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avoidable, has barely time to slip on one side, when, with an impetus which causes a woful dispersion of its motley cargo, over goes the dray. Then follow the many minor accidents which, though no joke at the time, might well afford a laugh on some future day,
“ Hæc olim meminisse juvabit.” Everything gets out of place in an instant: the sugar becomes mixed with the tobacco, and the salt with the tea. Mark that cask, which, as if delighted at its sudden escape, is rolling down hill, in any direction but the right one, at a speed which defies pursuit. What are its contents ? and when, in the name of vexation, will it stop? Now its pace slackens, now it resumes its career as merrily as ever ; that black stump will surely stop it, or, as they say in the colony, “ bring it up." It does bring it up, and, in so doing, the hoops, whose fixity of tenure, like that of the waste lands beyond the boundaries of the colony, has for some time been very uncertain, are broken, and the contents, by all that's unlucky, prove to be-horseshoes, each of which keeps up the game, and is distinctly seen, by the agonized spectators, to take a separate course, some diving into the patches of " scrub” upon the mountain-side, others remaining buried in the long grass,
on, and on, until they finally rest in the dry bed of the gully that
But this is a digression. Behold us then once more advancing. There was little fear of a horse “not leading " down the Gulf, not the least difficult part of the descent being to advance oneself and keep back one's horse at the same time. The consequences of a fall would probably be that the animal would put his foot into his rider's pocket, or stamp him with the brow of a Redgauntlet. As we descended, the silence seemed to increase, save when it was broken, in a startling manner, by the loud note, ha! ha! ha! of the “ laughing jackass” (a bird indigenous to Australia), as he sat upon the branch of some neighbouring gum-tree, seeming to mock our toils, and to claim us as his own kindred for having undertaken the labours of so precipitous a road. Arrived at the foot of the range, we found a vast heap of the blackened trunks of various species of the Eucalyptus, which had been dragged from the top of the “Gulf” behind the
drays which passed that way, in order to retard their progress ; and as they thus lay piled one upon the other, they formed a barrier as strong as the pah, or native fortification, of a New Zealand chief.
We were now close to the river-bank, and soon the note of the bell-bird saluted our ears. The sound, in itself, is always pleasing ; but when heard in the evening by the traveller who, during the heat of a long day, has been threading a long maze of dry creeks, or toiling over arid ranges, with parched lips and burning tongue, it seems the most welcome and musical upon earth; for it tells of cool streams and running waters, and never tells in vain.
At length we reached the Snowy River. It was high, but a “ tea-tree” bush, which reared its head above the water, told us that we might venture to plunge in. E- whose knowledge of the road was safely to be depended on, confirmed this opinion, and the stock keeper vowed that it was crossable.”
The instructions given me for the ford were useful and to the point: “Make for yonder tea-tree bush ; as long as your horse feels the bottom, keep his head well up the stream ;' if he gets out of his depth, that instant give him every inch of rein, and he'll carry you over safe, if not dry.”
Safe then, if not dry, we reached the opposite bank ; and as nobody catches cold in the fine climate of Australia, we pursued our route unscathed, and, after journeying on along the riverbanks for about two hours, we recrossed it, and stood at the foot of the Nine-Mile Pinch, or, as it was called, par excellence, the Pinch. Our road, while we were on the low ground, was comparatively good. Occasionally we passed large patches of wild oats, so luxuriant that we could not resist the temptation of dismounting, and letting our hungry steeds enjoy them for a short time. Horses are excessively fond of this plant, so much so, that in the early part of the spring, when it shoots up than other vegetation, they will not hesitate to swim over the river in quest of it. The waters at that time are frequently so much swollen as to prevent any one from crossing, so that the stockkeeper, after losing the track of his saddle-horses upon the river's edge, has the inortification of seeing them quietly grazing upon the other side ; and there they must necessarily renain, in his despite, until the waters subsiding enable him to get across, or the runaways grow tired of wild oats and liberty.
Our sable companion pointed out to us one of the bark canoes of his tribe, as it lay upon the banks of the river. This is perhaps the most primitive boat in the world : like the “gunyio's,” or huts, of the aborigines, it is built in a few minutes. An · Australian black can always swim; but when the weather happens to be cold, or a ducking does not suit his purpose, he takes up his tomahawk, and searches the nearest part of the forest for a tree which has a boss, or protuberance, on its trunk. From this he strips off the bark, leaving about two feet on either side of the excrescence, and bringing both ends to a point. The sheet of bark, owing to the shape of the tree from which it has been taken, is sufficiently concave to exclude the water ; to this frail conveyance he trusts himself, and, by dexterously balancing his body, he usually contrives to paddle across a river, and to gain the opposite bank in safety, leaving his funny little craft to float down the stream.
Bridges, as the foregoing account proves, are unknown upon the rivers far in the interior of Australia. There are none, and for some time will be none, for the best of all reasons in a young country—“it wouldn't pay.” In some places, of more than usual traffic, a speculator sets up a punt, and makes a charge, várying with circumstances, for ferrying across the traveller and his luggage. This punt is usually nothing more than the trunk of a large tree, roughly hollowed out, and stopped up at each end. Having neither stem nor stern, it is unwieldy in the extreme, but, owing to its size and solidity, may be considered tolerably safe. When a dray is to be conveyed across, the wheels are usually taken off, and it is thus brought over 6 at twice."
The traveller on horseback has often a more troublesome task, and, if his steed be young or headstrong, sometimes ineets with considerable delay. The assistance of the Charon of the bush is as necessary to the man with a horse as with a dray. On arriving at the river-bank, therefore, after shouting for the ferryman, who somehow always happens to be on the wrong side, he proceeds to take off his saddle and bridle, and these he safely deposits in the punt. His next task is to make his horse go over before him ; but here is the difficulty. Notwith
standing his favourite axiom, that “all horses can swim," and his conviction that his own in particular will “ take the water like a duck,” he generally finds that the sagacious animal, when he sees the swift-flowing stream, and hears the gurgling of the current, would much sooner remain on land, and indicates as much, pretty plainly, by resolutely planting his fore-feet in a straight line before him, and refusing to budge an inch. This difference of opinion produces a violent struggle, which often lasts until both parties are pretty well exhausted. At length the unhappy steed, finding that he must needs leave his natural element, plunges in, and, having been guided during his passage by means of such missiles as the river-bank affords, which are hurled after him in order to prevent his facing about, and landing again on the same side, at last, scared and panting, gains the opposite bank. His owner then follows him in the punt as quickly as possible, catches him directly,--if he can,--and goes on his way rejoicing.
But I have detained the reader too long at the bottom of the Nine-Mile Pinch. In spite of its name, the ascent was only four miles, in some places circuitous, in others direct. A choice of road was not to be had, and so up and up we went, with little inclination, and less breath, for talking. Sometimes we stopped to rest upon the landing-places which lay between the steeper parts of the hill; at others, to watch some vast fragment of granite, which, loosened by our horses' feet, plunged headlong to the bottom, occasionally bounding so high in its career that a horseman might have passed under it unharmed. At length we fairly reached the top, and looked down in triumph upon the enormous masses of eucalyptus, now far beneath our feet, which, when we stood on the river-bank, had towered above us in sombre majesty.
Travelling on a mile or two farther, we encamped for the night on the edge of a pretty mountain-stream, in the vicinity of rich grass for our horses. The climate, however, was sensibly changed, and, as the stockman remarked, it was at least “ two great-coats colder” than on the banks of the river.
Next morning we resumed our journey with renewed alacrity; for its worst toils were gone and past : there were but three or four more pinches,' and of these only one was allowed to
deserve the name ; and, more than all, that very evening our eyes were to be gladdened by a sight of Omio plains.
Meanwhile the same scenery met our eyes—forest, nothing but forest. Occasionally a snake, basking upon the arid track, would be seen to glide away, swift as an arrow, upon hearing the tramp of our horses' hoofs. Now and then a drove of half-wild cattle, “ making back" to some former pasture-grounds, would descry us from the side of an adjacent steep, and rush headlong down it, laying low many a blooming sapling in their course, and making a lane through the tangled underwood. Now and then, as we passed one of the small green flats or quiet gullies which are interspersed among these arid ranges, our approach would disturb some old bull, who, driven from the plains by his younger and more vigorous rivals, had retired, like a surly philosopher, to end his days amidst these gloomy solitudes.
Notwithstanding all that has been said of the great sagacity of savages in tracking, and of their quickness in catching a distant sound, I strongly suspect that the white man, when he has been accustomed to this kind of “ bushmanship at an early age, generally proves his superior. I have seen many instances of this in Australia, and our present trip furnished us with a strong one.
We had travelled nearly half our day's journey, and were within a few miles of the one acknowledged steep pinch, called the “ Freestone,” which our third day's journey was to set before
Not a leaf was stirring, and all nature seemed asleep, when E-'s stockkeeper, who had been listening attentively for a moment or two, reined in his steed, and said,
“ Hark! I hear a herd of horses.”
* Ay, ay !” said the black, incredulously ; “ bale me hear em: stupid fellow myself—I believe bale sit down” (I don't hear them myself; it may be my stupidity, but I think you are mistaken).
Upon which they both dismounted, and, holding their horses by the bridle, put their ears to the ground, and listened.
“Budgery you” (clever fellow, you), said the black, when he had satisfied himself that his companion was right. “I believe jump up yarraman' directly."
So it proved; and in a few minutes the sound of many hoofs, gradually swelling upon the ear, became distinctly audible. Drawing aside into the "scrub" that grew close to the track, we