Puslapio vaizdai


produces an “aching void.” Upon this sandy ridge, however, and more especially upon the flat beyond its base, are numbers of flowers the like of which I had never met with. A discussion upon the flora of the country follows as we march in single file after Kings Brady and Brown. Number One sends thein on in front, from an old habit impressed upon him in the north-western bush, where every strange Aboriginal is looked upon with suspicion, and where the white settler never allows a native to take the rear in travelling along a forest or scrub track, lest the temptation to tomahawk should be too much for the untutored savage. There are known instances of murder by black-fellows from no other cause than neglect of this precaution, the murderer acknowledging that he had no hatred to his victim, but that, seeing how easily he could tomahawk the unsuspecting European stalking ahead, he had yielded to an uncontrollable impulse, and struck the fatal blow.

This digression I commit, as does Number One upon the sandy ridge, and him also I imitate in returning to the flowers. We are so many, and are in opinions upon their customary dearth so much in unison, that we loiter to gather specimens, and at the end of our walk are able to display twenty-nine distinct varieties, a few of them lovely and even brilliant, but the majority humble and frail. Of course, the most highly favoured patch of this well-flowered bit of country would not bear mentioning in the same breath with an English copse, lane, or meadow. The roar of the Pacific informs us that we are nearing the beach ; so do the big white lilies, bold and beautiful in the midst of their glossy leaves, the native bread-fruit trees, and the plentiful mesembryanthemum, creeping over and covering the white sand with its fleshy stems and yellow or mauve blossoms newly opened to greet a passing hour of sunshine.

The Pacific has a hoarseness in its tone to-day, and scatters us with its flying foam-flakes. The gulls, terns, cormorants, and oystercatchers, wheel, scream, and dip into the surf, shooting upwards with that well-known slanting, airy, fairy movement which is so much suggestive of exquisite enjoyment, and we cannot bring ourselves to use the guns which weighed so heavily in the dismal swamp, though stewed oyster-catcher would make a welcome variation to our camp bill of fare. Leagues right and left the hard sandy beach trends, and before us gloomily rolls the measureless expanse of ocean. Our blackfellows are animated by no sentiment, and, instead of posing in an attitude, surveying with poetical eye the truly grand scene, search for a bivalve called, in the aboriginal tongue, Yugarie, a delicate member of the mussel family, in much esteem by fishermen as bait, and by the natives as a bonne bouche which makes the sea-side tolerable. To us this trudge across the dismal swamps and sandy ridge signifies a final spectacle of great, if melancholy, grandeur ; to Kings Brown and Brady it meant a heavy feed on Yugarie. They have brought a quart pot for the purpose, and when we are summoned to the fire which they have kindled under a bread-fruit tree (not the serviceable South Sea Island bread-fruit, but the rugged variety, pandanus), they have in readiness, in addition to the billy of tea, a steaming and savoury pile of their favourite shellfish.

On our return in the afternoon I am, as Admiral, deeply humiliated by the conduct of Numbers One and Two. It has been a grey day from the first, but in the afternoon there are signs of tempest. The wind blows something more than fresh from the north-east, and the clouds are flying, in confusion and haste, low upon the coastal range. Wild-looking the sky and waters reflecting it certainly are, but the wind is not too rough for our mainsail. Brown and Brady are satisfied to observe that I manage to overcome the objections raised by Numbers One and Two to the use of a sail. They, at least, have confidence in my skill. So up goes the mainsail and jib, and off we tear upon a splendid wind, and pretty closely hauled. Yoke lines, however, are not sufficient for this kind of work, and a strip of wood which Brady had allowed to fall overboard in the morning, I can now perceive was made to fit into the socket of the rudder. It is not therefore easy, without a tiller, to keep the boat up to her course, and my laboured efforts to do this fill Numbers One and Two with vague alarms. The sheet, moreover, which Number Two holds in his hand, does not run freely in the cleat, and I have to shout, “ Ease off! Ease off, will you? Do you want to capsize us?” The sharp tone of command, and the reference to capsizing, terrifies him, and frightens even Number One(who ought to know better)much more than is good for him. Squalls come in quick, noisy succession from the hills and gullies, and the boat heels over and makes the water cream again as she races gallantly on, dashing the now considerable waves from her bows and behaving faultlessly, save when the inefficient rudderlines produce a too tardy luff. On the whole, however, it is just the sailing which should make the blood tingle ; which has somewhat the effect of a smart gallop over a breezy prairie. But Numbers One and Two consult, their agitation increases, and they request me to have the sail taken down. They are, of course, not afraid of an upset, but think it would be a pity to subject the guns and fishing gear to the risk of damage by water. In my anger and amazement at this monstrous exhibition of no-confidence I certainly do become guilty of negligence: I forget my luff, and a passing squall takes a mean advantage of my preoccupation. There is no harm done, but no thanks to Numbers One and Two, who leap to their feet and do their utmost to ensure the capsize of which they are in mortal dread. To shorten the story of my humiliation, they do not rest until sail is taken in. The contemptuous disgust of the blacks is openly expressed. They are indeed on the verge of rebellion at the prospect of pulling three miles that might have been flown over under canvas, but they forget their grievance in their keen relish of the merciless chaff which Numbers One and Two are forced to endure as they sit crest-fallen and ashamed in the boat. The chicken-hearted conduct of these white-fellows impresses them deeply, and we afterwards learn that they describe the craven fear of Numbers One and Two and the courage and anger of the Admiral in mirth-moving terms. Days after we happen to be passing a group of aboriginals of which King Brady is one, and pointing to my friends, I sarcastically say, “Down sail, Brady, down sail," whereupon Brady and all his cronies grin, roar, and writhe with laughter. They know all about it, it is clear.

At certain seasons of the year these lakes are covered with black swans, wild duck, and teal; and parties go out to capture the cygnets before they are strong enough to fly. Hundreds of black swans are killed, shot or knocked on the head, for the sake of the breast, which is covered with a fine down. The black swan is not so regal in bearing, nor in any way so majestic, as its tame brother ; but it is a fine bird nevertheless, and in its sable garb, relieved by scarlet bill and cere, and white undertrimmings to the wings, sits and moves upon the water with a gracefulness all its own. Occasionally, the swans leave these Noosa lakes for a season or two, and they are absent now for the first time for seven years. We see, perhaps, only a dozen pairs, and they are evidently breeding, as are the ducks, of which we accordingly shoot not more than what we absolutely Tequire for table purposes.

The most remunerative sport, I may here mention, is with the fishing rod. My first venture is a fat spotted eel, of five pounds weight, caught with gut bottom and small hook. Catfish of equal weight we catch in abundance. Spite of the frequent assertion that these slimy ugly creatures are admirable eating, we cannot bring ourselves to use them; but they afford a treat to the kings, who cook them to a turn in the ashes and gorge upon them. The black-fellow is a natural sportsman : Brady after one lesson can tell, by the working of the top of the rod, whether catfish, eel, or bream is coming up, and should the lethargic movements be of the former,



his white teeth stand out like tombstones. The bream are very plentiful, and they yield excellent sport. We often pull across to the shaded waterway previously referred to, moor the boat to a broad-leaved cotton tree, smoke our pipes, listen to the scrub birds, give Brown and Brady permission to roam the forest in quest of 'possums or any feasible game, and catch bream ad libitum, frequently giving up from sheer surfeit. The bream, however, are not nice to eat. They are the black bream, which in salt or even in brackish water eat white, firm, and sweet; here, where the water is fresh, they are flabby and tasteless. The eels, however, and the whiting are well flavoured ; and as Number One, at fish-cooking, is as sound in practice as in theory, we are seldom without a dish of fish wherewith to flank our cold meats and bread.

During our stay in the district, I learn a good deal of its timber resources. In Queensland we have up to the present time 230 known timber-yielding trees, and amongst the most important is the Dammara Robusta, commonly known as the Noosa pine. One day we sail across to the Cootharaba mills, and, while Numbers One and Two devote themselves to pelican-shooting, I accept the invitation of the resident partner in the Firm to ride up into the scrub and see the habitat of the tree by which the district is becoming famous. The limits of the Noosa-pine-bearing district are not precisely known, but it is supposed that they are confined to a coast-line of 60 miles northward from Noosa heads, and a belt not exceeding ten miles wide.

We ride from Cootharaba mills towards the scrub, first over sandy country; then over black, treacherous, clayey land; next over sandy loam where the bracken thrives luxuriantly, and in which the dogwood is gay with yellow blossoms. This feathery-foliaged tree is not of good repute; as firewood, it gives forth an evil odour ; and, as a living thing, it is said to sour the grass and monopolise too much space. My companion is, as he need be and should be, learned in the timber of the locality. He points out the Swamp Mahogany, sometimes called the Apple Tree, excellent for piles and sleepers, by reason of its powers of resistance against a dirty white worm called the cobra, which, in Queensland waters, is terribly destructive to woodwork. Bridges, piles, and boats are honeycombed by them in an incredibly brief space of time. The Swamp Mahogany has a fuller foliage than most of the Eucalypti, and grows on low flat country.

Soon we cross a creek, on the further side of which, as is the frequent rule here, the character of the country changes. It is a change for the better, as trees and grass signify. En passant, I am told that the Moreton Bay Ash rots within six months after being felled, and that it must not be confounded with a mountain ash : superior to everything as dray-building material. The bullock and horse dray is the settler's great stand-by, and the severe strain some. times put upon it could only be possible with the toughest of wood and strongest of work. The Mountain Ash is, therefore, held in high regard. We see specimens of the true Queensland Apple Tree, which bears no apple but whose blossoms and foliage do bear a distant resemblance to the English tree. Its timber makes the best of flooring ; it is, as the saying goes, white as a hound's tooth; but the sawyers declare that it exudes an acid which plays havoc with the teeth of their saws.

A procession of bullock drays, six in number, each drawn by sixteen bullocks, comes along. The Firm have much of their timber drawn by contract, and some of the bullock-drivers, rough in speech, rude in manners, and uncouth in habiliments, make a fair income by their downright hard labour. One of the half-dozen in question, a grizzled weather-marked man, owns a selection of 1,200 acres of good land. To this fact may be added others of a similar description, showing what the careful working man may do in Queensland. The obliging skipper of the “ Alabama," for example, has a 500acre farm, and there are other workmen attached to the mills who have saved their two, three, and five hundred pounds.

The open forest, as we near the scrub, is gay with long-stemmed buttercups, and watered by creeks whose courses are marked by dense, dark foliage, and sometimes made known by sweet perfumes from climbing plants and native shrubs, meeting us a quarter of a mile off. For the first time I see the wild honeysuckle of the colony, a parasite on the Swamp Mahogany, bearing a red honeysuckle-looking flower. On the creek-margin there is a shrub spangled with jessamine like blooms. Quail rise out of the grass,

. and dart straight away with musical whirr. Blue mountaineers call shrill in the windy tree-tops. We ride into ravines rich with ferns. There are five-and-twenty square miles of this good forest land, but it is surrounded by country hopelessly impoverished with wallum brush, though, like other worthless soil, it grows wild flowers in unusual numbers and variety.

Through a narrow bridle-path we by and by enter a darkly shaded scrub, five miles deep. Dense thickets of prickly growth, the lawyer cane predominating, forbid divergence from the path without the aid of a tomahawk. Damp, cool mosses and beautiful ferns

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