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Adventures in Australia

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Adventures in Australia, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  A couple of young men go to Australia to stay awhile with the uncle ofone of them. While on the way up to the uncle's station they meet withvarious adventures.

  During the book we are introduced to various of the animals ofAustralia, the kookaburra, the wombat, the kangaroo, the wallaby, andmany others. We also meet with the aboriginal occupiers of the land.

  Finding that they like the life in Australia, the two young men decideto settle, and they buy, with the uncle's assistance, an area of land onwhich to create a station.

  This is not a long book, but it is amply illustrated. Some of thedrawings are very nice indeed.

  You will enjoy this book, and it makes a good audiobook.




  Some years ago two travellers, mounted on wiry yet strong lookingsteeds, were wending their way through a forest in Australia. They wereboth young and dressed much alike in broad-brimmed pith hats, loose redshirts, corduroy trousers and high boots with spurs.

  Each of them had stuck in his belt an axe, a brace of pistols, and along knife; while at his back was slung a serviceable-looking rifle,showing that they were prepared to defend themselves, should theyencounter any treacherous blacks, a very possible contingency at thatperiod of the country's history.

  They were followed by an active native also mounted, who led a horsecarrying their baggage. The scenery was not especially attractive,indeed so great was its sameness that alone they would have been utterlyunable to find their way. On either side rose tall stringy-bark andother gum-trees, their curious and narrow leaves affording scarcely anyshelter from the rays of the almost vertical sun, the huge white stemsfrom which the bark hung down in ragged masses giving them a weird anddreary aspect. Tracks there were, but they branched now in onedirection now in the other, and were more calculated to bewilder thetravellers than to guide them aright. Their map--for being new arrivalsin the country they carried one--told them that they should soon reach abroad stream. They were now looking out eagerly for it, wonderingwhether they should have to wade through it or should find a ferry-boatready to take them and their animals across.

  I may as well say--having thus begun, after the fashion of a writerwhose pure and wholesome works I used heartily to enjoy in my boyhooddays--that one of the travellers was myself, Maurice Thurston, and theother my brother Guy, a year only my senior. We had lately lost ourfather, with whose sanction we had settled some time before to come outto Australia and seek our fortunes. We, our mother, our two sisters,and another brother, had been left with a very limited income; and Guyand I, wishing to push our own fortunes and establish a home for therest of the family, agreed that no time should be lost in carrying ourplan into execution. As soon therefore as our mother's affairs had beensettled, we set sail from England, and, about two weeks before the day Iam describing, arrived in Australia. We had not come entirely on awild-goose chase. A cousin of our father's, Mr Oliver Strong, had longbeen settled in the country, and had replied to an application made tohim some time before by our father, saying that he should be happy toreceive us and put us in the way of doing well for ourselves, if we weresober, steady, strong, active, willing fellows with heads on ourshoulders and without any "fine gentleman" notions.

  We were now making our way toward his station, some hundred miles in theinterior. Though we had not ridden far from our camping place, theintense heat of the sun made us feel very thirsty, and sympathise withour horses which must have been equally so; thus we were anxious as soonas possible to reach the river, where we hoped to find an abundance ofwater.

  From our black guide we could not obtain much information; for, althoughwe were well assured that he spoke English when we engaged him, we foundthat it was of a character which would take us some time to learn.However he understood us better than we did him, though we had to putquestions in all sorts of ways and repeat them over and over again. Wethen had to puzzle out his replies, not always arriving at asatisfactory conclusion.

  Guy frequently stood up in his stirrups and looked ahead, hoping tocatch the sheen of water. At last we began to have some uncomfortablesuspicions that, although our black attendant professed to know the way,he had managed to lose it--a circumstance not at all unlikely to occur--and that we were wandering far out of our proper course. Though the sunwas of some assistance, yet we might be going too much to the north ortoo much to the west, and might pass a long way off from the stationwhich we wished to reach. All we could do therefore was to exert ourwits, and, should we have got out of the direct path, to try and findit. At length the foliage before us became somewhat thicker, but nosign of water did we see. We were riding on when a loud cry reached ourears.

  "There's some one in distress!" I exclaimed.

  "I fear that you are right, we must find out," answered Guy.

  We were urging on our horses, when a peal of mocking laughter seemed tocome from the wood close to us.

  "What can that be?" I asked; "some natives who want to frighten us, oran unfortunate maniac."

  The shout of laughter was repeated.

  "Him one jackass!" observed our guide, Toby.

  "Jackass! What can the fellow mean?" cried Guy.

  Then looking up we discovered a large bird not far off who was evidentlyuttering the extraordinary sound we heard. It was, as Toby told us, alaughing-jackass, or a gigantic kingfisher. So ridiculous were thesounds that we could not help laughing too.

  Presently a number of cockatoos, rising with loud screams just beforeus, flew over the trees to pitch again not far off. As we were watchingthem we found ourselves at the top of a bank, some thirty or forty feetin height. Below it, to the right and left, stretched a sandy bottomscarcely less than half a mile in breadth, and on the opposite side roseanother bank. Below the one on which we stood was a stream of water,flowing sluggishly along, scarcely twelve feet wide, and so shallow thatwe could see the bottom.

  "Can this be the river we were to come to?" I exclaimed, examining themap.

  "No doubt about it," answered my brother; "perhaps sometimes this broadbed of sand is covered, and if we had found it so, we should have hadconsiderable difficulty in crossing; so it is as well as it is, here iswater enough for ourselves and our weary beasts." We accordingly agreedto stop and dine. Having watered our horses, we hobbled them and turnedthem at liberty under some trees where grass was growing; thenunslinging our guns, we went in search of the cockatoos we had seen. Ikilled one, and Guy a parrot; but the report of our guns frightened awaythe birds, which were more wary than usual, and we had to returnsatisfied with this scanty supply of food. On reaching the spot we hadselected for our camp, close to the water where our black boy waswaiting for us, we found that he had during our absence made a fire, atwhich we cooked the birds, Toby devouring the larger portion.

  We would gladly have eaten some fruit, however sour it might have been,but none was to be found. We had just finished masticating the toughparrot, when we caught sight of two natives scampering along as if theywere mad, so it seemed to us, for they had their eyes fixed in the airand appeared regardless of all impediments in their way. We shouted tothem, but not hearing us, on they went, now leaping over the fallentrunk of a tree, now rushing through a bush, now tumbling into a hole,still keeping their eyes fixed on the object which engaged theirattention. We asked Toby what they were about.

  "Dey huntee bee. Soon catchee!" he answered. The reply wa
sintelligible enough, but why they should hunt a bee puzzled us. Theyhowever stopped, while yet in sight, under a large tree, the stem ofwhich they began to climb. Hoping, as was really the case, that theywere going to rob the hive of its honey, we followed them. As weapproached we could see their dusky forms among the lower branches, withvast numbers of bees flying about them, whose presence they seemedalmost to disregard.

  The two natives were so busily employed that they did not at firstperceive us; but when they came down, they regarded us with muchastonishment, and we were afraid that they would turn tail and run off,without giving us the honey which it was our object to obtain. Wetherefore made all the friendly signs we could think of, and I havingfortunately a gaily printed cotton handkerchief in my pocket, presentedit to them, signifying at the same time that we wished some of the honeyin return.

  Our quiet manner quickly disarmed their suspicions, and returning withus, they poured out as much honey as our two tin pots could contain.

  I may as well describe the mode of finding the honey the bee-huntersadopt. On perceiving a bee sucking the juice from flowers, he hurriesto the nearest pool and selects a spot where the banks shelve gradually.He then lying on his face fills his mouth with water, and patientlyawaits the arrival of the bee: as the insect requires moisture, he knowsthat ere long it will come and drink. The moment it approaches him heblows the water from his mouth over it, thus slightly stunning it.Before it has recovered, he seizes it and by means of some gum fastensto its legs a tuft of white down, which he has obtained from theneighbouring trees. The insect flies in a straight line towards itsnest, while the white down serving to impede the progress, enables thehunter to keep it in view, till it reaches its home.

  We ate the honey with a small supply of biscuit, and found it far moresatisfactory food than the tough parrots had proved.

  Having taken a last drink and filled up our waterbottles, we parted onfriendly terms with the natives; when, saddling our horses, we continuedour journey.

  "There is little chance of our reaching another river with more water init than the last, to camp by," observed my brother; "I see none markeddown on the maps for leagues ahead."

  We passed through the same sort of scenery as before, with the samedreary views on either side, so that we might have fancied that we hadalready crossed the country a dozen times.

  We at length came to the bed of a stream, no longer however containingwater, though I doubt not that we should have obtained it by diggingbeneath the surface.

  The appearance of the bee-hunters had warned us that there were nativesabout, and we had been cautioned against trusting them. We heard thatthey had at different times murdered a number of unfortunate hut-keepersand shepherds up the country, so that we were inclined to form veryunfavourable opinions of the aborigines. Toby, to be sure, was faithfulenough, but then he was semi-civilised. We now asked him if he thoughtthat there were many natives in the neighbourhood to whom thebee-hunters belonged.

  He shook his head--"May be!" he said; "bad mans, keep out of him way."

  This advice we were ready enough to adopt, and we had no fear, should wemeet them on the open ground, of keeping them at bay; but we wishedespecially to avoid being caught asleep, either at night or restingduring the noon-day heat.

  We had, at this time, literally no experience about Australia. We hadread a few books, to be sure, but Mr Strong had not described thecountry, and only advised our father to send us out without incumbrancesof any description--a small stock of serviceable clothes, a few booksand a box of pills apiece. We followed out his injunctions almost tothe letter, adding only some well-made tools, a fowling-piece each, anda supply of ammunition, to which we added on our arrival a fewnecessaries for travelling in the bush.

  Thus we found that one animal could carry all our worldly possessions, afew odd articles for immediate use being packed in our saddle-bags. Wewere now, as the day was wearing on, looking out for a convenient placeto camp. We tried to make Toby understand that we wished for one inwhich we could not easily be surprised by natives, or if surprised,where we could defend ourselves with some hope of success.

  The nature of the ground had changed since the morning, and we nowentered a rocky and wild-looking district.

  Here we should have no difficulty, we thought, in selecting a spot forour camp. We were looking about, when we spied in the distance whatappeared to be the figure of a man standing against a tree. My brotherinstantly rode forward and I following him saw a person who, to allappearance, though in bush costume, was a gentleman, bound with hishands behind his back, and secured firmly to a tree. He was deadly paleand seemed so much exhausted that he did not even speak to us as weapproached.

  To leap from our horses and release him without asking questions, wasthe work of a minute. Having put him on his feet and waited until hehad somewhat recovered, we inquired how he had been placed in theposition in which we had found him.

  "Some rascally bushrangers surprised, and `stuck me up,'" he answered."I had just dismounted, when three of them, who had been lying inambush, suddenly sprang on me, and before I could draw my revolver,knocked me down.

  "I fully believed that they intended to murder me, but they contentedthemselves with carrying off my horse and arms and ammunition andeverything I had about me; having lashed me to this tree, and thengalloped away, leaving me to the chance of dying of thirst andstarvation, or being gnawed to death by the dingoes. Had you not comeup, such might have been my fate; and, believe me, I am deeply gratefulto you for rescuing me from it."

  We had been aware of the possibility that we might meet with natives,but had not thought of the likelihood of encountering bushrangers,indeed we fancied that the country was no longer infested by suchcharacters.

  We, of course, having assured the stranger that we were very glad tohave been of use to him, invited him to accompany us until he couldobtain another horse, and offered to let him ride one of ours by turns.

  "I should like however to try and catch the fellows who robbed you;"exclaimed Guy. "Is there any chance of overtaking them? Surely theywill encamp not far from this, and if we follow their tracks we mightcome upon them as suddenly as they surprised you."

  "Very little chance of that," observed the stranger. "They aredesperate fellows, and, knowing that every man's hand is against them,keep a strict watch. They are aware that it is possible that I might bereleased, and will probably ere this have got a good many miles away, Iam, however, grateful to you for your offer, though I am sorry to delayyou. I confess that, without a gun or flint and steel, I should be verysorry to perform the rest of the journey on foot by myself. I am goingto the north-west, and I judge, from the direction you were riding, thatour roads lie the same way."

  Guy told him that we were bound for Mr Strong's station, which weunderstood was nearly a hundred miles off; and at the rate we couldtravel with our baggage-horse, we did not expect to reach it for threeor four days.

  Observing how ill the stranger looked I suggested that we should at oncelook out a good spot for camping.

  "I can help you, as I know the country," said the stranger. "A shortdistance further on there is a water-hole in what during the rainyseason is sometimes a torrent; we can there obtain all the requisitesfor a camp."

  I now insisted that he should mount my horse, and we set out.

  Pushing forward, we soon reached the spot he spoke of. Our newcompanion, after examining the ground, told us that the bushrangers hadbeen there, and after watering their horses had ridden on, as hesupposed they would, and that we need have no apprehensions of an attackfrom them.

  We soon hobbled the horses in the usual fashion, fastening their legstogether with leathern straps in such a way as to make it impossible forthem to move beyond a slow walk, so that if they were inclined to straythey could not go far.

  Toby quickly lighted a fire, while the stranger by our advice restednear it. Guy and I taking our guns went out in different directions insearch of game, which is usu
ally to be found near a water-hole inAustralia. We soon came back, Guy with a brace of pigeons and I withthree parrots, so that we had ample food for all hands. As we haddamper and tea, we enjoyed a satisfactory meal which greatly revived ournew friend. While we were seated round the fire--Toby watching thehorses--the stranger inquired if we were related to Mr Strong. Thisled us to give him a brief sketch of our history.

  "May I ask your name?" he said. "Mine is Norman Bracewell."

  "And ours is Thurston," said my brother. "What! Guy Thurston?"exclaimed Bracewell, leaning forward and grasping Guy's hand; "I thoughtfrom the first that I knew your features. We were at school together.`Little Guy' we used to call you, and you haven't forgotten me?"

  "No indeed!" said Guy warmly, "you always stood my friend when the bigfellows tried to bully me, and I have a perfect recollection of yourcountenance. I have often wished to know what had become of you, butcould only hear that you had gone abroad."

  "I thought of writing to let you know, in case you should ever come outto Australia; but I fancied that that was so unlikely and the chances ofmeeting you so small that I did not carry out my intention. You muststop at my hut. The longer you stay the better. We will have many atalk about old times and I think I can put you up to all sorts ofinformation which will be useful to you in the country. To tell you thetruth, I doubt if you will find your cousin, Mr Strong, as I heard thathe had gone northwards to occupy a new station, some hundreds of milesoff, and if so you will probably find no one to give you a welcome athis house except some old hut-keeper."

  On hearing this, Guy and I gladly agreed to stop a few days withBracewell until we could obtain some definite information as to themovements of our cousin.

  We told him of our meeting with the two bee-hunters.

  "This proves that there are some natives in the neighbourhood. They maybe honest, but they may also be ill-disposed, as are many of the blacksin this region. I advise that we keep a strict watch at night, and Ioffer to stand guard part of the time," observed Bracewell.

  We agreed to keep a watch, but after the trying time he had gone throughwe thought that he ought to have a quiet night's rest so as to be thebetter able to continue his journey the next morning.

  Toby had put up a rough hut of boughs, which would afford two of us at atime sufficient shelter from the night air. Of rain there was no fear.Toby erected a hut for himself with a few boughs stuck upright in theground, which formed all the protection he required.

  I undertook to keep the first watch, and I promised my brother that Iwould call him when I could no longer remain with my eyes open. Frompast experience we knew that it would not do to trust Toby, who would bevery certain to be down as soon as he found that our eyes were off him.Guy and Bracewell were quickly asleep and I commenced walking to andfro, keeping a look-out on every side and sometimes stopping to throw afew sticks on the fire. I could see the horses safely feeding hear athand, and so perfect was the silence which reigned around that I couldnot fancy that there was any real necessity for keeping awake. Still,as I had undertaken to do so, I should not have felt justified in lyingdown. I should probably have let the fire out, and the smoke from thatwas at all events useful to keep mosquitoes and sandflies somewhat atbay. Should the fire go out it was no more than possible that a pack ofdingoes might creep up, and while we were in darkness drive the horsesaway, or carry off our saddle-bags, or tear our saddles andsleeping-rugs to pieces. I persevered therefore, stopping every now andthen to amuse myself by looking up at the star-lighted sky and trying tomake out the various constellations, conspicuous among which was thebrilliant cross of the southern hemisphere. Except the occasional croakof a frog, the cry of a night bird, or the chirp of a cricket, not asound had reached my ears; when suddenly, as I was watching the moonrising above the rocks on one side of the camp, the most unearthlyshrieks and yells rent the air. Guy, awakening, started to his feet.

  "What's the matter?" he exclaimed. "I dreamed that savages were uponus, and expected the next moment to have a spear through me."

  "I haven't seen any savages, but those sounds seem scarcely human, Iwonder Bracewell hasn't been awakened by them. We must rouse up Tobyand learn what he thinks they are."

  The fearful noise still continued. We stood with our arms readyexpecting every moment to see a herd of savages rush in upon us, forthat the sounds were produced by natives we could have no doubt. Wequickly made Toby spring to his feet.

  "What's all that noise about?" asked Guy.

  "He-he-he, ho-ho-ho! dat corroborree," answered Toby who did not appear,as we expected would be the case, at all astonished at the uproar.

  Bracewell at length awoke and confirmed what Toby had said, that thesavages were indulging in one of their native dances.

  "I should like to go and see it," I exclaimed; "can we do so withoutrisk of being discovered?"

  Taking Toby to guide us, while Bracewell remained in camp, we set out.We were scarcely prepared for the strange and weird sight which we sawas we looked over some low bushes we had just reached. Before us was anopen glade, beyond which the moon was rising brightly. In the centre ofthe glade burned a fire. Seated on the ground were a number of figuresrattling sticks together. Suddenly there burst forth out of thedarkness a score of skeleton-like figures who threw themselves intoevery possible attitude, now stretching out their legs, now springing upand clapping their hands, and all the time shrieking, laughing andsinging, and following a big black fellow who acted as fugleman andstood on one side with stick in hand to direct the proceedings.

  Not for a moment did they cease, though every now and then we might havefancied that they had disappeared had we not distinguished their blackbacks turned towards us. We watched until we grew weary of the sight,but the dancers appeared in no way tired; and as we saw no chance oftheir giving in, we retreated to our own camp, pretty well tired out andassured that they would not molest us during the night.