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The Gilpins and their Fortunes: A Story of Early Days in Australia

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Gilpins, A Story of Early Days in Australia, by William H GKingston.


  The story opens with a couple of school-leavers discussing what theywill do with their lives. One of the boys, a Gilpin, whose father is ahard-working farmer, is determined to go along the same route, but inAustralia, as he and his brother have often dreamt of doing.

  They reach Australia, and an incident on the Quay in Sydney, where theysave a family from destruction in a carriage whose horses have bolted,makes them valuable friends, leading to an appointment as managers, oroverseers, of a cattle and sheep station somewhere out beyond the BlueMountains. The previous manager had let the place get run down, and wasactually rather a crook. Some of the other workers on the station wereas idle and crooked as he. Not surprising as most of them had been sentto Australia for some offence in England. A few of the men were decentenough. There is such resentment among the idle men that they prevailupon some aborigines to attack the buildings and set them on fire, aplan which is foiled by one of the better workers.

  Eventually the great Australian bubble bursts (the Australian economy isalways a bit overheated) and the Gilpins are ordered to slaughter thecattle and sheep. They discover a source of salt on the station, sothey are able to salt down some of the meat, which was otherwise goingto waste.

  Using the opportunity of buying valuable stock cheaply, they acquire thestation and start the business again. They rescue a drowning man, onlyto find he is the other schoolboy in the conversation that starts thebook. We will leave it to you to find out what his adventures had been.

  It takes about 3.5 hours to read this book.




  Arthur Gilpin and Mark Withers walked down the High Street, arm-in-arm,on their return to their respective homes from the well-managed schoolof Wallington.

  They were among the head boys, and were on the point of leaving it toenter on the work of active life, and make their way in the world. Theyhad often of late discussed the important question--all-important, as itseemed to them--"How are we to make our way--to gain wealth, influence,our hearts' desires?"

  "For my part, I cannot stand a plodding style of doing things," saidMark. "It is all very well for those without brains, but a fellow whohas a grain of sense in his head requires a more rapid way of making afortune. Life is too short to be wasted in getting money. I want tohave it to spend while I am young and can enjoy it."

  Arthur was silent for some time. At length he remarked, "It strikes me,Mark, that the object of making money is that we may support ourselvesand families, and help those who are in distress. My father often saysto James, and to me, and to the rest of us, `I don't want you, when youenter business, to be thinking only how you can make money. Do yourduty, and act liberally towards all men, and you will have a sufficiencyat all events, if not wealth.'"

  "Oh! your father's old-fashioned notions won't do in the world, andcertainly won't suit me, that I can tell you," answered Mark, in ascornful tone.

  "My father is considered a sensible man. What he preaches he practises;and though he has a very large family, no one calls him a poor man,"argued Arthur. "He says that, considering how short life is, it cannotbe wise to spend the time, as many men do, in gathering up riches andsetting so high a value on them. But here comes James! Let us hearwhat he has to say on the subject."

  "Oh! of course, James has got the same notions from your father that youhave, and I am not going to be influenced by him," answered Withers.

  James, however, was appealed to, and answered, "Even if we were to livefor ever in this world, I should agree with Arthur; for, from all I seeand hear, I am convinced that wealth cannot secure happiness; but asthis world is only a place of preparation for another, it is evidentfolly to set one's heart upon what must be so soon parted with."

  Withers made a gesture of impatience, exclaiming, "Come, come, I won'tstand any preaching, you know that; but we are old friends, and so Idon't want to quarrel about trifles, when we are so soon to separate!You stick to your opinion, I will stick to mine, and we'll see who isright at last."

  "If this matter were a trifle I would not press it, but, because I amsure that it is one of great importance, I do press it upon you mostearnestly, though, believe me, I am sorry to annoy you," said ArthurGilpin.

  "Oh! I dare say you mean well," answered Withers, in a contemptuoustone. "But don't bother me again on the subject, there's a good fellow.You, James, are so above me, that I don't pretend to understand whatyou mean." Saying this with a condescending air, he shook hands withthe two brothers, and entered the house of his father, who was theprincipal solicitor of the town.

  The two Gilpins walked on towards their home. Their father possessed asmall landed property, which he farmed himself. He had a very numerousfamily, and though hitherto he had been able to keep them together withadvantage, the time had arrived when some of them must go forth toprovide for themselves in the world. James and Arthur had long turnedtheir thoughts towards Australia, for which part of the Britishpossessions they were preparing to take their departure. Mr Gilpin, orthe squire, as he was called, was looked upon as an upright,kind-hearted man. He was sensible, well educated, and a true Christian;and he brought up his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord.

  A year passed by: a long sea voyage was over, and James and ArthurGilpin stood on the shores of Australia. Two other brothers, with theirsisters, remained to help their father in his farm at home. James andArthur had left England, stout of heart, and resolved to do their duty,hoping to establish a comfortable home for themselves and for those whomight come after them. Their ship lay close to the broad quay of themagnificent capital of New South Wales. They had scarcely been preparedfor the scene of beauty and grandeur which met their sight as theyentered Port Jackson, the harbour of Sydney, with its lofty andpicturesque shores, every available spot occupied by some ornamentalvilla or building of greater pretension, numerous romantic inlets andindentations running up towards the north; while the city itselfappeared extending far away inland with its broad, well-built streets,its numberless churches, colleges, public schools, hospitals, banks,government buildings, and other public and private edifices, toonumerous to be mentioned.

  The Gilpins, as they were put on shore with their luggage, feltthemselves almost lost in that great city. They were dressed in theirrough, every-day suits, and looked simple, hardworking country lads, andyounger than they really were.

  Large as Sydney then was, it was still diminutive compared to what ithas since become. Founded by criminals, it was unhappily as faradvanced in crime and wickedness as the oldest cities of the old world,though efforts were being then made, as they have ever since continuedto be made, and, happily, not without some degree of success, to wipeout the stain. The two brothers stood for some time watching thebustling scene before them. Huge drays laden with bales of wool wereslowly moving along the quay towards the ships taking in cargo, whileporters, and carts, with ever-moving cranes overhead, were rapidlyunloading other vessels of miscellaneous commodities. Irish, Negro,Chinese, and Malay porters were running here and there; cabs and cartswere driving about, and other persons on foot and on horseback, mostlyin a hurry, evidently with business on their hands. There were,however, a few saunterers, and they were either al
most naked blackaborigines, with lank hair, hideous countenances, and thin legs, or menwith their hands in their pockets, in threadbare coats and uncleanedshoes, their countenances pale and dejected, and mostly marked byintemperance. Many of them were young, but there were some of allages--broken-down gentlemen, unprepared for colonial life, withoutenergy or perseverance, unable and still oftener unwilling to work. Thebrothers had not to inquire who they were. Their history was written ontheir foreheads.

  "What shall we do next?" asked Arthur.

  "I should like to get out of this place as soon as possible."

  "So should I, indeed," said James; "but we must go to an inn for thenight, ascertain where labour is most wanted in the interior, and howbest to find our way there."

  "You and I can scarcely carry our traps any way up those streets;perhaps one or two of those poor fellows there would like to earn ashilling by helping us," said Arthur, beckoning to some of theabove-mentioned idlers.

  The first summoned walked away without noticing them, another stared, athird exclaimed, "Egregious snob! what can he want?" and a fourth walkedup with his fists doubled, crying out in a furious tone, "How do youdare to make faces at me, you young scoundrel?"

  "Pardon me, sir," said James, quietly; "my brother made no faces at you.We merely thought that you might be willing to assist in carrying ourluggage."

  "I assist you in carrying your luggage! A good joke! But I see you arenot quite what I took you for; and if you'll stand a nobbler or two, Idon't mind calling a porter for you, and showing you to a slap-up inn tosuit you," said the man, his manner completely changing. "You'll haveto pay the porter pretty handsomely, my new chums! People don't workfor nothing in this country."

  While they were hesitating about accepting the man's offer to get aporter, thinking that there could be no harm in that, a country lad, SamGreen by name, who had come out as a steerage passenger with them,approached. As soon as he saw them he ran up exclaiming--

  "Oh, Master Gilpins, there's a chap been and run off wi' all my traps,and I've not a rag left, but just what I stand in!"

  Sam was, of course, glad enough to assist in carrying their luggage.James apologised to the stranger, saying he would not trouble him.

  "Not so fast, young chum!" exclaimed the man. "You promised me a coupleof nobblers, and engaged me to call a porter. I'm not going to let youoff so easily! Down with the tin, or come and stand the treat!"

  The Gilpins were rather more inclined to laugh at the man than to beangry; certainly they had no intention of paying him. Perhaps theirlooks expressed this. He was becoming more and more blustering, when acry from several people was heard; and looking up the street, an opencarriage with a pair of horses was seen dashing down towards the waterat a furious rate. There was no coachman on the box, but that there wassome one in the carriage James discovered by seeing a shawl flutteringfrom the side, and by hearing a piercing shriek, uttered apparently asif then, for the first time, the lady had discovered the imminence ofher danger. In a few seconds the carriage would have been dragged overthe quay and into water many fathoms deep.

  "Stop the horses! Fifty--a hundred--five hundred pounds to whoever willdo it!" shouted a man's voice from within.

  Right and left the people were flying out of the way of the infuriatedsteeds. There was not manhood enough left apparently in the idle,dissipated-looking loiterers who were standing near. Two or three tooktheir hands out of their pockets and ran forward, but quickly returnedas the horses came galloping by them. The young Gilpins heard thegentleman's offer.

  "We don't want that!" cried James. "Come on, Arthur!"

  They sprang towards the carriage, one on each side; and then turning,ran in the direction it was going, grasping the head-stalls of theanimals as they passed, but allowing themselves to be carried on someway, their weight however telling instantly on the galloping steeds.

  Sam Green had remained standing by the luggage, having made up his mindthat the suspicious-looking stranger would decamp with it, if leftunguarded. When, however, he saw that the horses, in spite of his youngfriends' efforts, would drag the carriage over, unless stopped, hestarted up, with his hands outstretched before him, uttering withstentorian voice a true English "Woh! woho!" and then, with an arm fromwhich an ox would dislike to receive a blow, he seized the heads of thehorses, already trying to stop themselves, and forced them back from theedge stones of the quay, which they had almost reached. Undoubtedly thehorses had been broken in by a trainer from the old country: Sam Green's"Woh! woho!" acted like magic; and the pacified though trembling animalsallowed themselves to be turned round, with their heads away from thewater. While the elder Gilpin and Sam held them, Arthur ran to open thedoor, that the lady and gentleman might alight. The one was of middleage, the other very young--father and daughter, Arthur surmised.

  "My brave lads, you have nobly won the reward I promised," said thegentleman, as he lifted out his daughter, who, pale and agitated, still,by the expression of her countenance, showed the gratitude she felt.

  "I am sure that my brother and I require no reward for doing our duty,"answered Arthur, blushing as he spoke. "Besides, without the aid ofthat other lad, our fellow-passenger, we should probably have failed."

  "What! I took you for labouring youths, I beg your pardon," said thegentleman, giving a glance of surprise at him.

  "Our intention is to labour," said Arthur, unaffectedly.

  "Ah! you have the stuff in you to command success," said the gentleman."But I must request you to accompany me for a short distance, as mydaughter prefers walking; and if I once lose sight of you in thisstraggling city, I may not easily find you again."

  "Thank you, sir," said Arthur; "we have our luggage with us, and must goto an inn; but if you will favour me with your address, we will call onyou before we leave Sydney."

  While they were speaking, the coachman, in consequence of whosecarelessness in letting go their heads the horses had run away, came up,and released James and Sam. Not a word of scolding was uttered--thegentleman thought a moment.

  "Here, Sykes, lift that luggage into the carriage, and drive these younggentleman home; leave them there, and come back for Miss Fanny and me tothe club."

  In vain the young Gilpins expostulated.

  "I am a determined person, and will have it so," said the gentleman.

  Before they looked round, Sam had stowed away their luggage in thecarriage, greatly to the disappointment of the bully, who had, itseemed, been watching for an opportunity to make off with a portion.The stranger then, almost against their will, forced them into it; andwriting a few lines on the leaf of a pocket-book, gave it to thecoachman. "Come, my friend, you must go in also," he added, taking Samby the arm.

  Sam drew back, and, touching his hat, exclaimed, "Noa, sir--noa, thankye. It 'ud ne'er do for me to ride wi' the young squires; I know myplace better nor that."

  A mob such as Sydney, of all British ports, perhaps, can alone produce,had by this time collected round the carriage. Sam's remark produced aloud guffaw laugh from among them, and a variety of observations camerattling down on him, such as "Go it, young Touch-my-hat; the nob willpay you--he's a nigger with a white face. I wonder where he was raised?His mother was a dancing mistress--little doubt of that."

  Sam's temper had been irritated from the loss of his property, which hevery naturally concluded had been stolen by some of his tormentors. Henow looked as if he were going to give way to his temper. Instead of sodoing, however, he turned calmly round with his double fist, and saidslowly, "I'll tell you what, young chaps, a man who respects himselfkeeps his own place, and when he meets a gentleman he'd think himselfwithout manners nor character if he didn't touch his hat to him. Didany on ye ever see two gentlemen take off their hats to each other?Well, then, I have; and I should just like to know which was the worstman of the two? I'll say another thing--I have mostly found that when Ihave took my hat off to a gentleman he took his off to me; and I wonderif his friends laughed at him
. But I suppose some of you are great nobsyourselves, and know all about what nobs do."

  Having thus delivered himself, Sam, giving a contemptuous glance at hisopponents, slowly mounted the box by the side of the coachman. Thegentleman, who had walked on with his daughter, bowed to the Gilpins asthey passed.

  "I am afraid that, from taking us to be ploughboys, he now believes weare young noblemen in disguise," observed Arthur. "This is a verydifferent style to that in which we could have expected to have enteredSydney half an hour ago."

  "Perhaps he thinks more of the service we have rendered him than weshould," answered his brother; "however, it's a curious adventure,certainly."

  "Well, muster, there be rum jokes in this town o' yours," observed Samto the coachman, after keeping silence for some time.

  "There be, young man," was the laconic answer; "and rum things done."

  In this Sam agreed, informing Mr Sykes--for this, he ascertained, wasthe coachman's name--how he had lost his property.

  "Be thou the young man who stopped the 'osses?" inquired Sykes.

  "The young squires did it, and I helped 'em," said Sam.

  "And saved my bacon," observed Sykes.

  "I say, Muster Sykes, what's the gen'l'man's name?" asked Sam,discovering, perhaps, by the tone of the coachman's voice, rather thanby any perceptible change in his mask-like features, that he was not illdisposed towards him, and preparing therefore to be confidential.

  Sykes informed him that his master's name was Prentiss, that he was alarge squatter, that there were other brothers all well off, and an oldfather; and that, take him all in all as masters went, he was not a badone. Sam, in return, told him all about himself, and all he knew aboutthe Gilpins, by which time the carriage had reached the door of MrPrentiss's residence, in one of the best parts of Sydney. It was ahandsome house; and a respectable-looking servant-woman, after a fewwords from the coachman, showed the Gilpins into a well-furnisheddining-room, their luggage being placed in the hall.

  "You'll go with me, young man," observed Mr Sykes to Sam; "you'll bemore comfortable than with the gentry."

  To this Sam agreed; and drove round to the back of the house, where hewas introduced to Mrs Sykes, who lived over the coach-house, andnumerous Masters and Misses Sykes, thin, sallow, and remarkablyprecocious young people, the eldest not being more than ten. Among thishopeful family Sam in a few minutes made himself a great favourite.

  The young immigrants waited the arrival of their host with no littlecuriosity, for they knew less of him than Sam had contrived to learn.In a short time, however, the servant, placing a tray with meat, bread,fruit, and light wine, begged them to refresh themselves. This occupiedtheir time till the arrival of Mr Prentiss. Perhaps James wasdisappointed at not seeing the young lady when her father entered theroom. Mr Prentiss put out his hand, cordially welcoming them toAustralia and to his house; and, begging them to make it their homeduring their stay, he quickly drew out from them a statement of theirplans and wishes. "You can make a fair start," he observed. "You havethe five hundred pounds I promised, very nobly won, too; and I may giveyou a few hints besides as to the purchase of stock. You will, ofcourse, become squatters--by far the best business for young men ofenterprise and activity. What do you say to it?"

  "We should like nothing better, sir," answered James. "But--I speakagain for my brother as well as for myself--we cannot accept payment forperforming a mere act of duty; your advice and assistance may be of thegreatest value to us, and of that we will gladly avail ourselves. Theyoung man who helped us to stop the horses must, of course, speak forhimself."

  "Well, well, I admire your independence and high feeling," answered MrPrentiss. "I doubt, however, that you will find many in this country toconsider that you are right; but perhaps I may be of service to you inthe way you desire. You, of course, will make my house your home whileyou remain in Sydney; when you wish to commence your life in the bush, Iwill send you up the country to my father and some brothers of mine, whowill put you in the way of a fair start. Your young shipmate fairlyearned a portion of the reward; he also deserves my gratitude. He looksas if there was work in him, and to such a person I can be permanentlyof use. Unhappily, numbers of men come out here--they may be counted byhundreds or thousands--who will not work, or who cannot work; nothingsuits them. They come with pockets full of letters, expectingfirst-rate situations with nothing to do. How can such people beassisted to any advantage? Give them money, and they squander it; placethem in situations of trust, and they are dismissed as incompetent, orthey throw them up as uncongenial to their tastes. All we want in thismagnificent country are people who will try to work, and if they do notsucceed in one thing, will turn their hands to something else. There isample room, I say, for persons of every possible description, providedalways that they belong to the `try' school."

  Mr Prentiss insisted on taking his guests round the town to visit itslions; and greatly surprised they were to see the wonderful progress ithad already made. "Wool has done it all! Well may the golden fleece beour emblem!" he observed.

  At the late dinner hour they were introduced to Mrs Prentiss and twodaughters--the young lady they had before seen and a younger sister.All awkwardness soon wore off, and they felt themselves perfectly athome. Mr Prentiss had a conversation with Sam, the result of whichmade him supremely happy; his satisfaction was not decreased eitherwhen, two days afterwards, Sykes brought him his bag of clothes.

  "Don't ask questions, young man," he observed, as he handed them; "thereare few of the old hands I don't know, and I guessed who had yourproperty."

  Pleasant as the two young Gilpins found their stay in Sydney, they didnot disguise their anxiety to be off into the country; and their newfriend accordingly made arrangements for their journey.