts committed upon one another by these damsels, such as purloining the steel from each other's crinolines, appropriating articles of clothing, little brooches, and such-like; but the favourite objects of cupidity were the photographs of other people's sweet-hearts, the abstraction of which was an act of aggression which seemed to demand the taking of some especial precautions for the general security, and accordingly the girls came one morning in a body to the captain, bringing with them a pile of likenesses, of which they solemnly requested him to take charge until the ship should reach Fremantle. The first of these girls whom I addressed when we joined the ship at Gravesend was, I noticed, eating eagerly, and she told me, in reply to my questions, that she had been much weakened and pulled down through the want of food which she had endured during the cotton famine at Manchester. Her face then bore witness to her story, for it was quite thin and wrinkled, though she was, she told me, but three-and-twenty. When we had been at sea a few weeks she had grown quite fat and young-looking, and, in company with her saucy, good-for-nothing companions, was seen pitching her allowance into the sea on pretence that the meat was bad, although it was out of the same cask of pork then in use in the cabin, the goodness of which we had especially noticed. In fact all the arrangements for the food and general comfort of the emigrants were so good, that I often used to wish that some of the respectable poor whom I had known at home were there to enjoy them; but this was before I knew the colony to which we were sailing, and the dangerous prospects it presents to respectable women if unmarried and without parents.

Our voyage had, upon the whole, been a most prosperous one. Since we had left the Channel we had enjoyed a succession of lovely weather, and had only been forced to "lay-to" on one day—that which I have already mentioned; but while in the Channel the weather had for ten days been very stormy and severe. Indeed, on one or two occasions during that time, we had had to encounter very serious gales, accompanied with some real danger and with much discomfort to the emigrants. During the worst of the weather my husband used to go down into the married people's quarters to look after the women and children, and to give them biscuits and raisins and any little dainties with which we had provided ourselves for our own use on the voyage.

There was one emigrant from the far north of Scotland—I think the Shetland Isles—whose wife was always ill and low-spirited, let the weather be what it might, and who, when at her worst, could suggest nothing eatable that she fancied except "a Wick herring," drawled out in such very broad Scotch as took a practised ear to understand. "A wee drap o' whuskey," which she proposed as an accompaniment to the herring, my husband was able to procure for her, and a few of our sardines proved a tolerable substitute for the unattainable fish of the North. That was indeed a sorry ten days for those who were neither exempt from sea-sickness nor able to battle stoutly against it, and the doctor was seriously afraid that one at least of the emigrant women would succumb under her sufferings. The winds were so perverse that the Isle of Wight disappeared and re-appeared to us so often that we grew weary of bidding it farewell, and began to think that we were never to leave the Channel behind us and fairly enter upon our voyage.

On this jumping, stormy sea, upon which it seemed unfit for the "chicks" of anyone but Mother Carey to be introduced into the world, our ship's company was increased by the birth of two babies. The parents of one of them had set their hearts on calling it after the ship; but as in this case the child would have had to bear a name making it a certain butt for small wits all its life long, my husband persuaded them to give up the notion, and to let him christen it after the doctor and the captain instead.

We had with us also a family of children from Yorkshire, whose mother, whenever it was a windy night, laid all the blame of it upon her husband for ever having sent to bring her out. On these occasions she would moan out, "O my bairns! my honeys! I will never forgive thy father for sending for us!" She used to say that he had gone out some years before as a shoemaker, and had now sent money for his family to follow him. She omitted, however, to add that his own expenses to Australia had been defrayed by Government.

Towards the end of our voyage, when everybody was getting into high spirits, and even our poor Scotchwoman was cheering up, the emigrants, married and single, gave a tea-party, by permission of the captain, to which he and the doctor and the cabin passengers received a ceremonious invitation, indited on a note of pink paper by the best penwoman of the steerage. The tables were supplied solely with what the givers of the feast had been saving for three days beforehand from their allowances. We had no sooner descended into the steerage, which served as reception and tea-room, than the Yorkshire woman came up and asked us for a sixpence, not to "pay our footing," as might have been supposed, but for insertion in a fortune-telling cake, wherein a ring and a thimble had been already hidden, and nothing but a piece of silver was wanting to complete the equipment of the oracle. As neither of us had any coin smaller than a shilling about us, it was lucky that the larger piece of money would answer as well as the sixpence, and three of the company were thus enabled to learn their future fortunes to a nicety. There had been a great deal of rivalry displayed that day in cake-making, but this stroke of imagination at once decided the votes in favour of the one produced by the Yorkshire woman. Possibly, however, the opportunity that had been afforded to the single persons of prying into their destiny caused the intrinsic merits of some of the other cakes to be overlooked, just as one sees, in the every-day affairs of life, the claims of modest merit passed by in order to bestow honour on a charlatan. This was the first and only soirée that I ever attended on the high seas, and, in a week after its celebration, the captain put his passengers safely ashore, and resigned his curatorship of the lovers' portraits.

A few hours after passing the island of Rottnest we dropped anchor in Gage's Roads, about half a mile from the shore, and just opposite to the town of Fremantle, the chief port of Swan River. There is no regular harbour here, but only a roadstead, the bar at the mouth of the river prohibiting the entrance of any but very small vessels. The long line of shore was backed by forest, above which rose here and there the smoke of a bush fire as from a far-off colliery. The tall heavy-topped trees reminded me, at a distance, of Scotch firs; to which, however, they bear no other resemblance on near approach than the great height to which they reach, and the fact that their foliage is principally upon the uppermost branches. The pleasurable feeling of seeing the mainland was marred by the view of the first building that we could distinguish plainly upon it, namely, a long white prison on the hill-top erected for the reception of convicts, which, by way of flattering the imagination both of those within and without its walls, is commonly called the "Establishment." There were three other merchant vessels at anchor in the roads near our own ship, one of which had met with rough treatment from the same gale which we had encountered off St. Paul's. Part of her bulwarks and her galley had been washed overboard, and she had now come in for repairs.

Our voyage terminated upon a Saturday, and as there was no possibility of getting our heavy goods landed before Monday, we had nearly made up our minds to spend two more nights on board, when a boat came alongside, carrying a clergyman, who introduced himself as the chaplain of Fremantle, and begged us with much kindness to return with him and pass the Sunday at his house. We gladly accepted his hospitable proposal, and came ashore, bringing with us our favourite little black and tan terrier, "Lady."

As we drew near we saw a scattered little town of white houses, looking like the beginning of an English watering-place, and passed a boat or two rowed by men on whose hats "Water Police" was inscribed; but the jetty upon which we landed was so lonely and deserted that, with the exception of these amphibious guardians of the peace, one might have supposed that the great jail upon the hill had absorbed almost all the population. Three men, two ladies with crinolines of considerable magnitude, and a large dog, were the only beings assembled at the landing-place where we left the boat. I had been curious to see whether our little dog would show much delight when she found her feet once more upon dry land after her three months' voyage; but my desire to notice this was unluckily disappointed, for the two dogs immediately began running races together, and it was impossible to tell whether "Lady's" hilarity was due to the pleasure of meeting her fellow-creature, or to finding herself on terra firma.

The sand of the beach was so white and deep that our foot-prints, when we crossed it, looked like tracks on snow, an illusion which, on further acquaintance with the shore, we found to be much encouraged by the loose nature of the sand, often blown into drifts and half burying the dwarf cedars which grow above high-water mark. Nevertheless the sands at Fremantle are less dazzlingly white than those to the northward of the colony at Champion Bay, where, as a woman-servant told me, clothes, after starching, might be laid upon the ground to dry without any fear of the linen becoming soiled. The fig-trees and geraniums that grow around the houses of the town were all peppered with the sand blown on them by the wind, giving a comfortless untidy look to the little gardens. The heat was extreme, the month being December, the Australian midsummer, and our feet were quite burnt in walking through a small remaining part of the old primeval forest, deep with sand, which formed a short cut to the Parsonage. The shrubs which we passed on our way attracted our attention as being of a kind which we had hitherto seen only in conservatories or arboretums, and also as being our first specimens of Australian vegetation.

Our kind guide, by way of introducing us as quickly as possible to all objects of interest in our new country, hailed for us a native who was passing at a little distance, but he was a very sorry specimen, being without exception more ugly and ill-favoured than any whom we ever saw afterwards, and one-eyed into the bargain. The English reader should remember, when he peruses the accounts given by many travellers of the low and degraded appearance of the Australian natives, that no one can form a just opinion of them until he has seen them in their natural state, far away from towns and living the free wild life of the bush. It is as unfair to accept as samples of their race those natives who hang idling about the colonial towns, as it would be to suppose that a common street beggar of London was a type of the English peasant. The day after our arrival being Sunday, my husband returned to the ship, according to promise, to read prayers to the emigrants, of whom the greater part were still on board. The captain sent his own boat for him, under command of the second mate, who was eager to tell of an accident which had befallen one of our fellow-passengers, a Roman Catholic priest who had been on shore, like ourselves, and had been anxious to return to the vessel early on the Sunday morning to look after some of the Irish emigrants of his faith. A good deal of sea was running when two "green hands," as the mate called them, undertook to bring him off from the shore, and they very nearly succeeded in drowning him alongside the ship by capsizing the boat, which they were unable to manage properly. Meanwhile I went to the colonial church of Fremantle, where, as I was not supposed to know that the choir was led by a ticket-of-leave holder, everything seemed homelike. The prayer for the Governor, however, used in place of that for the High Court of Parliament, recalled to me my absence from England; as did also, on the conclusion of the prayers, an appeal from the clergyman to his congregation on behalf of their fellow-colonists at Champion Bay, whose standing crops had been destroyed by fire.

After my husband's return from the ship we spent the evening at the Parsonage, a very pretty and comfortable-looking house, and as our host and hostess were unable to give us beds, made our way about ten o'clock to the 'Emerald Isle Hotel,' where we had engaged rooms the day before, and where our landlady took all possible pains to make us feel at home. On Monday we went back once more to the ship, like a couple of Robinson Crusoes, and were hard at work all day packing up our things for our final departure to the shore. Unfortunately, when we had completed our task late in the afternoon, an obstacle presented itself which we had not foreseen, and which hindered our return that evening. The wind had risen so rapidly, and had caused so much sea, that the captain thought it unsafe to send a boat on shore with us, so that we were forced to remain all night on board. After all the trouble which we had had in stitching up the wrappers which contained our bedding, we could not endure the idea of again unpacking it; we therefore spread out our cloaks and shawls upon the cabin floor and laid ourselves down to wait patiently until morning. About seven o'clock the next day a boat took us off, and we bade an adieu to the ship in which we had spent so many happy days, and had experienced but this one night's hard lodging. We returned to our hotel, where we thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast of fresh fish, ripe figs, and bananas, and began to prepare for our trip up the river to Perth, the capital of the colony.

Before I say good-bye to Fremantle, I must give some account of its situation and appearance. Although considered the chief port of the colony it is but a small unpretending little town, and one which makes but a slight impression upon a new-comer. In the main street, and in the three or four short thoroughfares which connect the sea-jetty with the river-pier and wharf, there are a few handsome and substantial houses, belonging either to the Government or to some of the principal inhabitants. In these streets, too, are situated the larger and more important shops, or rather "stores," of the chief traders of the town. The colonial church, which I have already mentioned, is well placed at the point where the main street branches off into two roads at a considerable angle to one another. On the point of ground between these two diverging streets, and facing the very centre of the main street as it leads from the shore, stands the church, surrounded by a large churchyard. Although the situation of the building is so good, it cannot lay claim to much beauty either externally or within; it is of fair size, and sufficiently commodious in its arrangement, but that is all that can be said for it. The Roman Catholics possess a much prettier and more, ecclesiastical-looking place of worship, and their convent and clergy-house also are neat and cheerful-looking buildings.

The huge convict prison, situated on the brow of the hill which overlooks the harbour at the distance of, perhaps, half a mile, may compare favourably with most of our English jails, both as to the character and solidity of the architecture and the excellence of the interior arrangements. In the immediate vicinity of the "Establishment" stand the residences of the various officials, looking much like a terrace of semi-detached villas in the suburbs of London. A chapel also, quite distinct from the colonial church which I have described, is connected with the prison, and is served by a chaplain specially appointed to the charge by the authorities at home. From the hill upon which all these buildings stand the eye ranges over a large extent of very varied and diversified scenery. In the immediate foreground lie the banks of the estuary, still covered in many places with low forest and thick masses of brushwood. The stream, breaking upon the river bar, throws up a number of rapid eddies, which catch the blazing southern sun and sparkle like diamonds in its light. Near the sea-jetty the river is separated from the shore by a fine promontory jutting out boldly into deep water, and at its base are two or three little bays, floored with the whitest sand, and backed by fine weather-worn cliffs of some thirty feet in height. On this headland stands the inner lighthouse, below which is a landing quay, built for the whale fishery, and a curious tunnel, made through the neck of the promontory to give access from the quay to the shore near the jetty.

Looking seaward, the eye passes over the pier and the vessels lying in the inner anchorage, to rest at last on the winter roadstead and the distant shores of Garden Island and Rottnest. The remainder of the town is clustered around the base of the hill, and bears somewhat of that untidy, unfinished look inseparable from half-completed streets and unpaved footpaths. There are no continuous rows of shops, but all the minor stores, and the open fruit and fish stalls, are scattered about in all directions, and do not make nearly as good a show as if collected into a regular compact street. This gives the town a bare and deserted appearance, as if no business were being transacted, which is really not the case, although the trade certainly is not a very lively one.

We found, on inquiry, that the distance from Fremantle to Perth was about fourteen miles by the river, and two or three less by land, but that the route by water was considered the prettier. We therefore sent our lighter luggage to the river pier, to be embarked on board the primitive-looking little steamboat, and joined her ourselves an hour afterwards.

It naturally strikes a new-comer with surprise to notice that the early colonial authorities, who decided on the locality of Perth, have not built their city upon the same side of the river as that on which Fremantle is situated. One could almost suppose that the founders of the capital had been enthusiastic engineers of the Brindley type, and that in the same manner as he believed rivers to have been created "to feed canals," they must have entertained the idea that the special object of a stream was to afford an opportunity for a bridge. At all events the placing of Perth on the northern bank of the Swan has been attended with very inconvenient and costly results. The rocky bar at the entrance of the river is no sooner crossed than the stream expands into a wide estuary, and any bridge built to connect the two banks must be not only of great width, but also of sufficient height to allow the masts of small vessels to pass beneath its road-way. Even the founders of Perth themselves, perhaps, never contemplated the carrying of a road across this part of the Swan, but during our stay in the colony a fine timber bridge, upwards of 300 yards in length, and answering all requisites in height, was not only begun but completed. The work was carried out entirely by convict labour—the only manner in which such an undertaking could ever have been effected in so thinly peopled a colony. Up to the time that this bridge was erected the banks of the river were united by one bridge only; and that at Perth, where, though the actual channel of the Swan is of no great width, a very long causeway is rendered necessary by the character of the land on the southern bank, which is low and much flooded in winter. On the small and insignificant causeway which existed at this place when we first went to Perth, a spot was pointed out to me where a gentleman had been drowned on horseback in trying to pass the bridge whilst the river was in a state of flood. Such accidents are happily rendered improbable in future by a new causeway of very great length, which was, like the bridge at Fremantle, begun and finished under the auspices of Governor Hampton, who, in promoting the construction of these two public works, has rectified, as far as may be, for Perth the disadvantages of a site in which beauty of locality was the single recommendation.

There are three little steamboats upon the Swan, two of them plying regularly between Perth and Fremantle, and venturing, in very calm weather, as far into the open sea as the inner roads; while the third, which is little more than a flat-bottomed barge, fitted with a small stern wheel, manages to ascend the river to Guildford, a few miles beyond Perth. These boats are, even yet, the only representatives of the genus steamer belonging to the colony, although coasting steam-vessels are much required, and would probably pay well if judiciously managed. In fact, the means of locomotion, whether by sea or land, are very deficient throughout the colony.

A journey to the northern settlement at Champion Bay occupies three weeks when undertaken overland, as no relays of horses can be procured en route; and, if performed by sea, the traveller must make up his mind to such accommodation as can be offered in one of the little sailing vessels which ply along the coast in fine weather, on board which (if he retains any appetite) he will probably help himself at dinner to chops served up in the frying-pan, and to potatoes either in the saucepan or in a wash-hand basin. In journeying to the south of the colony matters are a trifle less inconvenient, as the distance is shorter. The horrors of the voyage are curtailed, and the land journey of eleven days may even be reduced to five by travelling day and night in the cart which carries letters from Perth to meet the Peninsular and Oriental mail steamboat at Albany.

We found that those who advised our proceeding to Perth by the river had in no degree overrated its attractions. Generally speaking, the one great deficiency in Australian scenery is the want of water, but here at least this is not the case. For more than fifteen miles of its course the Swan resembles an arm of the sea rather than a river, and gives to the fine forest landscape through which it flows that charm which nothing else can supply. Its expanse of land-locked water would form one of the finest natural harbours in the world were it not for the bar at the river's mouth. One of the reaches, which reminded us of Milford Haven, might have held a large fleet, with room to spare. Alas, that whilst flies have found their way into amber and reels into bottles, where probably neither of the articles was wanted, no conjurer has yet arisen to discover some method of introducing merchant ships into these safe and tempting waters! Whilst upon this subject, I may mention that the river originally gave its name to the whole of the colony, and that the old term, "the Swan River Settlement," is still often used, in an arbitrary sense, to denote the immense country now included under the general name of Western Australia.

Whether approached by the river or the road, the picturesque appearance of Perth cannot fail to excite admiration. The bold promontory of Mount Eliza screens the colonial metropolis from view almost till the moment of reaching it, and when this point is rounded the eye is at once attracted by a steep bank sloping rapidly down to the river, crowned with many pretty residences covered with luxuriant creepers, whilst the orange trees and bamboos with which the gardens are filled form a rich foreground in front of the houses, the mass of green foliage descending almost as low as the water's edge. At the present time the new Roman Catholic cathedral, standing upon an eminence and built of white stone, is the most prominent object, but at the date of our landing it was less conspicuous, as the steeple had not even been commenced. The cathedral of St. George, belonging to the Church of England, is unfortunately built upon the model of suburban churches such as were common in the early part of this century, and is certainly anything but an ornament to the town when seen from the water.

I was much struck by the fig-trees in the bishop's garden close to the river; they were of such great size that I mistook them at first for horse-chestnuts. Everywhere the flowers delighted me. The oleander trees were full of blossom, looking like gigantic bouquets; and geranium bushes were so common that I saw clothes hung out to dry upon them. Soon after we had landed we strolled out to look about us, and as our first wish naturally was to see something of the "bush," we walked to the top of Mount Eliza, but the beauty of the wild flowers was over, as the intense heat of the summer had commenced. I was, however, much pleased at finding a low-growing geranium, with a very sweet-scented leaf; and my false impression that there were no singing birds in Australia was agreeably contradicted by hearing one with two or three very sweet notes.

As we were to remain but a short time in Perth, and then to proceed to the chaplaincy to which my husband was appointed, at some distance up the country, it was necessary to make arrangements to have our heavy goods landed from the ship as soon as possible. We soon learned that it was usual that all cumbrous and weighty packages should be carried from the ship direct to Perth, and that it was unnecessary to pass them through the custom-house at Fremantle, provided that they had been examined on board before having been finally fastened up. Luckily the captain had advised us to have this done before we left the vessel, so that we had no custom-house difficulties to contend with now, and could arrange matters in the manner most convenient to ourselves with reference to our journey into the interior. We engaged a man who agreed to fetch our goods from the anchorage in a cargo-boat, and to deposit them at the wharf at Guildford, a small town about eight or nine miles from Perth, from whence they would be carried up the country in some of the carts or wagons which had brought down sandalwood or wool for exportation. These cargo-boats are something of a cross between a Thames barge and a fishing-sloop. Some of them, which are used to convey goods to the vessels in the winter roads about eight miles from the shore, are large strong boats, able to stand a heavy sea; while the others are smaller and lighter, and fit only for summer work. These boats are all built to draw but little water, and are flat-bottomed, so as to enable them to pass the river bar. Having completed all necessary arrangements we were at liberty to explore the city, and to form an opinion upon the merits and demerits of our new country.

  1. See Harkesworth's 'Cook's Voyages,' vol. iv., p. 171. Edition third.