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ALBERT DORRINGTON

A BUSHMAN AFLOAT

Cover

RGL e-Book Cover©

A SERIES OF ARTICLES ABOUT THE
AUTHORS'S JOURNEY TO ENGLAND IN 1907

ILLUSTRATED WITH CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHS


Ex Libris

Published in The West Australian, Perth, 20 April-20 July 1907
and syndicated for publication in many Australian newspapers

First book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2019
Version Date: 2019-10-13
Produced by Terry Walker and Roy Glashan

Click here for more books by this author



TABLE OF CONTENTS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS



I. — CHOOSING A ROUTE

The West Australian, 20 April 1907

LONDON!

The name has a bell-like sound for many people. To others it is a bugle-note calling eternally across the five oceans: I have heard it in the solitudes of the Diamantina valley; it has walked beside me in the camping grounds of the Gulf when fever and loneliness stalked from the mangrove skirted inlets and ti-tree swamps.

In eight years we had saved enough money to answer the call, eight years of economical strife with a big clanking leg-chain on our little ambitions, and the day came. One man advised us to travel via Valparaiso and over the Chilian Andes into Argentina. Australians and New Zealanders, he said, wanted to hear something about the chilled beef question, the pastoral and mining outlook of the prosperous Republic.

Now the Chilian Andes are very well in their way, and one doesn't mind all occasional condor for breakfast, but the average Australian jibes at the Newcastle-Valparaiso-Shanghai route where the opium-dosed crimp-house men are occasionally shovelled into the bunkers with the coal. So one had to discard the Argentina route and scan the map anew.

The Port Arthur-Manchurian trip, via Moscow and St. Petersburg, looked inviting, especially when we all remembered Lio Yang and Mukden, and the tremendous Russian and Japanese armies that hurled themselves and the toilers' money at each other for many months. We thought that Mukden would be a nice place to see. We longed to hear about the 12-inch shells that used to whizz through the refreshment room every time General Kuropatkin came up for a basin of bear broth.

We had almost decided on the Port Arthur journey until a Chinaman told us that the North Pole is a cheerful, well- ventilated suburb in comparison with Harbin and the Trans- Siberian railway during the winter months. John inquired casually if I had ever worn a wolf-skin coat padded with rubber to keep the wind from shaving itself against our shoulder-blades. I smiled and postponed the Trans-Siberian holiday indefinitely.

After driving many innocent sheep from one end of Australia to the other, I did not feel inclined to start a fashion in wolf- skin coats. A climate that permits of an occasional calfskin vest or pyjamas at midday is more to my liking. I advise the Moscow Tourist Bureau to leave out all mention of wolf-skins when catering for Australian patronage.

Finally, we decided that the Red Sea route, with its blinding sandstorms and mirage-haunted deserts was better than a packet of snowstorms, especially when we heard that the authorities at Naples provided volcanoes in their scenery. A gentleman who has travelled extensively, told me that volcanoes are splendid things for keeping away mosquitoes.

LEAVING SYDNEY

Illustration

The Orotava.


A COOL breeze was blowing over Sydney on the morning of departure. Only a week before we had been lighting bush fires on our boundary fence. Now everything was changed. No more greenhide-beaters; no more sap-scalds! We were bound for England where the grass won't burn even if you spray it with kerosene in midsummer. It's a grand thing to picnic in a country where people can throw matches at one another without setting their best girl's paddock ablaze.

Sydney is a well-to-do place. It wears a gorgeous crown of red tiles on its foreshores. It is a city of iced drinks and time- payment motor launches. The people certainly appear more comfortable than the back-country dwellers. The men hold up the skirts of their waterproofs when it rains, and the women look upon 12-guinea gramophones with splendid indifference.

Arriving at the Circular Quay we beheld the outlines of the vessel that was to carry us north. Her huge stern almost bulged over the footwalk; her yellow funnels towered above the adjacent six-storey buildings. The Quay was crowded. Bush and city people thronged the Orotava's decks. Here and there a sun-tanned couple from the back-blocks caught one's eye, joy in their hearts and a ticket to London in their purses.

Near the funnel-stays was a woman from Coonamble; her five stalwart children around her, bush-scarred, sun-bitten, hardy as brumbies. Their father had sold his share in a mine, and they were off to join him in England.

The steamer's street-like decks dwarfed everything. Aboard an ordinary coastal steamer a small man may preserve his dignity. But once on the deck of a modern liner, a six-foot man becomes a midget; his height is bossed by the giant funnel-stacks, and his friends have to pick him out with binoculars or by the colour of his hair. The decks of our departing ship would have borne the fleet of little vessels which accompanied Columbus across the Atlantic. The Almiranta and Capitano, that brought De Torres and Pedro de Quiros to the Australian seaboard 300 years ago, could have been stowed comfortably in our fore and after holds. Yet, if circumstances had permitted, I would gladly have thrown my belongings aboard an 80-ton fore-and-aft rigged schooner moored almost alongside. There was romance and mystery about her rakish top-hamper. Her smoky galley and newly-painted deck-house, with the broken shell-cases lying near the alleyway, suggested island trading. A kanaka cook peeped from the cuddy. It is not good to look twice upon an Island bound schooner when London calls.

A couple of travelling bushmen leaned over the Orotava's rail and gazed steadily at the oily waters of Sydney Cove. Hitherto the Murrumbidgee was the finest strip of water they had ever seen, and they spoke earnestly concerning the height and power of deep-sea waves. One of them, a married man evidently, was of opinion that the sea froth would climb over the rail and moisten the baby.

Never saw so many babies on a ship! There were three in our cabin—put there by mistake—and a couple at the foot of the stairs playing with the steward's parrot. Some of the first saloon babies were travelling with professional nurses. At sea the professional nurse is supposed to restrain and hammerlock her small charges whenever they attempt to swallow the ship's brass-work or man the lifeboats.

While hundreds of grown-up people were saying good-bye on deck, the little ones were introducing themselves to each other below. It grieved one to see so many fine babies rushing from Australia—even for a brief space.

In the steerage and saloon were several gold-miners from Queensland—"bound for a spell on the wet," as they termed it. There are certain people from Maoriland and Tasmania who regard a yearly trip to London as the cheapest way of spending a holiday. It the third-class were plenty of well-to-do wheat farmers and small settlers, anxious to get away from the eternal grind of selection life after the recent good seasons.

"We mightn't get another chance," laughed a North Coast man. "Three years back I was burnt out, and barely escaped with the wife and children. I think we managed to save a horse rug to cover ourselves with. To-day I'm off to London, and I'm going to have a time. Did I bring the wife? My word I did. She's travelling second saloon with the youngsters. Eh? oh, the steerage is good enough for a wayback like me. It's time the old girl enjoyed herself."

We had a great send-off. It seemed as though the whole of New South Wales had come to see the last of their relations. Even the policeman waved his hand as the big vessel left the wharf. Suddenly, a wire-haired man was observed tearing along the wharf waving a strip of blue paper in the air.

"Is there anyone named M'Guinness aboard?" he shouted, "There's thirty-nine weeks' rent owing!"

Everyone on the steamer glanced at his neighbour suspiciously, but it is terribly difficult to tell a man's name by the shape of his hat. No one had seen or heard of M'Guinness. The ship's officers were certain that M'Guinness was not aboard, nor any hardened person capable of owing thirty-nine weeks' rent.

It takes a lot of big machinery and big deck fittings to surprise Australians and Maorilanders. Adjoining our cabin was a Wilcannia man, who had never seen anything bigger than a fish punt or a corduroy bridge. Yet in less than twenty-four hours he was intimate with the mysterious workings of a 6,000-ton steamer. The day after leaving Sydney he explained to me the difference between a slovenly banked fire and a properly-sliced camel-back. He held forth enthusiastically of the ways of deep-sea ships, of patent man-killing, fire draughts, and bunker space. He spoke learnedly of the difference between Bulli and Newcastle coal, how to use a slice-bar, and how to hit a Lascar under the chin with a shovel when he runs amok in the hot weather.

The head and eye of that Wilcannia sheep-breeder impressed us considerably. If young James Cornstalk is typical of this kind, I feel sure that Australia will have small difficulty in manning her own fleet when the day arrives. People tell us that we don't take to the sea. Personally, I have learned more in ten minutes from a fifteen-year-old Australian boy anent the workings of a big ship than it was possible to acquire by months of hard reading.

The South Coast of New South Wales is bleak and mountainous. Vast tracts of spotted gum forests and treeless ridges face the long Pacific swell. Here and there a chrome-coloured promontory stretches its sea-washed tip into the thunderous surf. Innumerable gull-haunted islets crowd under our bows; geese-like mollyhawks and shags trail inshore to where the sea frets and whitens under the frowning cliffs.

"It is always raining in the South Coast hills," said a Bega man. "I've known it to spill down for months, until the wild scrub cattle were fairly driven into the homestead paddocks. Funny," he went on, "how hard rain will tame old mountain bulls and brumbies. I've seen wild-eyed outlaws tramp in and stand shivering under the sheds after a long spell of cold, wet weather. You see, the wild life has not entirely eradicated the stable instinct in them. You couldn't get within miles of them in fine weather. Yes, and I'll tell you how heavy rain affects the blacks one of these days."


II. — A GARDEN OF WHALES

The West Australian, 4 May 1907

THROUGH the morning mist we could clearly make out the sullen heads of Twofold Bay, with Mount Imlay in the background wearing it's morning beard of cloud.

Whaling is still carried out at East Boyd, a picturesque little place on the southern shores of the bay. From October till the end of November whale-hunting goes on merrily under the management of Captain George Davidson, an up-to-date sportsman who has accounted for 96 black whales in his brief span.

Humpbacked cetaceans are plentiful enough during October and November, but the lack of bone in their huge carcasses makes them hardly worth catching. A full-grown black whale is worth in bone and oil anything up to 300 and often more. A dozen aboriginals and half-castes are employed at the trying-out works, East Boyd. The blackfellows make excellent harpooners and boat steerers, and will venture out in the wildest weather on the chance of putting an iron into a stray cetacean.

The killers, a porpoise-like toothed whale, hunt their big relative in packs and work like sheep dogs the moment a whale heaves in sight. Without their assistance the trapping of the huge mammals would be impossible. They scour the open Pacific for miles around Twofold Bay until their quarry is sighted. Forming themselves into a half-circle they fairly heel the monsters through the heads snapping and tearing at the soft white fat around the whale's heart and head.

And the whale is a one-hit fighter. He rams and trudgeons through the squadron of killers, trumpeting with fear and flogging the sea with his great fluke. The killers are too cunning to be caught by the whirling mass of bone and flesh. They confine their attacks to the head and mouth, and it is on record that a big killer once tore out the heart of a sixty-ton black whale before the boat and harpooners arrived on the scene.

Some years ago a rival firm of whalers started operations at Twofold Bay. They invested a lot of capital in up-to-date appliances, boats, bomb-spears, harpoons, etc., and after erecting a trying-out works they began looking for whales.

During the season experienced look-out men are stationed along the coast. It is their business to send up smoke-signals the moment a whale is sighted. It frequently happened that the rival harpooners appeared within striking distance of the monster at the same moment. Quarrels as to the right of ownership were inevitable.

Stories are rife in Eden concerning the Homeric conflicts which happened daily over the floating bodies of dead whales. One party claimed the right to seize and cut up any black or humpbacked whale which came into tho bay. The rival firm were of opinion that the whale became their property the moment their harpoon stuck fast in the carcass.

The struggle for supremacy lasted a couple of seasons until a rough whaler's code was drawn up and was agreed to by both parties. Herewith a rough copy of agreement signed by the rival firms:


'First harpooner on the scene to put in his iron and hang on. If the whale dies it becomes their sole property. If, however, the whale breaks away, No. 2 party is at liberty to harpoon at leisure, the whale to become their property if a kill is proclaimed.'


It was soon discovered that the second party on the scene always took the whale, seeing that in nine cases out of ten a full-grown oetacean does not succumb to the first harpoon. More complications ensued, more bitterness, and midnight sea- scrimmages that remain unrecorded in the annals of Australian whaling.

A boy humourist appeared suddenly in the district, who proceeded to elevate the Australian whaling business into the regions of comedy. He hailed from Maoriland, and he seized the situation with both hands and painted it white. Only a boy would have ventured to play the game on a crowd of half-castes and hard-hitting Yankees.

One wet, stormy night the rival stations were aroused by the cries of 'Whale-oh!' 'Blow-w-w-w!'

The seas were running mountains high, but the crews turned out of their huts and tumbled into the boats on discovering that half a dozen fire signals were flaring along the coast. Pulling cheerfully towards the Heads the rival crews fouled repeatedly in the blinding darkness, after mistaking each other for the hump of a whale.

Dawn found them wet and shivering with cold. And there was no sign of whale within the bay or on the skyline.

'Who lit that blamed fire?' demanded a sour-visaged boat- steerer. 'Guess I'll put a harpoon into the feet of the man who made that fire on the South Head.'

No one knew who lit the fires, and the whalers returned to their stations hoping to trap the miscreant who had 'pulled' them from their beds to face a semi-Arctic night.

At sun-up a bright, fair-haired boy was observed strolling book in hand along the cliffs. He was accosted immediately by a wild-eyed blubber-soaked 'cutter-up.'

'Hev you seen a whale, sonny?'

'No, sir, I have not seen a whale.'

'Did yew light up the bush any time, whatsomever, sonny, thinkin' you might befool Bill Greig an' them lads of his?'

'No sir, I have been taught not to play with fire.'

'What's thet book you're readin', sonny?'

'It's a book on fowls, sir. It tells you how to raise Plymouth Rocks on a three-acre block. I showed it to a man early this morning. He asked me if I knew how to raise a crew of lazy whalers.'

'Where did yew see that man, sonny?'

'Down the coast, sir, collecting dead timber to build a fire to-night.'

Half-an-hour later a crowd of angry whalers were seen hurrying along the coast armed with bomb-spears and lances. Nothing happened except a series of wind-blown fires along the coast the following night. The whalers stayed in bed.

At daybreak a 50-ton, killer-driven right whale was discovered stranded on the rocks near East Boyd, surrounded by swarms of voracious blue-pointer sharks. It was impossible to tow the IOUs from the dangerous shoals, and the men at trying-out wept at seeing 200 worth of bone and oil being stripped and borne away before their eyes.

Afterwards the business of whaling became so precarious that the new firm closed down and sold their outfit for a song, partly on account of the Will-o'-the-wisp fires caused by a small, wandering schoolboy.

As the big steamer wore towards the Victorian coast the giant headlands and forest-clad hills recalled the doings of Australia's long-lost pioneer and cattleman, Ben Boyd.

Somewhere in the forties Ben took up vast tracks of land in and around Twofold Bay. His energy was remarkable. After erecting a whaling station, and housing half-a-dozen crews, he began cattle-rearing on a large scale. Later, he planned the site of a city where Eden now stands, and ran his immense herds around Mount Imlay and Pambula Creek.

He experienced difficulties in marketing his store mobs owing to the almost impassable nature of the country. At last he disappeared mysteriously in an island-bound schooner and was never again heard of. The bulk of his vast herds remained for a long time in the district of Twofold Bay, neglected and unbranded.

Two years after Ben's departure the gold rush in Victoria sent up the price of beef. Crowds of adventurous drovers and cow- duffers swarmed over the Monaro country, rounding up and branding the ownerless scrub bulls and gully-duikers that wandered over the forest-screened hills.

In those days there was no particular demand for way-bills and stock-receipts; the gold-fields were meat-hungry, and Ben Boyd's cattle were shepherded by devious ways into Ballarat and Melbourne. His whales were left to take care of themselves.

From Wollongong to Cape Howe the coast of Australia has a long-dead, petrified appearance when viewed from the deck of a steamer. There are no wide river-deltas or luxuriant palm-clad inlets that one meets north of the Great Barrier. Vast uninhabited spaces fill the geographical bill.


III. — THE STEWARD'S 'AND

The West Australian, 11 May 1907

THE life of a deep-sea steward is crammed with incident—and tips. I noticed that the young gentleman who looked after our cabin wore a lint bandage in the palm of his right hand. Asked whether he had been bitten by a land agent or octopus, he replied somewhat huskily:

"Some of the gents what come aboard like their money's worth," he said, after a while. "An old toff named Bullaman 'ad me runnin' all over the ship last trip. He was a holy terror for 'ot water an' lemons. I wore out three pairs of sneakers tearin' up an' down stairs for him.

"He'd plenty of money; an' I was told by the chief to see that the gangway was 'all clear' when he left us at Sydney.

"He looked a good mark for a big tip, an' the chief cautioned me not to hold out me 'and too far for fear of offendin' his eyesight. Young stooards have a bad habit of lettin' their 'ands 'ang over the ship's side when the passengers are goin' off.

"After carryin' Bullaman's luggage ashore, I waited respectfully on the gangway with 'ardly three inches of me 'and showing on the skyline.

"Down came Bullaman, breathin' like a cheap Panhard, an' winkln' at the ladies. I noticed that his eye was fixed on me 'and.

"'Ho, yes,' he says, pullin' up. 'Ho, yes, stoored; I'd halmost forgot you.'

"He was holdin' a 'andkerchief in his hand. There was a tin snuff-box wrapped in it; an' when he stopped he opened it like lightin', an' spilled five 'arf-crowns into me 'and I nearly jumped off the gangway.

"Everyone of 'em was red 'ot. The skin of me palm curled up an' blistered when I gripped 'em. Yer see, it's against human instinct to drop money, especially when yer liable to drop it into deep water. There was nothin' to do but dance up the gangway, an' blow on me 'and.

"That's how I come to be wearin' lint on me list, sir. I hope you ain't keepin' a few 'ot uns for me when you go ashore, sir?"

I explained briefly that my tips were given cold, and that my money was always kept on the ice-chest the night before going ashore. The steward looked pleased; and after receiving a cold half-sovereign for seeing me through, his hand grew rapidly better.

Bill Simmons is my cabin mate. He is going to Colombo to fill a position on one of Lipton's tea plantations. Bill is a handy man and has worked at most outback trades. For three years he managed a South Coast butter factory with some success. Then he became a shearing contractor, agitator, and boundary-rider. He was brace man at the Day Dawn mine, Charters Towers, and was dismissed for inciting his fellow-workmen to wake and arise during the strike.

The sick and the strong are much in evidence to-day. The women look up as you pass with dull, unseeing eyes. Some of the men are worse. When a man is rally sick, only his heels are visible. Saw several feet this morning belong to my friends sticking out of odd corners—rope coils and tarpaulin sheets. The women sprawl in their deck chairs; the men burrow.

The wind from Bass Straits cut like a knife. Time: Middle of March, and the Sydneyites abroad walk shivering about the deck. Five or six years spent in a steaming sub-tropical city has its effects; and the native of Surry Hills or Mosman turns blue at the first breath from the southern icebergs.

Melbourne at last. Slowly we steam up the weary expanse of bay. An occasional sand-hump bulges on the skyline. Not a tree or a scrap of foliage anywhere. Later we discover a horizon thick with furnace stacks and gasometers. A streamer of wine-red cloud covers the east. A black barge with black sails stands silhouetted against the dawn. Far away in the low flat north lies Melbourne, wearing a halo of wind-driven dust.

The approaches to Melbourne would scare away a modern pirate or an invading force of aesthetic Japs. The eye wanders towards the dreary sandhills and the seedy vessels huddled at the pier- end.

One's first impression of Melbourne is favourable and lasting. East and west, north and south, the city flings out her broad, straight roads. It is a place where men may walk fifteen abreast on the footpaths, instead of tripping on each other's heels as in Sydney. In comparison with Melbourne, Sydney is merely a bye- way—when one recalls its notorious traffic-traps and pinched exits. Sydneyites take their municipal fathers seriously instead of presenting them with all annual funeral under the trams.

Sydney sprawls with mediaeval futility around the coves of its beautiful harbour. Melbourne has gripped her desert site with both hands, and rendered it habitable. Her incomparable streets are strewn with grass plots and shady trees.

Melbourne men are better looking than the Sydney chaps. Sydney breeds a shamble-footed citizen, who crowds the gutters for want of footpath space. He grows bottle-shouldered through falling off the kerb and dodging trams. Some difference, too, in the gait of a Melbourne crowd.

While in Sydney I found myself rushing past the average pedestrian. In Melbourne the order was reversed; men, boys, and women streamed past me without effort. The present generation of Melbourneites is the result of a brisk, dry, healthy climate, free from humid ocean vapours that enervate dwellers around Port Jackson.

I left Melbourne with regret, and hurried back to the steamer in time to see a procession of Mahomnmedans climbing aboard. They had come from the West on a holiday tour and were returning to Kalgoorlie and Leonora to join their camel teams and fulfil fresh contracts. The gold-field Afghan is a lean-visaged fellow, with quick, shifty eyes, and grasping hands.

Opinions differ among Westralians regarding his citizen-like qualities. I have met Kalgoorlie men who declare that Mahomet Ali is a good fellow to meet when things are bad and the plains are gibbering from east to west.

One well-known miner said that he had tried a dozen Afghan camps for flour and water during a famish, and had never been refused hospitality.

Others tell strange stories of an Afghan's blackguardianisms during the rush to Coolgardie some years ago. How he polluted soaks and bailed up fever-stricken travellers, until several white miners retaliated by shooting the lean and husky camel-man at sight.

We slipped our cable from Port Melbourne pier at noon. A great crowd assembled to "see off" a young prizefighter bound for Perth, who intends wresting the championship from the Goldfields Chicken during Easter week. The young pugilist travelled second saloon, and towards evening asked permission to work with the stokers.

"Shovellin' keeps me in good nick," he said to the chief engineer pathetically. "The fires open me pores better than a runnin' track."

The engineer replied that he could not allow him to wield a slice-bar, but he had no objection to young Achilles warming his pores at the fires.

That night Achilles came on deck, fresh from his bath, to take gentle skipping exercise. The ladies peering down from the saloon deck seemed vastly amused. Never was such skipping. Achilles' feet seemed to remain in midair as the rope flew round and round.

"Good thing to 'ave quick feet," he panted, "when or bloke's chasin' yer round the ring."

In the steerage are fourteen Austrians bound for Brindisi. They came from Maoriland and boarded us at Sydney. Big hulking fellows with shark-like appetites. No one on this line saw a sea- sick Austrian. They foregather near the stairhead and bolt below in a body the moment the steward appears with breakfast or dinner bell. The struggle to be on scratch when the 8 o'clock bread and cheese bell goes is Homeric. Imagine 220 hungry men tearing down a steep companion, into a narrow dining-room, in the hope of snatching a hunk of cheese. Bill is the only man on board who can arrive at the bread and cheese before the Austrians. Bill's instincts are above cheese-bells or private signals. He knows the exact moment to swoop ahead of the steward when he appears from the pantry. Station life taught Bill a lot of things.

And the food that goes overboard! Any self-respecting bushman who has been on the hunger-track would rise against the criminal waste that goes on among the big Australian mall boats.

Yesterday a cabin steward heaved a basket of loaves over the taffrail.

"Stale bread," said he. "No use for it."

Later a saloon-cook appeared from the galley and flung a huge pan of chops and steak into the unutterable deep.

"No time for dry hash," he grunted. "And the passengers don't take on minced stuff."

"Why don't they carry a pig or two?" asked someone.

A North Coast poultry farmer shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "Thousand a year goes to waste on this boat," he said sadly. "You could run the biggest poultry farm in Australia on the stuff that goes overboard."

The mollyhawks and gulls have a gorgeous time following deep- sea boats. Interesting also to watch the albatrosses slouching from wave to wave, pirouetting, curving in mile-long sweeps ahead and astern of us.

Nine hours from Melbourne the chief steward unearthed a couple of stowaways. Both were city lads, and looked as though a pan of ashes had been emptied over them. They begged to be allowed to work their passage in the stokehold. The chief was inexorable. Both boys were removed to the Afghans' quarters. There is talk of handing them over to the police at Adelaide.

"For eatin' the company's bread and meat, An' breathin' the company's air," sang a fireman from below.

Later we discovered that a conspiracy is afloat among the firemen to liberate the stowaways at Port Adelaide.


A SALOON STEWARD'S job on an Australian mail boat is a better one than it looks. Wages three pounds a month and found: tips run it to eight pounds, and often twenty.

Compare the life with that of a city clerk or bush-worker. The steward lives like a prince. His sleeping quarters are equal to a saloon passenger's. His cabin is furnished with a couch and drawers. An electric fan or punkah is fitted over his berth. A cabin boy—the ship swarms with them—looks after his boots, and carries his food to him from the saloon galley. And when ashore he dresses like a bank clerk and travels from place to place in a hansom.

Very few Australian or Maoriland boys take to the business. One fancies that their democratic upbringing unfits them for such service.

"You see," said the chief to me yesterday, "the Australian boy is all very well. His intelligence is far above that of the English boy's—but somehow he makes a very indifferent waiter. When attending to the people who travel by our boats he is apt to become a trifle familiar towards the end of the trip. When reprimanded for his want of politeness he gives trouble.

"We shipped a very smart Australian chap last year," he continued. "He was nimble-footed and good-looking, and could take nine orders while the other fellows were passing the salt.

"He rose to the position of second steward within three months," I broke in enthusiastically.

"Not exactly," drawled the chief. "He got three months at Adelaide for throwing a dish of fried potatoes at the purser before a saloon full of passengers. It was the worst thing that ever happened on our boats. No, sir; we have discovered that the deep-sea Australian steward is a failure."

"They fight all right," I responded dismally.

"Fighting doesn't cut butter in our service, sir," answered the chief coldly. "We want a staff of servants, not pugilists."

We parted coldly. I watched him for a moment as he passed down the glittering brass-plated stairhead into the saloon, where the stewards flew right and left from his august presence.

Still there is hope in the fact that Australia will never produce a nation of stewards.

An 18-stone wheat-man came aboard at Melbourne. For two whole days he had been breaking all the available canvas deck chairs. He merely sits in them, and the rest is chaos.

Bill Simmons has a nice lie-back chair, a combination of sugar-bag and gum sapling. He swears that it is the most comfortable seat on the ship. Every time he leaves it on deck he places a small dog-trap in the exact spot where the 18 stone chair-smasher usually drops through.

So far nothing has happened, although the ship holds out hopes of seeing a stout man tearing along the deck with a dingo attachment trailing behind.


IV. — ADELAIDE

The West Australian, 25 May 1907

ARRIVED at Largs Bay* on March 14th. A train- ride of seven or eight miles a through several sand-ridden suburbs brought us to the capital of South Australia.


Illustration

The Largs Bay Pier, where the author's passenger ship
docked, and the train which took him to Adelaide.
The Largs Pier Hotel can be seen in the distance.


[* In 1907, passenger ships to Adelaide berthed at the end of the Largs Pier, a long jetty in Largs Bay. A small railway, something like a steam tram, ran from the pier- end Customs post past the enormous and luxurious Largs Pier Hotel, all the way into the central Adelaide Station. The tramway has long since been dismantled, and passenger ships now berth at a newer passenger terminal further into the harbour. —Terry Walker.]


Adelaide is without doubt the silver-tail all of Australian cities. It is piquant and more respectable than the average vestryman. The near hills that stand out sharply in the morning air, the jingle of the horse trams give it the appearance of a Mexican city. We found parks and churches, and more parks. In our haste to be rid of a telegram we mistook the General Post Office for another church.

The hurrying crowds and gangs of loiterers so apparent within the precincts of Melbourne and Sydney Post Offices are nowhere visible here. Two or three boys idled within its court-like entrance.

A strange man with American whiskers and accent stated in a loud voice that we were in the city of the dead. He said that several more or less dead people haunted the Post Office during business hours' in quest of stamps and other refreshments. He walked round us deliberately and offered to show us where to put our letters. He was sorry, he said, for people who came to the city of the dead. He had come there himself only a month before, under the impression that it was a living, breathing place where men could address each other in loud voices and get drunk.

He told us in his best Chicago voice that he had offered a patent nickel-plated, stamp-licking machine to the S.A. Government for 600. Nothing had come of it. The Government had merely offered him its silent respectable ear. Ten minutes later he tried to sell us a gold watch for 3 15s.—the one that belonged to his dead wife.

Adelaide is not so tame as it looks. It rose early one morning recently and gaoled its ex-Mayor on a charge of fraud and embezzlement. Sydney would sooner die of plague or tram-scare than see one of its councillors safely inside a healthy stone gaol.

Some difference between the men of us the South The Sydneyite will borrow your last shilling; the Melbourne man is satisfied to toss you for drinks; but the Adelaide chap is simply artful—he waits for you patiently and tries to sell you his grandmother's gold watch.

We heard several girls singing inside an up-to-date restaurant. We entered and ordered breakfast hurriedly. Steak and poached eggs. A red-haired girl tripped in singing "Mollie Riley" as she took our order. She told us frankly that she could not help singing when she waited on brown-faced strangers from the Backblocks. We felt glad. Bill reckons that we ought to give Adelaide a good character. Therefore, we take back the opinion anent the artfulness of the city, and apologise by saying that Adelaide is the place where "Mollie Riley" sounds well with poached eggs.

THE BOAT-CATCHER

WE returned to the station in time to see the 12 a.m. boat-train depart. Nice fix! Steamer timed to leave Largs Bay at 2.00 sharp. We fretted up and down the platform until the 12.30 started hoping that some unforeseen accident would delay the Orotava another half-hour. Mail steamers have a tricky habit of as sailing on time. When we arrived at de Largs Bay we observed the Orotava moving slowly and gracefully from her anchorage.

Here was a dilemma! Only a few shillings in our pockets and no possible hope of catching her before she reached Marseilles. Our luggage, circular notes, etc., were steering cheerfully towards the horizon.

While I was staring dumbly at the departing vessel, Bill had leaped down the pier-steps and button-holed a grey whiskered plug of a man squatting in the stern of a small motor-launch. I heard Bill's voice rise above the thrash of the tide; I saw his hands poised between heaven and sea.

The man in the motor-launch sat still as could be; his glassy, sea-blown eyes gazing into space. And Bill's voice was round and above him in nine different keys. He explained that all his hopes of future salvation lay aboard the fast-moving steamer. Would the kind gentleman who owned the launch give chase and put us aboard for a reasonable sum—five shillings, say?

The light of reason came slowly into the launch proprietor's eyes. He drew a short pipe from his pocket and scraped it carefully with a knife.

"Blamed if we ain't goin' to have some weather!" he said huskily. "Bit black over Semaphore way."

Bill sat beside him and held his hand half fiercely. He explained that the mail boat was leaving us behind. He repeated his argument in a voice full of suppressed rage. The little old man heard him sorrowfully, but made no attempt to put off. He told us that the business of catching mail boats was full of peril and hardships. Only a month before his launch had been struck by a departing steamer's propeller while endeavouring at to put a couple of desperately-belated passengers aboard.

"Well make it half-a-sovereign, then," said Bill hoarsely. "And we'll take all chances."

The launch-owner glanced dreamfully at the skyline as though it were a distant relation of his. By no word or smile did he acknowledge Bill's offer.

We breathed miserably and waited for the old man to speak.

"If it was for me own child I couldn't do it." he said at last. "It's a terrible long way from here to the steamer. An' she's tearin' up the water more'n I care about."

Bill spoke again and there was another ten shillings in his voice. Nothing a happened. It seemed to us as though the grey- whiskered old battler had been bargaining with desperate passengers all his life. His old sea-blown eyes measured the horizon and the throbbing keel of the outgoing ship leisurely.

"I'll do it for ye," he said after a while: "if ye'll make it another half-crown."

We closed with the offer and sprang aboard nimbly, and were soon tearing horizonwards in the direction of the big Orotava's black smoke-line.

"We ain't got no hope," drawled the old man dismally. "It's terrible waste of time chasin' a 16-knot mail boat."

The motor-launch fretted and plunged in the wake of the leviathan. A crowd to of inquisitive passengers gathered on the starboard side and watched us jubilantly. We could hear them betting on our chance of being taken aboard alive.

"They'll slow down when they sight us." said Bill hopefully. "They wouldn't leave us behind."

"Them slow down!" grunted the boat-chaser. "Why, if yer wife an' family was cryin' out to ye over the rail they wouldn't let down a pound of steam. Mail boats ain't got no feelin's, young man."

The great onrushing steamer was indifferent to our presence. Like a blind colossus she wore seaward, hooting and clearing the blue with her giant shoulders. Several lady passengers waved their handkerchiefs to us.

"If ye'd make it another five bob," broke in the old man, "I'll open her out an' chance it."

We counted out another five shillings. The old man pocketed it lazily and smiled.

"Hold on!" he shouted suddenly "We'll board her on the port."

The launch seemed to leap forward through the blinding spray, shivering and rattling as the seas slapped her hood and funnel. Foot by toot we gained on the Orotava until we ran drenched and half-blinded under her port davits.

The bosun's mate appeared casually over the rail. He regarded us coldly and with to evident disfavour.

"This sort of thing's against the regulations," he said loudly. "Why don't you come aboard in the proper way?"

"Now, Joe," cried our boat-catcher, oilily. "These two chaps are breakin' their hearts to 'ave a bottle of wine with you."

The bos'n was silent. His head disappeared suddenly; then a long wet rope struck us with the force of a well-flung lariat.

"Up for yer lives!" shouted the old man. "Up an' hold!"

Luckily there was no sea on as we clung tooth and nail to the line. Bill scrambled after me with the celerity of a man-o'-war's man. Wet, but grateful we tumbled over the rail.

An officer passed us smartly as we stepped on deck. Bill saluted sarcastically.

"Yer might have waited half a minute," he said loudly. "Me an' me mate represent sixty pounds' worth of passage money."

The officer looked witheringly at Bill, but made no reply.

"Suppose," continued Bill, following him leisurely; "suppose one of your fifty-pound life-boats had broken loose, would you have stopped to pick it up?"

The officer turned eyed him curiously, and vanished down the saloon stairs.

"My word you would!" cried Bill. "You'd have slewed round an' thrown the patent gasometer over the ship's parallelogram."

The stewards are amiable fellows. Constant intercourse with passengers makes them nimble-minded and human. The ship's officer is a different fellow. If you address him suddenly he will look at you for ninety seconds without answering. And if you say things about his gold braid and unimpeachable pants he will retire and invite another uniformed creature to look hard in your direction.

Most of the firemen and sailors say "Baa!" whenever Bill passes along the deck. He doesn't mind. He told them the other night that he'd sooner be mistaken for a crow than a ship's greaser. It must he admitted that he annoys these Cockney firemen. Whenever they come up from below he barks at them from the taffrail. It is a real kind of a bark that causes them to skip round and claw the air with both hands. Bill learned the barking trick when he lost his doe while taking a mob of sheep from Gunnedah to Narrabri once.


THE run across the Bight from Adelaide to Fremantle is sometimes an uneventful performance. While idling below we discovered casually that our mattresses were stuffed with seaweed. No wonder we sleep like Polar bears.

Seaweed makes an excellent bed. It gives out a slight flavour of ozone not unlike St. Kilda beach at low tide. We intend asking the ship's doctor whether seaweed mattresses are intended as a cure for insomnia.

Nice little article for a journalist: Seaweed mattresses: A Cure for Broken down Nerves! London likes to hear about its broken-down nerves.


V. — MAN OVERBOARD!

The West Australian, 1 June 1907

SUNDAY was an eventful day. An Austrian gum- digger from New Zealand had been acting strangely ever since he came aboard. At 4 o'clock in the afternoon he scrambled over the rail and plunged into the sea. His comrade, a big-bodied, black- whiskered fellow, tore round the decks, snatching frantically at all the available lifebuoys and hurling them over the side. The stewards forcibly restrained him from denuding the ship of its stock of life-saving appliances.

Strange how quickly a man disappears when a moderate sea is running! The eye is continually baffled by the swift-changing surface currents. It was at first surmised that our man had been swept astern, and caught by the propeller. The Orotava slewed round; a boat was lowered in fairly good time, and was soon pulling back through the long, white wake astern. No sign of the gum-digger anywhere. The boat cut here and there, travelling far, until it was lost to view.

A mail boat is as impatient of delay as a woman with an appointment. She fretted and heaved while several officers searched the wave hollows from the bridge for a glimpse of the unfortunate man. Five hundred people crowded the sides, peering across the long in-sliding seas that swept under our stern. A flock of sea hawks and albatrosses circled in groups at a certain point in our wake. A dozen glasses covered them to ascertain whether the struggles of the Austrian had caused the unusual commotion among the birds. Brown-winged mollyhawks and black shags joined the scrimmage, thrashing and screaming in mid-air, as though anxious to share the spoil.

"Those big birds will drown a man," said one of the sailors to me. "I've seen 'em settle on the head of a swimming boy and drive him under."

"They're a derned sight worse than sharks," added a New York man excitedly. "I got adrift from a whaleboat up in the Barrier, some years ago, and a big, skulking cow-bird came at me claw and wing, as if it wanted my two eyes for breakfast.

"A man can't fight birds when he's swimming for his life. He's got to chew up all his bad language and duck his head," continued the American. "I ducked every time it clawed my head until I was blamed near silly and half-drowned. Every time my bald head showed above water the derned wings hit me on the face and jaw.

"Then I felt my mate grip me by the shoulder and haul me into the boat. Guess he wasn't a second too soon either. About a dozen other cow-birds had swarmed round and started sharpening their claws against my scalp."

A sudden shout from the Orotava's stern told us that another boat had been lowered. A minute later we beheld the missing Austrian being lifted into the stern, a life-buoy gripped tenaciously in both hands. He had been in the water exactly 35 minutes. His lips were blue from exposure; his jaw hung listlessly as the boat was heaved to the davits. He was placed in hospital immediately and received medical attendance.

Later, an inquiry was held concerning the manner of his going overboard. It has been considered advisable to keep him under strict surveillance during the rest of the trip.

The approach to Fremantle is fairly easy and far less monotonous than that of Melbourne. To the uninitiated eye the deep-water channel is well buoyed and lit, although from Rottnest to Cape Leeuwin the sandbanks have a camel-like habit of appearing on the horizon. A launch conveys passengers up the Swan River to Perth.

We did the trip in a blinding shower of rain—the first for many months. Off Five Fathom Bank lies the hull of the Orizaba, gulls and hawks circling round its weatherbeaten sides. She was caught in a fog more than a year ago, and ran aground. The Orizaba was a splendid sea-boat, and on account of her good qualities her insurance was reduced 50 per cent. The company had decided to withdraw her from the Australian service; but the fog willed otherwise, and Five Fathom Bank holds her till wind and sea shall have sundered her planks.


Illustration

The RMS Orizaba after being abandoned in 1905. It
remained visible for years, gradually breaking up. The
remains on the shallow sea floor are now a diving site.


One hundred and fifty passengers, mostly young men, left at Fremantle, bound for Kalgoorlie and Leonora. The gang of Afghans streamed ashore, glad to be out of the stuffy fore-hold, and eager to face the open camel tracks again. Times are supposed to be dull out West, but the crowd of new arrivals think otherwise.

"It's hot out beyond," said one: "but tucker and wages are all right. Good-bye, old man."

Perth itself was a revelation to us. We had pictured it a veritable Chinatown among the sandhills and ti-tree swamps. The railway from Fremantle to the capital serves a dozen thriving suburbs. Everywhere one sees the hand of the builder at work. Acres of outlying scrub are being cleared; homesteads and factories bob up from behind yellow sandhills and tree-covered heights.

Perth is probably the most modern of Australian cities. The streets are well laid out, and from east to west one feels the throb of new life streaming into the capital. Here and there a dilapidated boarding-house peeps from the rows of well-built dwellings.

The mind goes back to the early nineties, when the East invaded the West, and the strenuous crowds of gold-hungry men flocked in from Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. The ancient boarding-house suggests days and nights of wild excitement when the sand-bitten prospectors crowded back from Bayley's and the Murchison into Perth.

To-day the old coastal steamers are reminiscent of the old days, when crowds of successful miners stampeded homewards in quest of elusive pleasures and the girls they had left behind. These were the days when champagne ran into the scuppers, and every steamer was transformed into a floating Monte Carlo.

"I remember when the first bit of fresh mutton came on to the Great Northern," said Bill. "Neck chops fetched eighteen-pence a pound, and the heads were auctioned at five shilling apiece. The drover who brought 'em over started from Perth with 700 and landed 150. He said there wasn't enough feed on the way out to tickle the leg of a grasshopper."

A decade of stock gambling has produced a shrewd type of business man out West. He is not to be confounded with the Wall- street alligator or the London mining spieler. He is a shrewdly happy man, with enough nous to keep himself free from the soul- rotting influence of the game.

Telegrams to hand announcing the wreck of the Mildura off North-West Cape. She was bound for Fremantle, with several hundred cattle on board. Grim stories are already afloat concerning the last moments of the Mildura....

A stormy night off a treacherous coast. Heavy seas thundering over the frightened ship. Pens and boxes smashing to and fro. Dead cattle and top hampers flung for'rd in Dante-esque heaps. A crew of sweating and half-maddened sailors heaving the dead beasts overboard.

"Cattle ships are hell!" said Bill thoughtfully. "I was cook on the old Dominion, running between Halifax and Liverpool. Her for'ard decks was like the Homebush saleyards. We were carrying three hundred big-horned Canadian cattle to Liverpool; ugly long brutes that any decent Australian squatter would shoot at sight. About three days out from Halifax we walked into dirty weather that took away our funnels and bridge as if they were made of tin.

"About midnight we heard a smashing of glass above, an' one of the stewards came tearin' below with the fear 'of Gawd in his eyes. He had been carryin' drinks into the saloon when the cattle barricade broke away.

"'They're loose!' he sez,' crawlin' under the table. 'Oh, my Gawd, they're loose!'

"We listened... an' heard the big barricades slammin' against the port staunchions. Then a sea lifted an' rolled us down an' down until the water poured through the blamed skylights. The next sea put us on our beam ends, an' spilled the cattle over the deck in scores.

"Don't know that I'm a coward," went on Bill; "but I know when to fold up when the bullocks are out. One of the brutes, a big- horned starver, raced along the galley-way, and galloped right over the stern. The others came after him, until another sea downed the leaders, and in two minutes the alleyway was blocked with broken-legged cattle bashing the life out of each other on the greasy floor.

"A bullock's body was half-hanging across the stairs. They were piled in heaps around the skylight an funnel stays. We had to shoot half of 'em before we could clear the deck an' hoist 'em overboard. Talk about Port Arthur! You don't get me on a boat that ships wild Canadian bulls!"

Bill passed for'ard to assist a pantryman with the dinner. A voice said "Baa" as he passed.

Bill merely smiled. He returned an hour later with a roast fowl wrapped in a newspaper.


VI. — COCKNEY FIREMEN

The West Australian, 8 June 1907

WE left Fremantle at 8 o'clock on Monday night and began our climb north to Colombo. The journey across the Indian Ocean is apt to become monotonous. The endless stretches of sea and sky, the absence of bird life, has a numbing effect on the eye and brain. We spent an hour looking at the ship's freezing chambers, and met a small procession of stewards carrying ice on their backs up to the saloon pantry.

Last trip the ship's cat got locked in one of the freezing chambers and remained there for nine days surrounded by frozen poultry and meat. It is a mystery how she kept herself alive in such an Arctic temperature. When released she bounded upstairs into the hot air and fell asleep on the saloon couch. She was as lively as a kitten the next day.

The English stewards and deck hands appear to suffer from the heat already, and we are five or six-days south of the Line. They are mostly fat, overfed fellows who believe in a good beefsteak and a bottle of stout before going to bunk every night. No wonder they lie awake during the tropic nights wearing a pale bloated expression on their faces.

We have discovered that quite a number of New Zealand boys are working their passage to London. One took on a job in the stokehole, but gave it up before we had been three days out of Fremantle.

The ship's surgeon is busy this morning inside his little deck dispensary. A small procession of patients wait outside on the form. A fireman crawls along the port alleyway exhibiting a badly-scalded foot to his comrades. A white-faced greaser with consumption in his luminous eyes enters the dispensary and is examined by the genial surgeon.

The Cockney fireman is a born tough. He does not mix with the rest of the ship's company. His work unfits him for polite society. The Sydney larrikin would not be seen dead in his company. Down in the throbbing spaces under the engine-room he slams things and rakes with slice-bar and shovel, feeding the fire-hungry boilers that gasp and sigh for coal and yet more coal. His boots are amble-shod to protect his feet from the burning plates. His hands and body are scarred and livid where he has been flung at one time or another against the boiler doors. When ashore he finds much relief in fighting policemen. If he has been stoking for ten years, his brain is more or less affected by the terrible heat and the violent changes to which he is subjected. They come up from below dripping from head to shoe with coal blackened bodies, slack-jawed and limp as fever patients.

The Red Sea is the horror of all white firemen, and black ones for the matter of that. In the majority of cases the rum served out in cold latitudes is saved until Colombo and Aden is reached.

"Rum is our mother and father," said one of them to me. "It feeds us when we can't eat, an' it makes us sing when the heat is crawlin' down our throats."

"But the after-effects?"

"There ain't none. The fires sweat us dry. It shrivels us up an' biles us, an' there ain't no room left for' after effects. I've tried oatmeal water an' cold tea, but neither of 'em keeps off the heat like rum. Rum 'as got hands an' feet, an' it nurses yer when yer dyin' below."

"Do men die below?"

"Die! Some of us was never properly alive. I've seen white- faced corpses of men shovellin' beside me. Yer can't get 'em to speak. Yer never hear 'em complain neither until they lie down, while the second engineer gives 'em an ice poultice."

"How do Australians face the music below?"

"They're quitters when the clinkers are out. Most of 'em would sooner fight the chief than stay through the Red Sea."

"Make the game good enough," broke in Bill, and we'll fill our stokeholes with Australian firemen. Why, stokin's a fool's game compared with sewer work and rock-breaking. I've seen a gang of Australian-born men face choke damp an' dynamite year in an' out, when the wages was all right. But 'you ain't going' to get our live men to sweat in your stokeholes for four pounds a month—not while there's a rabbit in the country."

The discussion ended abruptly.

Increased ventilation has made the stokehole of the average mailboat a more comfortable hell than formerly. But so long as London can supply legions of the damned at three to four pounds a month, the steamship companies will allow poor Jack just enough air to keep him from dying with a shovel in his hands.

A SLIGHT DISSERTATION ON COWS

WE have on board about fifty affluent farmers from New Zealand and Australia. Hard work and strict attention to the butter industry has brought its reward to the majority. It must be admitted that the New Zealanders as a whole swear by the land which gives so bountifully and requires so little in return.

The nights, especially while crossing the Indian Ocean, are delightful beyond compare. In the smoke-room and on deck those well-to-do farmers compare notes and methods of conducting an up- to-date dairy farm. This cow-talk, as it is often referred to by the sailors, is often amusing and full of human interest.

"I'd sooner have women and children to look after my cows than men," said an Otago passenger at dinner. "If a cow kicks a woman she doesn't rise and hit it with an axe or paling. She simply wipes her face and tells the animal that it is a wicked creature, and if she isn't badly hurt, will go on milking again. When a man gets kicked he stands up and belts Gehennna out of poor Strawberry, specially it she is not his own property. Result is that Strawberry gets to hate him, and his milk returns will fall off wonderfully through the year."

"I don't know about women not hitting back," put in Bill suddenly. "Dropped a maul on my wife's toe one morning, and she kept me runnin' round the paddock for 13 minutes by a the clock. Still," said Bill, genially, "I don't remember ever seeing at woman lay violent hands on a cow, although I know a lady out West who hit a bull camel in the nose with a flat-iron when it poked its upper lip through the kitchen window one afternoon. She had great presence of mind, that woman. But she told me afterwards that she mistook the camel's face for a sowing machine canvasser. Some of these machine agents have wonderful upper lips," concluded Bill.

We crossed the Equator at 4 o'clock on Monday, March 25. The day was warm, but not so unbearable as Sydney or Brisbane during midsummer. Consideration must be given to the fact that a mailboat rushing along at 15 knots an hour creates a refreshing air current. Hereabouts the dawn skies are full of weird beauty. The sun peering over the sky-line flings scarf on scarf of wine- red light across the naked East. The north-west monsoon roars into the big-throated windsails, flooding the lower decks with cool air. The vertical sun, when veiled by clouds, casts a blinding salt-white radiance over the face of the ocean.

DODGING A TYPHOON

PAST midnight two officers awoke the captain, who appeared suddenly on the bridge scanning the distant horizon. Since eleven o'clock the barometer had fallen considerably, and the sound of the bos'n's whistle and the hurrying or feet along the deck warned us that something special in the way of typhoons was bounding across the far West.

A strip of inky cloud about the size of a shawl fluttered on the horizon. A far-off humming noise reached us as though innumerable harp-strings were being rent asunder. The black cloud-shawl opened fanwise, revealing its huge wind-torn body.

"Heaven help the cargo ship that runs into it to-night!" said an old salt standing near the bridge.

The sea grew white under the enfolding body of the cloud, as though whipped into mountainous waves by the fury of its onslaught. Incidentally our ship turned her heels to the onrushing mass of cloud and water, her increased funnel-smoke showing that pressure was being brought to carry us beyond the track of the old-man typhoon.

The strumming note of the storm changed swiftly to a deep booming sound that seemed to slide under out keel with the force of an avalanche The water fairly snarled as it flew over the rail. The fury of the wind-driven waves is incredible. They appear to attack a ship from all points, as though guided by an unseen brain. The wrenchings and groanings of a big ship as she plunges and rolls into the mountainous hollows are almost human.

Imagine a sea sweeping away a couple of lifeboats fixed securely in their davits forty feet above the surface of the water. Mile on mile we skirted the down-rushing typhoon, which seemed to confine its operations within a special area. Far away in the west the sky was clear and full, of stars. Yet the near east was a cauldron of storm-whipped clouds and seething water.

"We's only caught the edge of it!" shouted a voice in my ear. '"It doesn't pay to run away from ordinary storms, but this affair would bend our patent ceilings and deck-fittings if we pushed through it. Indian typhoons are better left alone."

And so it proved even though we had only danced a polka on the skirts of the storm. Two hundred gallons of fresh milk had been burst asunder in the ice-room. A row of sharp meaty hooks pressing suddenly against the big tins had sliced them asunder, allowing the milk to run over the floor. About a hundredweight of crockery came to grief before the pantrymen could stow it safely away.

To prevent loss by carelessness on the part of these servants, many of the Australasian shipping companies have inaugurated a Missing Silver Fund. At the end of every trip the chief steward goes over the table cutlery and plate carefully and each missing article has to be made good from the fund. As much as ten shillings per head is deducted from the stewards' salary to replace lost articles. The chief explained the matter briefly to a party of saloon passengers one morning.

"Before the Missing Silver Fund was started," he said, "our losses through carelessness were very severe. Last year a pantryman left a locker of entree dishes and tureens near the port rail while he adjourned to a cabin to light a cigarette. The vessel rolled suddenly and 150 of plate went overboard.

"I had occasion to watch a young Australian steward one morning," went on the chief. "He was engaged in sweeping out the first saloon smoking-room. It was his duty to rinse the cuspidors, very expensive articles, costing us from one pound to thirty shillings each. He picked up one casually, looked round the empty smoke-room sharply, and pitched it through the port- hole. 'One less to clean,' he said, and went on sweeping. Yes, we've got a check on that kind of thing now. The stewards watch each other, and every spoon and fork and dish is guarded pretty closely."

Within three hours we had left the typhoon-area in our wake, and the grey dawn showed us the black funnels of a P. and O. liner bound from Colombo to Fremantle, her saloon lights gleaming with star-like brilliance across the naked sea levels.

DISHONEST CABIN STEWARDS

EVERY sea traveller is at the mercy of his cabin attendant. Ladies are usually the easiest victims, and during a long trip the cabin thief has plenty of time to shepherd the movements of his intended prey.

The thief is careful not to rob a passenger under his charge. He prefers for obvious reasons, to purloin from people far removed from his own round. It must be admitted that Australian shipping companies are swift to punish all cabin-marauders who manage to sneak into their service. But it is almost impossible to deal with the vast, ever-changing army of stewards who habitually sail under assumed names and borrowed discharges.

One occasionally meets a Cockney rascal who brags of his success as a cabin thief. The lightest appeal to his criminal vanity will extract the desired information.

"Hi'm a pore bloke on the look out for snatches," chuckled an undersized imp recently. "You cawn't 'elp makin' a bit when yer lookin' after sick passengers. I nicked a diamond ring lawst trip while the old lydy was comin' out of the bawth-room. The bawth- room's the plice to find rings. Soap an' water eases 'em off the finger, an' they drop on the floor.

"Yus, I picked up this kooh-i-noor, an' blime it was nearly 'arf 'a pound weight, big as a glass-stopper, in fact.

"Ten minutes after, when the old lydy gave, the alarm, the whole ship turned out to look under the bunks an' feel down the bawth-room pipes for it.

"The doctor's boy comes up to me point-blank. 'Hey, Wilkin', he says, 'chief wants yer. Reckon he saw yer pokin' round the bawth-room just now.'

"Nice pickle, I sez to myself. If they catch me with the diamond in me pocket. I'll go to choke. I ducked below into the stokehole, and puts me little koh-i-noor under a 'eap of coal. Then I tore on deck casu'lly and faces the chief.

"'About that diamond. Wilky,' he sez. 'Stand up straight now, yer eyes are shinin' like a Newgate lamp. Where's the diamond, Wilky?'

"'Diamond?' I sez. 'Why, Lord like me, I ain't seen nothin' brighter than me hat since mother died! I 'ope yer don't think I borrowed the old lydy's blinker?'

"The master at arms searched me, an' then the 'ead stooward ran his 'ands over me leadin' features.

"'Wilk,' he sez, 'tike care of yourself. Some diy you'll fall over the door-mat.'

"'An' I 'ope you'll keen' yer chin up when the floor hits you,' I sez perlitely.

"With that I started on me cabins an' cleaned up before inspection. After I'd finished I toddled into the stoke-hole to warm me 'ands:

"'Ello, Friday,' says I to one of the firemen. 'Ow would a bit of roast duck go before dinner?'

"I dawnced past him and looked for me little 'eap of coal in the corner of the bunker.

"Where's the bit o' slack that was 'ere an hour ago, Friday?' sez I. 'Blime, you ain't been sweepin' up. I 'ope.'

"'Cleaned up the plates five minutes ago, Wilk,' says he. 'All the dirt's gone into the fire, my boy. What about the roast duck?'

"'You blasted old —!' I sez. 'I 'ope you'll die face down in quod.'

"It was the on'y blessin' I ever chucked away. It's bloomin' hard to pray for yer enemy after he's shovelled yer diamond into the fire. If I'd been 'arf a foot bigger I'd've shovelled him in on top of it. Wouldn't you, eh?"


VII. — CEYLON, THE FOOTSTOOL OF ASIA...
AND THE SICK MAN'S GARDEN

The West Australian, 15 June 1907

Illustration

Colombo, Ceylon, 1907.


MIDNIGHT, March 27: A faint odour of cinnamon stole through the sweltering air. After ten days of sea and sky men moved uneasily in their cabins, as though a strange voice was hailing them. Men and children came up from their stuffy berths, fixing their land-hungry eyes on the far north. A white light flowered ahead, and stabbed the darkness with its pointed warning. Later a procession of moon-sized lamps wheeled upon us from the north-north-east where Colombo sweats on the edge of the Line.

The hot darkness seemed to press upon the fact of the scarce- moving sea. An unquenchable heat enveloped the ship—a sticky, slimy boat, loaded with perfume and occasional swamp odours. Out of this steaming darkness came boats and murmuring voices. And long before we had dropped anchor a number of shining bodies appeared on our port rail—wet-skinned Tamils and Cingalee laundrymen, voiceless as yet, but eager for business when the moment arrived.

It would take a hundred stock-whips to keep the adventurous Cingalee from entering your cabin. As fast as the stewards drive him from one quarter of the ship he descends another. He is an aggravating small thief in his way; his eyes are full of tender reproach when you accuse him of stealing your razors and soap. Caught in the act of opening your valise, he will tell you point- blank that it is not a valise, and that he is not in your cabin. In fact, he will swear that he is not himself, and that you are another person altogether. His logic is bewildering. But it is a great relief to hit him with his own thick walking-cane.

Four Tamil coolies rowed us ashore in an evil-smelling fruit boat and cast us adrift on an unfriendly pier, swarming with backsheesh men and Malays. The backsheesh fiend charges two cents for wishing you good morning; the memory of his villainous breath will follow us across the three oceans.

Climbing the pier steps, we walked, so to speak, from the sea's bosom across the feet of Asia. It was not yet day, but the red roads stretched suddenly before us in an Eastern frenzy of colour. At the end of one red road stood a pile of salt-white buildings, fronted with Irish-green palms and lip-red flowers. We passed the Governor's residence, where an army of high-caste Tamils were sweeping the wide lawns and beating fawn-grey carpets against the austere palm boles. Large Asian roses climbed over the teak-shingled roofs. Native servants in pantomime-coloured silks flitted across the road, carrying flowers and feather- dusters and brass trays.

The dawn was thick with crows; the road and housetops were alive with them. They foregathered within the porches of the Government buildings and on the steps of the drinking fountains. They ca'aed at the post-office windows and obstructed the foot- walk. Unlike the Australian crow, the Ceylon carrion-eater will venture within kicking-distance, and refuses to be shooed away. No one interferes with them; they are as sacred as the Indian bull or the tooth of Buddha.

A crowd of rickshaw men ran out to meet us: in a jiffy we were being rushed through the native quarter of Colombo towards the famous Cinnamon Gardens. The native quarter of Colombo is the abode of the Seven Smells. We had smelt dead whales at Eden, but the odours that walked from the native bazaars will always occupy the top hole in our memory. Every doorway held its sleeping coolie, some huddled on mats, others stretched corpse-like in front of their wares. The sea-weary eye turns gratefully upon the still, palm-shrouded lagoons which flank the narrow, chrome- coloured roads, beaten to powder by the tramping of innumerable feet. On our right stood a wide-gabled Buddhist temple, its crow- covered roof crimsoning in the sun-rays. A priest was standing in the courtyard, motionless as a stake, his old eyes fixed on the reddening East.

At the foot of the temple steps a crowd of boys were splashing and swimming in an artificial lake. Entering the Cinnamon Gardens we passed troops of Cingalese girls running towards a white- walled silk factory, shut in by dense foliage and creepers. The hot air was full of laughter as they ran. They laughed at the Australian's straw hat and the kingly way he sat in his 20 cent rickshaw.

There is small worry in a land where girls and women run laughing to work. One recalls the crowd of stern-laced factory girls that troop from the Sydney and Melbourne railway stations on their way to their obnoxious toil. Also, the Cingalee girl is very happy while earning her 25 cents a week, and she is never so tired as the Sydney tearoom girl earning thirty times the amount.

The streets are crowded with processions of heavy waggons drawn by small buffaloes. The Ceylon buffalo is not to be compared with the Australian bullock. In comparison with the fast-moving native animal the bullock is a snail and a full brother to the tortoise. At a touch of the hand the mouse- coloured little bull drops into a fast canter that equals the pace of an ordinary pony. The lush native grasses and irrigated feeding-grounds are responsible for the buffalo's stamina and condition. When unyoked at night from his heavy pole, after a 16- hour jaunt under an equatorial sun, it will gallop to the nearest lagoon and wallow in mud and grass until dawn.

Everyone visits the Buddhist temple, where the tooth has reposed for centuries. The exhibition of the sacred molar is a silly fraud. The real tooth was smuggled here from India 1,500 years ago in the coils of a princess's hair. It was afterwards stolen sand passed into the hands of a Cairo Jew. After inspecting the alleged tooth it occurred to us that the long departed Buddha could have easily beaten the average shark in the way of jaw formation if the rest of his front teeth compared with the one on view.

As the sun rose over the temple roof a young Tamil girl appeared from a palm-shadowed hut, leading a small, slate- coloured bull to the sandy shore of a lagoon. Drawn about her waist was a sarong of unutterable scarlet. The bull walked beside her gravely until the lagoon water splashed their hips. Singing softly to herself, she began to wash the mud-covered flanks and surly head beside her. Her dripping black hair swished about her naked shoulders as she stooped and emptied a vessel of water over herself and another over the sullen little buffalo.

Other girls came to the lagoon leading fawn and black buffaloes by the ears. The nuggety little animals stood motionless while the small brown hands scrubbed them from head to heel. The Australian girl is too tired to wash her father's cows, although the writer once saw a hefty woman assisting her husband to dye a horse. They had a scheme on hand for running it under a false name.

The Cinnamon Gardens is a pulseless kind of a beauty spot. It is the garden of sick men and pale perfumes. Along its borders are endless palm-sheltered roads and stagnant malarial lakes. Around these malarial lakes are scores of pretty detached villas, owned by prosperous tea and rubber planters. Every garden and lawn has its half-dozen native attendants, watering flowers, cutting grass, and trimming the long rows of English hedges. The affluent Cingalese merchant rides city-wards in his fashionable dog-cart or Victoria. Behind him a couple of thin-legged Tamil servants to yell at the mob and threaten the obnoxious rickshaw men.

Many of the Cingalese merchants are enormously wealthy, owning large silk and tobacco warehouses. Their wives and daughters rarely associate with white men, and one seldom hears of a Cingalese girl marrying out of her religion. They are mostly Buddhists and vegetarians, and when it comes to-driving a bargain the local Hebrew is comparatively a voiceless nonentity.

Between 8 and 9 o'clock the city roads are crowded with Cingalese boys hurrying to school. They read and coach each other in English as they pass along, correcting their arithmetic, and spelling aloud in their native earnestness to acquire, the language. As youngsters, they are abnormally intelligent and far ahead of the average British boy. In after years they fill nearly all the Government positions, from station master to town clerk.

Returned from the Cinnamon, feeling hot and depressed. The numerous convalescent Englishmen, taking their early walk, made us feel lonely. Colombo impressed us as a violently unhealthy place. The death rate among local whites this year is higher than that of the Gold-Coast, West Africa. As we crossed the hotel mat a Cingalese rose wearily from beneath, and told us in a faint voice that we had walked on his body. Half-an-hour later he appealed for compensation, and received threepence.

Climbing the hotel stairs we stepped gingerly over the faces of the long-haired men and boys sleeping in the corridors and doorways. An hotel coolie will pass the night anywhere except in bed. He will sleep on the roof or in the bath under the shower drip. We saw several legs dangling over the waterspout immediately over the bedroom window. Spent ten minutes trying to lasso a pair of hanging feet with some barbed wire. Feet shifted suddenly.

The white man in the tropics rarely changes his habits. He clings to his 10 x 12 bedroom, and closes the windows every night, even though the temperature is past the nineties. The hotel bedroom kills half the white men living on the Line.

In Ceylon hotel rates vary from six to ten rupees a day. If a native servant extinguishes your candle at night he expects a tip, and he will follow you through he streets calling out the nature of your meanness until you disgorge.

In certain districts the Government have provided rest houses for travellers. Every item is charged for separately; even bed linen is looked upon as an extra, while bed and bedroom cost 50 cents each. A 30-cent charge for habitation knocks the Australian endwise when he scans his first bill.

The Ceylon police are unable to control the coolie mob that besiege visitors at every rahway station. The unwary traveller suddenly finds himself surrounded by a clamouring, hysterical body of Tamils who refuse to let him pass until he inspects their stock of cinnamon sticks or packets of dirt-smeared post- cards.

THE WHITE GANGER

AT Lighthouse Point Battery we saw a fat white man seated on a sandhill bossing a gang of girl navvies. There were 100 in all, brown-skinned Tamil maidens of the coolie class. Some were handsome, heavy-limbed youngsters, well-set, and strong as horses. They carried baskets of stone on their heads with freedom and grace. Others manipulated sand, carrying it from the beach to the railway embankment. One or two women with children at hip slaved through the ankle-gripping drifts to deposit their loads on the growing heaps. The women earn from 12 to 15 cents a day. For similar work in Australia a white navvy would receive seven shillings at least, and would probably throw down his basket after the first hour.

Occasionally when the sand-shifters slackened their gait or exhibited signs of fatigue, the fat white overseer would rise and address the sweating female gang in a voice of thunder. The younger Tamil girls responded like horses under the whip, outstripping the women with the babies and flinging down their loads of stone and sand with great bravado.

The fat white man impressed me considerably. I met dozens of his kind later while journeying from Colombo to Kandy. He is the noble warm-water Englishman who drifts equatorwards in quest of a soft job. At home he is the man who can he spared. He has sailed in the army or navy, and his weary eye turns towards India or Ceylon. His lotus-like instinct warns him that Australia is no place for a drifter, and he finally wanders to the land of the coolie and the long lazy afternoon. He usually find a billet on the rubber plantations as assistant superintendent, bossing women coolies and shouting himself hoarse over the mistakes of soft- eyed, ill-trained native children. The warm-water Englishman is, no doubt, a good fellow in his way. He sends his wife and children to the hill sanatoriums, and attends the funeral of his brother overseers whenever they die of heat apoplexy or overfeeding. Still one does not care to recall the tired white man and his gang of sweating Tamil girls. It is the cry of the mother that hurts, the little pitiful calls of the child-burdened women asking for a moment's respite as they struggle over the sand drifts to build the white man's breakwater.


VIII. — COOLIE LABOUR IN CEYLON

The West Australian, 19 June 1907

ON the morning of our arrival we received a visit from a well-known Australian, who invited us to stay for a few days at Dambatenne, one of Sir Thomas Lipton's tea estates. Dambatenne is about 70 miles inland, and is reached by a railway which passes through the most gorgeous mountain scenery on earth.

The Easter holiday trains were crowded with visitors to Newara Eliya, the Simla of Ceylon. Newara Eliya has an elevation of 6,200 feet above sea level. The rahway climbs over steep gorges and mountain torrents, and there are times when the traveller has to leave his sleeping berth and walk behind the train when landslips or washaways are expected!

During the wet season, washaways are pretty frequent. Last year a pilgrim, train, bound for Kandy slipped over an embankment and it emptied a crowd of screaming men and women into the gorge below. About 40 were killed outright, and to-day many passengers crawl after the train when it arrives at a dangerous curve on the mountain side rather than risk a ride where a mere wheel separates them from eternity.

In the refreshment car I sat near a fat white man wearing a solar topee and a big Burmese ruby on his middle finger. He was addressing another pale face over a whisky and soda, and his high-falutin' views on coolie labour set me thinking hard.

"A man comes here and take up rubber land at twenty, rupees an acre," he said loudly. "He spends two thousand rupees clearing and building his coolie lines and feeding 'em. My advice is: 'Don't pay your Tamils until the land pays you.' They'll grumble a bit and sulk, but your head kangani will boot the grumblers off the estate. I know one coffee man which ran his lot for three years without paying a cent in wages to his coolies. He kept on discharging the disaffected ones and filled his lines with fresh boys from the low country about every six months. Oh, you don't got me giving any substance to coolies until the estate begins to pay."

"That man is a skite," whispered a traveller. "Ceylon is full of such men. The Tamil labourer is too darned cute to work without pay. If you played the trick on a gang of low country coolies they'd stone you out of yer bungalow."

Arriving at Nanowya, we changed for Haputale, and after another 30 mile train ride through winding gorges and jungle-clad slopes we alighted at Haputale in the drizzling rain. The heavy, down-rolling mists blotted out mountains and valleys. The low thunder of innumerable falls broke through the wet silence.

A narrow mountain road was visible beyond the endless vista of close-planted para trees. A score of half-naked, loin-clothed Mahommedan boys surrounded us, eager to carry our luggage to Dambatenne estate six miles away. Two sturdy little chaps, aged 12, seized our bags weighing 70 lbs each, placed them on their heads and start off.

The mountain path was smooth as a pavement and well-metalled. We passed numerous gangs of road-menders, who spend their lives watching for breakaways and landslips. Bullock carts passed in long processions carrying boxes of Dambatenne tea to the railway.

At every milestone we came upon little families of metal- breakers, mostly, women and children. They sat cross-legged before a pile of stones, humming away and singing softly while an aged coolie measured their heaps from time to time. Many of the Tamil and Mahommedan girls have beautiful faces and eyes, Their husbands—they marry at 14—are mostly crooked-limbed old men who live on their earnings, and beat them unmercifully when the stone heap fails to come up to expectations. One palsied rogue in the Haputale district has six Tamil girl wives. They crack stones for him year in and year out, and assist him in his little government contracts, receiving only their daily rice and periodical beatings.

Our two boy carriers regarded us from time to time with gazelle-like eyes as we trudged along the narrow mountain path. They referred to me in pigeon English as the master of their destinies and the keeper of Tamil souls. "They would die like pigs for me," they said, They were prepared to suffer the pangs of boiling water if it would increase thy happiness. Tinyon, the younger boy, threatened to kill himself at an early date if he failed to remember me in his prayers.

But when we arrived at the Dambatenne bungalow their manner changed swiftly. They drew aside frostily, and refused to accept the two rupees offered for carrying the bags. Two rupees was not enough to buy dog food, they said. Did I consider myself a white bahadur, or merely the progeny of a slave woman?

I pointed out that twelve cents was considered fair weekly wages for a Tamil boy, and that Ceylon was full of strong men eager to earn 30 cents a day on a fever-stricken plantation, they sulked and eyed me from afar, their ragged flea-bitten sarongs drawn tightly around their little chins. One of them called me a nathanga. I pulled out my Tamil dictionary and found that a nathanga was a stealer of children's bodies and a drinker of human blood.

Hereat, the keeper of the bungalow, a wiry coolie, appeared with a short cane and fell on the boys with hawk-like ferocity.

"Two rupees!" he shouted. "More silver than thy jackal fathers ever saw. Two rupees, and you turn away your monkey heads!"

He pursued them for nearly a mile down the wet mountain road.

Glancing upwards, I beheld a line of Tamil girls and children peering down at me from the endless rows of trees. Fastened to their backs was a wicker basket and as they plucked at the fresh young shoots they kept an eye on the grey-whiskered kangani or headman stationed on the hill above.

All around in the mist-wrapped valleys stood the dwarf-like tea trees covering the hillsides and mountain tops in thousands. Through the rains went the slow procession of tea pluckers, children, girls, and women, with babies tucked away under their shawl-covered hips.

The babies looked at us with round black eyes. Some of them wailed slightly as the rain beat in their faces.

Everywhere on these, tea estates one meets gangs of coolies clearing jungle land and preparing it for planting. The work is all done by contract, and the cost of clearing never exceeds 18 rupees per acre.

For scrubbing and preparing similar land in New South Wales I have paid 10 per acre. Some of the Ceylon jungle timber is as tough as ironbark, and very hard to burn off. The Tamil coolie uses a long-handled axe and cross-cut saw, and for 12 hours' work he earns at the rate of sixpence per day.


IX. — MY FIRST ELEPHANT

The West Australian, 22 June 1907

FROM all parts of the estate complaints are heard concerning the midnight elephant. Fences and palisades are rent asunder: tea trees and rubber saplings trampled underfoot as the unwieldy rogues wander from field to field. The price of 100 rupees is on the head of one plantation wrecker that has terrorised this district and eluded the sporting guns of the travelling Englishmen.

Jackals, red deer, leopards, and monkeys inhabit the mountain slopes, often venturing within the rest-houses and bungalow enclosures. Yesterday we started out in company with a gang of coolies, and crossed the spoor of an elephant and calf. We followed it through the tea, past broken palisades, into a neighbouring plantation. Young trees had been uprooted, and flung far and near, as though mother and baby thoroughly enjoyed wrecking newly-planted rubber trees. The rubber coolies had fled in panic to their lines, bringing out all the available dog population to guard the front and rear entrances. An old white- whiskered Tamil stood near a crowd of babies, and threatened to annihilate any number of elephants that broke through the lines.

Turning across the hillside we heard a furious barking of dogs beyond the boulder-strewn gully. The panting coolies pointed to a huge drab-coloured back stalking through the long lemon grass. In the rear tramped the baby elephant, uprooting tea plants and squealing mischievously. A couple of rough Scotch terriers ran behind the marauders, barking and snapping as they tried to head the beasts back to the village. A pot-shot from an old 12-bore Mannlicher cut through a para tree above the great flapping ears. Next moment mother and baby disappeared over the jungle-clad ridge on our right.

"No good to follow in there!" shouted the head kangani. "One dam leopard always follow baby elephant. Jackal come out. No good to go in there, sinna dorai."

The sinna dorai did not pursue the mother elephant further; his capacity for avoiding mother elephants amounted to absolute genius. He returned to the bungalow, and explained to the superintendent that in Australia we do not assault an elephant with 12 bore Mannlicher rifles. We prefer to destroy them with rabbit poison.

PLANTATION BUNGALOWS

Illustration

Lipton's Dambatenne Estate, Ceylon.


NEAR Dambatenne tea estate we sighted an old Boer encampment among the hills; a grey, wind-stricken place, where several thousand Dutch pioneers were encamped during the war. The rain beats through the broken windows, and at night troops of monkeys chatter over the deserted hearths, where the sullen burghers used to sit waiting for the order of release. Many of the young Boers, while in Ceylon, obtained permission to prospect for gold in the surrounding hills. Some declared that the country resembled the Witterwalden district, and hopes were held out that good gold would be found in the near gullies and ridges. After six months' prospecting only a few specks were found, and the best specimens only panned out a few pennyweights to the ton.


Illustration

There was a large Boer-war POW camp nearby, which closed
in 1902. A handful of Boers declined to acknowledge British
rule in South Africa and lingered in Ceylon a few years more.


The Ceylon hill bungalow is far more comfortable than the average hotel. They are inhabited mostly by unmarried tea estate superintendents. To every white overseer are allotted three or four Tamil servants, a first-class cook, and kitchen coolie. The superintendent receives from six to eight hundred pounds a year. He is usually unmarried, and his life is spent among the dark people who swarm over the estate.

The tea companies of Ceylon are not anxious to engage married men. The climate of the low countries rarely agrees with the white woman, and the more healthy hill estates are terribly lonely places, shut in by jungle and bad mountain roads. The prospect does not appeal to women of taste and refinement, especially Englishwomen.

It goes without saying that the cheap Tamil labourer is often a quarrelsome follow with a yellow eye. Murders among themselves are frequent. Only the other day the manager of a big ten estate interposed between a couple of road-makers, fighting knife and sword among the boulders. The Tamil with the knife received four inches of sword blade in the throat before matters were settled. Dambatenne estate has 1,200 acres under cultivation, and runs one coolie to the acre. Tea could not be profitably grown in Australia, although soil and climate are in many places suitable for its cultivation. The trees have to be constantly pruned and manured. Ten pounds' worth of tea is considered a good annual yield for an acre of land, and very few white men or women could successfully treat and cultivate three acres of tea per annum. From 20 to 30 cents is considered a fair day's wages for a coolie labourer. Women receive 20, children 10 to 15.

Ceylon planters agree that the Tamil is the finest coloured labourer in the world. He is imported from Southern India, and improves wonderfully under the beneficial influence of the Ceylon hill climate.

Third day at Dambatenne I witnessed the punishment meted out to a girl "bolter." She had run away to an estate 30 miles distant, and had been promptly returned by the white manager in charge. The kangasi, or head man, assembled all the Dambatenne coolies in front of the factory, and called to the girl to stand forward. Stepping from the coolie ranks she eyed him coldly, head thrown back, her hands gripped at her sides.

"Why run away from your father and mother, Imalia?" thundered the kangani. "Why do you run from the estate?"

Silence from the girl. The kangani shrugged his shoulders, and ejected a stream of betel juice from his mouth.

"I shall now send for the police, Imalia," he went on. "The police with the buttons and the big handcuffs."

"Do not send for the police, Abswala." She glanced at him with a sudden fear in her eyes. "Beat me here before my people."

"Beat her, Abswala!" shouted the mother of the girl from the coolie ranks. "'Beat her until she lies at your feet: She is no honour to me."

The kangani's eyes gleamed tenderly. "I will beat her." he said softly. '"I will beat her well with both hands."

Snatching up a thick cane, he leaped forward, striking her hard between the neck and shoulders. She crouched forward as the cane cut her again and again but made no cry or appeal for mercy.

"Kill her, Abswala!" screamed her mother. "Lay her at your feet; she is no honour to me."

"I will not kill her," answered the head man, cutting at her fiercely. "But I must teach her that she is a log, and that the estate is her father."

At a sign from the superintendent the punishment ceased and the girl crawled back to her work without a murmur.

"These bolters are a great nuisance," said the superintendent afterwards. "Very often a crowd of coolies will leave in the night, seeking employment on some distant estate. In many cases the managers notify us at once, but their are times when estates are hard up for labour, refuse to give up the bolters, and we lose our men."

This morning a Tamil boy was brought in from the hills bleeding profusely from the shoulder and ribs. While passing towards the wire shoot he had come face to face with a full grown leopard. In a flash the brute seized him by the shoulders, and proceeded to worry him like a dog.

Fortunately a crowd of tree-fellers were on the spot, and the man-eating leopard was hunted back to the jungle. A reward of 50 rupees has been offered by the Government for its skin.

One does not easily forget the first night spent in a hill bungalow. About 8 o'clock we heard a terrible scuffling on the verandah outside. Then came sharp screams, accompanied by furious thumping sounds, as though a hundred cats were steeplechasing over the rails. Peering cautiously into the darkness, we saw about a dozen black-faced monkeys scrambling over the trellis work. Below a small fox terrier yapped frantically, trying to head off another troop of long-tailed marauders that were jabbering at the kitchen window after scraps of bread and fruit. Later we were aroused by the mournful barking of an elk as it passed down the valley, almost within 50 yards of the bungalow.

The marriage customs of the Tamils are intricate, and often baffle the understanding of the white man. At Dambatenne recently the motherless son of a coolie, an infant of three years, was married to a woman of 25. The arrangement freed the father from all future anxiety concerning the child's up-bringing, it being the duty of the woman to act as nurse and guardian to her young husband.


X. — THE C.G.O (CEYLON GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL)

The West Australian, 22 June 1907

THE Ceylon Government official prides himself on his red tape. It must be borne in mind; however, that C.G.O. is a coloured person whose ancestors worked the system to death long before the white person had emerged from his cave. Travelling to Kandy we forgot to change at Nanouya, and were carried on to Newera Eliya, the Simla of Ceylon. We were immediately invited to contribute eight rupees to the railways as a kind of overshoot money. We were told that if we cared to apply in writing to the head official we might get our eight rupees refunded. We applied and awaited results. Nothing happened, except courtesy and silence. We began to feel that our eight rupees had got jammed in the tape machine, and we wrote again stating that unless some of the eight rupees were immediately rebated we would become insolvent and a burden to the Government.

Five days later a reply came telling us that the Government was considering our 8 rupees. It referred us to section 9, rule 10, of the Ceylon Railway Act. It requested us not to be in a hurry for our success, but to view dispassionately rule 79, section 4.

It occurred to us that the leisureliness of the Ceylon Government amounted to positive indecency. We replied again, saying that we intended to become a backsheesh man and a beggar in the streets of Colombo!

Following day we entered a Government rest-house at Gampolo and stayed for the night, while an old-man cyclone tore round the neighbouring coconut plantations and prostrated about fifty acres of banyan grove.

At daybreak I was aroused by a rest-house official with a bill for shelter, bed, supper, and breakfast. The amount was exactly 8 rupees. We tendered a sovereign as payment and were told by the agitated official that there was no silver change in the house. Would the 'sinna dorai' tender the exact amount? The 'sinna dorai' took back the sovereign and wrote a letter to the Ceylon Government stating that one of the rest-houses was without cash or change. The 'sinna dorai' promised to pay the eight rupees into the head department the moment he arrived in Colombo.

The half-frantic rest-house official followed down the road, imploring me not to owe the Government eight rupees. He cried out for my sovereign and offered to send on the change if I would apply for it in writing. At a convenient turn in the mountain road we paused to cast a little metal at this rest-house man.

It was the first bit of metal we had handled since we cast forth certain Chows from a section of our mining camp in North Queensland once. The rest-house man appeared considerably impressed. In certain parts of Ceylon the blue metal grows wild, so to speak, and it is always a mistake to argue with a Tamil official. The luxuriant blue metal is more effective than a dictionary of Yankee swear words.

Arriving at Colombo, we were met at the hotel-door by two railway officials and a native policeman armed with a rifle and bayonet. Said one of the officials: 'There is an unsettled account of yours. We deeply regret the action we must take if you refuse to settle same at once.'

The native policeman banged his rifle butt on the hotel steps and sucked his chin-strap reflectively. I replied that there wasn't much red tape in Ceylon, when the Government was after its little accounts. I paid up. I shall never forgive the Land of tea and tired Englishmen for the way it hawked out its bayonet the moment I began to owe it a paltry eight rupees.

ON THE OPHIR

Illustration

The Ophir.


WE took passage by the Ophir after a fourteen days' sojourn in Ceylon and continued our journey on April 11th. The vessel was crowded, with Anglo-Indians from Madras and Bombay. The travelling Australian and New Zealander find the warm-water Englishman a humorous kind of bore. After spending half his life in India or Ceylon, where climate and surroundings unfit him for civilised intercourse, he develops a mincing offensive altitude towards strangers from the South who happen to come within glaring distance of his curry-coloured eye.

The Anglo-Indian is usually the result of what the cheap and overflowing nigger servant can do in the way of sapping a white man's vitality and independence. When the first batch of them boarded the vessel at Colombo they began shouting 'Boy!' from every part of the deck. In Ceylon and India when a white man yells 'Boy!' it is at once, understood that he requires a dozen or more 'sacies' to unlace his boots and carry him to his bath. In India a man is not considered 'pukkah' unless he has invented a new series of curse words to hurl at his trembling servant.

Year in and out this unquestioning obedience unbalances the average white, the perpetual kowtowing and brow-rubbing obliterates his manhood, leaves him dead to all things strenuous and exacting. Even the children of tho Anglo-Indians are damned in their early training. At the age of four or thereabouts they have acquired the habits of their ayahs and saices. In later years they behave like little fiends when placed in charge of white attendants. Instance many white Indian-born children being allowed to thrash their nurses. Conceive their dismay on being soundly beaten by the first white woman who is compelled to face their petulant rage and choleric temper.

Of the number of Anglo-Englishmen who came aboard at Colombo, four were married to half-caste women of the Eurasian type. Their children were delicate, fever-stricken midgets who became ill of ague the moment we put out to sea. These Anglo-Indians were Indian Civil servants, men of University training and good family, the type which Kipling taught us to believe bold in abhorrence the man who allies himself to a coloured woman in India. Yet here on board the Ophir they promenaded the decks accompanied by their dusky wives and lemon-skinned progeny, as though no such person as Kipling existed.

Probably the new Imperialism will encourage young English gentlemen to go East and marry the charming leopard-coloured young ladies who are likely to assist in the work of Empire- building by supplying it with a half-caste population.

Everyone on board is interested in the movements of the sailor whose business is to record the sea's temperature about four times a day. The water is raised in a bucket and duly thermometered. Of late years earthquakes and volcanoes have been at work disturbing the floor of the ocean in many parts of the world. Between the Gulf of Aden and the Mediterranean great care is taken in registering the heat of the water.

'Quite possible,' said the chief officer, 'for a vessel to pass into water with a temperature approaching boiling point with no anyone being wiser, especially at night. Probably our freezing chambers would start to boil over, and we'd have to throw several thousand carcasses of stewed sheep overboard. Of course we're always on the lookout for deep sea eruptions and upheavals since the San Francisco affair. There's nothing like feeing the ocean's pulse occasionally.'

Just here someone asked the chief officer to record the temperature of the red-haired girl passenger who usually sat on the icehouse steps spooning with the bo'sun's mate. Nobody laughed.

We passed the Island of Sokotra at 6 a.m. April 16th. It is situated near the entrance to the Gulf of Aden, a windless scarp of rock sweltering in the tropic glare. As a naval base Sokotra may have many strategical advantages. Its possession has no doubt been fought for in the past with bitterness and vim, and we assume that the British flag waves permanently on an adjoining peak. One almost fancies that the wind east of Suez is rather tired of blowing over the British flag from morn till night. Still, one would view with regret a German or Japanese ensign waving in its place.


April 18: Entered the Gulf of Aden to-day. Hell's Gate is promised, to-morrow early, and beer remains about the usual price. It was expected that drinks would go up when the fiery winds from Africa and Arabia began to wake up the ship's thirst. We have never experienced a truly Arabian thirst. The last Australian who suffered from pure Arabian dryness was found hanging by the heels outside a Mosque in Shurem.


April 19th: Entered the Red Sea this morning. Although the water is not so red as the hair of the girl sitting opposite me, the sky has a brassy glare that reminds one of the drought- stricken 'West.' Several people have been trying to locate the spot where Moses led the Israelites across. One disrespectful person from North Queensland stated that the Israelites must have used flying machines. He proved afterwards for fully an hour that Pharaoh used flying machines when building the Pyramids. Kites made from whalebone had been discovered in the dead cities around Memphis, he said, a fact which more than suggested that Moses utilised aerial navigation in transporting his people from Egypt into the Promised Land.

Off Aden we passed quite close to a bullheaded transport, crowded with soldiers' wives bound for India to join their husbands. Tommy's wife, with few exceptions, is a rough and tumble person, capable of upholding her husband's dignity when it comes to a bit of backyard fighting or fisticuffs. Barrack life is conducive to a sabre-edged vocabulary that startles the untrained ear and surprises the untravelled Australian. No bushwoman could look so hard-jawed and sun-raddled as these barrack-women. They sprawled about the transport's decks, half - dressed, heavy-eyed and sullen. One big rawboned woman leaned over the rail elaborately, and bawled out as we passed. ''Ello, Horsotralia! D'e want eny 'ouse an' parlormaids on your island?'

'Ya'as,' drawled a Southerner at my elbow; 'but we prefer 'em combed and dressed, though.'

'Yah!' screamed back the soldier's wife. 'Yer shut out the seven 'atters 'cause they was Hinglishmen.'

'Six, ma'am, six,' answered tho Australian wearily. 'For God's sake, ma'am, stick to facts.'

We were not sorry when the sweating transport passed from sight.

Islands and capes are beginning to roll up. We almost forgot to record the passing of Cape Guardefui, the limit of the old French Soudan. Situated on the head of the Gulf of Aden, it thrusts its wind-blighted foot across the skyline. A pair of binoculars revealed a long-haired goat refreshing itself with juices of the desert herb. Most of the mad Mullah's forces congregated hereabouts until Kitchener presented them with some Birmingham made ammunition at Omdurman. A lot of English papers slated the iron-jawed Herbert for smashing up the Mahdi's tomb and dispersing the pilgrim traffic. If the Arab was dispersed off the face of the earth Africa at least would bear a sweeter land freer atmosphere.

The temperature of the Red Sea has not reached the nineties, but the heat is of the steam-boiler variety, and folds up fat and lean people alike. A visit to the third-class cabins at midnight reveals a rather Dante-esque state of affairs. The Sack of Rome is a mere side-picture compared with some of the stark, motionless groups one has to step across when exploring the middle regions of the ship. Children by the dozen, naked as leaves, sprawl one across another; several crones huddle together on the steps leading to the ice-houses; there are scores of younger women gasping in their bunks, glassy-eyed, perspiring and ill-tempered. In the matter of combating heat woman is a fatalist. She firmly believes that death will come to her if she makes a movement in the direction of fresh air. The children count for nothing. They squall and cry, and the hot, nerve-racked mother pushes them away. Also she objects violently when a strange hand attempts to lead them into cleaner air.

These observations were made in the Red Sea, but we have been told that woman is much better-balanced when she is fighting her way through icebergs and other minor difficulties. Judging by the tone of most Anglo-Indians aboard, it would seem that numbers of white people are flying from our Empire in tho East. The plague is over the land, and the average Englishman doesn't care to throw in his marble with the hordes of natives who perish daily by the roadside. A well-placed Indian Civil servant told me yesterday that there is practically no tally kept of the hundreds who die in desert places far removed from the track of the district inspector. And nobody cares.

Said the well-placed Civil servant to me:

'I had a good bungalow in the —— district; it was scrupulously clean, and my staff of servants excellent. We fancied ourselves immune from the scourge that was desolating the villages, around us, until one morning a rat came and died in our bathroom. A few hours later our kitchen coolie collapsed on, the back verandah. Then came the panic. Our servants fled, leaving us alone with our children. We were 150 miles from a railway station, and two of my little ones died before we reached the train. No more India. It is the land of heat and death, the graveyard of the white man's children.'

Also numbers of Indian Civil servants—white ones—swear that the Government is sweating the service and lowering the Englishman's caste. These Civil servants are the same all the world over.

THE DUKE'S UNDERSTUDY

WHEN joining the Ophir at Colombo, after a stay of a fortnight, I expected to hear one or two good stories about the Duke of York what time he was on his way from England to open the first Commonwealth Parliament. Although H.R.H. spent several years as a midshipman in the navy, he remains a very indifferent sailor. During the voyage to Australia all sorts of sleeping contrivances were arranged to minimise the terrible attacks of mal-de-mer which frequently overwhelmed him.

One French firm of hammock-makers designed a curious sub- aerial bunk, guaranteed to remain stationary in me roughest seas. Another loyal English house of chair-makers presented H.R.H. with a patent non-oscillating lounge capable of maintaining a horizontal attitude in North Atlantic weather. The Duke pinned his faith to the patent French bed, and it responded nobly until the Ophir ran into an old-man cyclone in the Mediterranean. Then the patent squall-resisting bed began to polka gracefully on its sliding pivots, until the bottom posts threatened to punch holes in the ceiling. It took seven stewards to chain the bed to the floor and prevent it from breaking through the skylights. The Duke escaped under the curtain-rods before it had wrecked the patent ceiling and electric fittings.

One of the oldest tars aboard the Ophir volunteered a little information about the Duke's voyage which until recently had only been hinted at.

'We 'ad a terrible rough passage across the Bay of Biscay,' began the tar huskily; 'worse over experienced. The Dook came on deck an' sez to the skipper, "Cap'n," he says, "yew'd better put into Vigo till mawnin'. I'm feelin' quite rotten."

'The Duke boarded the Ophir at Naples,' I put in sorrowfully. 'What was he doing in the Bay of Biscay?'

'"So he did, so he did," answered the old tar promptly. "It was the Dook's understudy I'm talkin' about. The chap what came aboard at Tilbury dressed like the Dook, whiskers, face, an' boots. You couldn't tell one from t'other at six paces."

We breathed silently lest we might interrupt the tar's train of thought.

'"The understudy came aboard at Tilbury," he went on, "to get hisself used to the sea afore the real Dook got on at Naples. Afterwards, when we left Naples, 'e was able to stroll up and down lookin' like the real thing, while his Rile Highness was 'eavin' his heart out below.

'"There was a terrible crowd of men-o-'war's men aboard, an' it would 'ave looked a bit undignified if it was known our sailor prince was 'eavin' hisself to pieces in his stateroom. So the understudy uster stroll about until everybody thought that his Highness was a real out-an'-out tough-weather sailor.

'A night or two afore we got to Port Said, the understudy came to me an' says, "Bill, 'ave you 'eard 'ow his Highness is progressing?"

'"Pea-green an' white about the eyes," I sez. "I s'pose you're 'opin' he'll remain sick, Arty?"

'You called the Duke's understudy Arty,' I broke in feebly. There seemed nothing else to say.

'As often as 'e called me Bill,' growled the tar.

'"Well," says Arty, "my position is awkward, Bill," he says. "I 'ave to dine with the Duchess every night an' the crowd of ladies what accompany her."

'"It's better than shovellin' coal, Arty," sez I, "or fightin' policemen."

'"Fightin' policemen's all right, Bill," says. Arty; "but I ain't goin' to stand the Duchess hittin' me on tho knuckles with a nut-cracker."

'"Hit you on the knuckles, Arty?" I sez.'

'"Nearly broke me ring finger, Bill," he sez. "Her Grace apologised orfterwards. She said she 'ad forgot for the moment that I wasn't the real George. I didn't mind that, but when she called me a mincin' little pollywog I thought it time to give up me job."

'"It's only the Duchess's animal spirits, Arty," I sez. "Hang on to yer job."

'As the Dook's 'understudy Arty 'ad a 'ard time with tho Duchess, sir. She was always mistakin' him for the Dook, an' makin' him swaller ice-cream on top o' a bilin' 'ot soup.

'One night, after we'd left Suez, I was passin' for'rd, an' I sees Arty leanin' his 'ead against the port rail.

'"Cheer up, Arty," I shouts; "his rile nibs will soon be all right. He was pickin' at some 'am this mornin'."

'Arty looks up at me, an' his eyes seemed to 'ave changed colour a bit. "Sailor," he sez, low an' 'orrerful, "your arrigance will get you six months. "His Grace the Dock!" I sez holdin' me breath. "'Oly Peter!"

'"Off side," he sez, movin' away; "an' no bunkum."

'It was the Duke all right, but I never could make out what he meant by "Off side an' no bunkum." Can you, sir?'

The expression was used very frequency at Buckingham Palace, I explained, whenever certain effusive Australians entered the Royal Drawing Room. All the same, we felt sorry for the Duke and the understudy who was nourished on boiling hot soup and ice- cream.


XI. — EGYPT AND THE FELAHEEN—A SIDE GLIMPSE

The West Australian, 6 July 1907

Illustration

Port Said, c. 1910.


IT is the fashion among travellers who visit Egypt to buy up all the guide-book information dealing with the dead Pharaohs and serve it up again with embellishments in the shape of travel notes. At Suez we got our first taste of the desert and the Holy Land, as viewed from the deck of an ocean liner.

The hand of man has pushed back the wilderness from Suez. His electric globes and motor, installations illuminate the ancient track of the Israelites, and he has converted many sand heaps into marine esplanade and dancing pavilions. Here the eye travels east and west across the wide gulf to catch some trace of herbage or wooded headland. There is none.

The scimitar-shaped bays recalls many of the sand-shrouded inlets within the Gulf of Carpentaria. A clump of dingy, sand- blighted palms marks, the hallowed spot where Moses drew water from the earth when the weary feet of his followers touched the opposite bank. The sea hawks drowse and cry above in the morning stillness as though chanting a requiem over the centuries buried beneath.

The Gulf of Suez is crowded with vessels of all nationalities waiting to pass through the Canal. There are big-beamed German tramps and Dago luggers heading for the Levant. Crowds of Egyptian fruit brats hover round the incoming mail-boats waiting for the doctor's report ere they launch themselves over the vessel's rails.

The medical inspection at Suez is a stupid farce. No one can explain why Australian ships are held up for inspection. Suez itself is a town of no particular morals, neither is it renowned for its sanitary conditions. It would be impossible for passing vessels to introduced any fresh disease within its plague- stricken boundaries. The afflicted Fellaheen and the sore-smitten Arab wander at large exhibiting their evil maladies to the passing Australian. If one-tenth of the time spent in examining ships were dedicated to the cleaning-up of the native quarters of the town much real service would be rendered to civilisation.

The Canal itself and the approaches thereto are master-strokes in the way of desert cutting and engineering. To the inexperienced eye this narrow glittering stretch of water is a perfect dividend-earner and a joy for ever to its shareholders. Yet it maintains an army of unseen workers. Every foot of the Canal is ever-shifting, banks have to be watched by flying gangs of dredgers and navvies. The eternal sand-drift problem and the worry of its shifting bed turns the average Canal official bald long, before his thirtieth year.

The outlook while passing through the Canal is not lovely. Here and there a garey official has erected a cottage-between the drifts, and the wind from the desert piles mountains of sand and fine dust over his devoted little garden.

There is nothing on earth so penetrating as this fine shell- dust driven across a steamer's deck by the north-west monsoon. It finds its way into your cabin and trunks; it binds up your hair, and fills your ears with parts of the African interior. From the moment we entered the canal a continuous sneezing was heard all over the ship.

It took us 15 hours to pass through the narrow waterway. The dawn showed us the Bitter Lakes and more glittering sand wastes. About every thirty minutes the desert wakes up and blinds you on principle. The sun rises hereabouts in a perfect stream of fire that turns the sea into a vast plain of opal with currents of wine-red running towards a coppery shoreline.

A lonely Moor, swathed from brow to heel in white garments, prances on his pony through the red drifts towards the Canal head. Other sheeted forms steal across the desert's rim; an ass bearing a veiled Egyptian woman commands the middle distance, a troop of camels hurrying Ishmalia-wards crimson the morning air with their hoof-driven dust. The east is brick-red, but in the matter of colour there are many prophets.

We called at Port Said. New Zealanders and Australians complain bitterly of the fiendish way the black dust is flung aboard. A thousand fellaheens tear up and down narrow planks waving their baskets of coal-grit against the wind. The decks are ankle deep in slack and black mud. The saloon passenger emerges from his cabin with coal in his hair and dust in his voice. Everyone admits that they did things better in ancient China. It is safe to say that no self-respecting Chinese port would allow such an abominable system of coaling to exist. We are told that Port Said is not so filthy as it used to be. The news made us feel glad we did not stay long enough to inquire what had become of the garbage.

A railway from Port Said runs through the dust to Cairo, but the time allowed by P. and O. and Orient steamers does not permit of a visit to Khartoum or the Lower Nile.

For those who are fond of the dead centuries, Egypt is a place to visit. There are enough dead kings strewn about the Nile Valley to fill Australia's churchyards. To be sure, there is colour in Egypt, enough purple and amber to glut the artistic eye. There is tradition old as the world itself, and a river whose name was a rhyme-word among the Goths and the early Romans.

The New Zealander and Australian are not so impressed by the tombs and the pyramids as the travelling Englishman. We met parties of Cook's tourists near Memphis, who entered the ancient sepulchre with bared heads and subdued voices. This semi-worship of the age-blown Pharaohs and monstrous obelisks of stone is often childlike in its reverence. Gazing into dark corridors in guest of the Sacred Remains is not so invigorating as buck- jumping or even burgling. And one would rather meet the vandal who chopped off the Sphinx's nose than the sepulchreite sneezing over the dust of Rameses II.

The street Egyptian is a more aggressive citizen than the Hindu or Ceylonese. He bawls after you as you pass, jeers at the cut of your coat, and the manner of your walk. Also he demands backsheesh, and he will follow you down eight streets insulting the memory of your dead parents. We heard one fellow, a black- toothed hotel-runner, ask a party of Australians if they felt better now that they were out of gaol.

There is a great scarcity of blue metal in Cairo. Egypt has improved no doubt since Herbert Kitchener cleaned up its back streets and built a university at Khartoum. The dam at Assouan is a magnificent piece of work, but the calculating southerner asks in a tired voice what all this alleged improvement of the Fellaheen means to him. The Fellah doesn't eat our mutton— he'd choke or die of over-nutrition if he did—and he does not wear woollen garments. An ordinary bed-sheet will clothe an Egyptian family for a year.

Our daily papers have been flooding us with the details of Egypt's progress during the last ten years, of its great irrigation schemes, its municipal work and railway improvements, but what does it mean to you and me? England has hammered the fellaheen, cleaned up his dirt, and educated, him; and now it is crowding her children into the Government positions. A fellaheen sells you a stamp at the post office and runs the white man off the earth wherever they meet in competition. And to-morrow the grateful Egyptian would gladly rise side by side with his dear beloved Turk—if the adventure looked sufficiently prosperous—and carry the Moslem faith across the Mediterranean.

If the whole of Asia and Africa were under, complete British control, how many Antipodeans would occupy a single position of trust in Asia or Africa? This Empire business is excellent in its way: we get almost as much from it as the German or the Yankee. Also our Empire expansion is a fine thing for the young English billet-hunter with a pull. He occupies the golden positions in this Civil Service of Ceylon, Egypt and India, and he is very angry when an Australian gets the pull. He occupies the golden positions in the direction of China or Thibet. When the young New Zealander and the dreadfully-pushing Australian begin to draw huge salaries for their Imperial services we shall begin to study in earnest the unannexed positions of the earth.

One of the exciting incidents of the passage was our race with the P. and O. mail steamer China in the Red Sea. The China was well known when trading between Australia and London. She ran ashore near the island of Perim a few years ago, while carrying Lord Brassey and suite homeward. She was refloated, and runs regularly between Bombay and London.

She appeared on the skyline first morning we entered the Red Sea, and the Ophir's engines thumped out an extra revolution as the dark hull crept slowly but surely over the lip of the horizon. Hitherto, we had rushed past everything we met, until it was understood that only a torpedo-destroyer could keep pace with an Australian liner. Up and up bulged the China, until her big funnels were over the rim. Some small bets were made, and the excitement grew until it became known that our boat was not in the habit of racing in the Red Sea.

The China passed us comfortably.

"Racing the Ophir is an expensive business," explained one of the engineers. "We'd have had no trouble if we cared to burn the coal, and coal costs money."

THE ARAB SPEAKS

THE Arab is a stately mocker of men, lithe of limb, and cruel-eyed; he wanders along the bank of the canal, sneering at the passing Englishman or Australian. All the world over, the children of the desert are the same. From Zanzibar, the headquarters of the Congo slave-hunters, to Cairo, the trail of his inhuman handiwork is visible. He has desolated certain portions of Central Africa, turned thriving native villages into charnel houses, and worse.

The methods pursued by this desert blackguard (when he is filling in orders for a big slave contract) are interesting. He will appear, as if by accident, in some mid-African village, pitch his tent, and proceed to till the ground. He carries seeds with him everywhere, and the sight of his peaceful occupation soothes the suspicions of the villagers. Later in the year a few more of his kind happen along to till the soil and trade honestly with the neighbouring chiefs, until the Arabs become quite numerous. Then, without warning, a quarrel is picked over a trifling matter, and the carnage begins. The Arab is usually equipped with up-to-date firearms, and he makes short work of the disorganised villagers who attempt resistance. He carries away the young men and women, shooting without mercy the old and helpless rather than encumber himself on the long march to the sea.

The average Englishman imagines that no such thing as slavery exists. If you told him to-day that the heart of Africa was practically under Arab influence he would smile.

The Arab is everywhere, and he firmly believes that Africa will some day be his. The interior of the Dark Continent abounds with Arab strongholds. Professor Drummond, in his book, "The Heart of Africa," comments strikingly on the dominant Arab, and his malicious all-powerful influence.

From Lake Nyanza to the Nile, live men are as saleable as horses. I met a French traveller to-day who told me that it was impossible for three black men to set out on a journey without two of them conspiring to sell the third! Imagine Egypt under a Mahommedan dynasty. Imagine, Cairo and Port Said patrolled by swarthy bands of man-stealing Arabs!

Near the canal-head we stumbled across two of Britain's representatives—a Highlander and a khaki-clad infantry man. Quiet, unassuming chaps; bright-eyed, cheerful, and perfect gentlemen, when it comes to chasing the grim, unwholesome fellaheen at the point of the lance or bayonet. And only yesterday England had to point her guns towards the Turkish troops preparing to mass on the Sinai Peninsula!

As we came through the desert we discovered that the Australian is not the only person capable of using the crimson adjective. Immediately we showed ourselves beyond the city boundaries, the inevitable crowd of Arab loafers assailed us with a well-hissed blanky.

"Halloa, you —— Engaleesh Australean!"

We raised our hats and explained with an answering yell that we had a regiment of bush cavalry aboard ready to deal with insanitary heathens who slept on sand heaps and frizzled their hair. Hereat the Arab mob spat in our direction and waved their arms frantically. The Highlander and his friend in khaki strolled up leisurely, and paused to offer us words of advice.

"Don't let those Arabs get on your trail after dark, or they'll drop you with a spear or a knife," said the Highlander. The infantryman borrowed a match from us, and paused to indicate the scattering Arabs with his thumb.

"Them fellers ain't the real frizzers," he broke in earnestly, "But I've known 'em to bite a man's heel when he tried to loosen their teeth with a baynit."

The Arabs melted across the sun-blistered wastes of sand. We passed on.

These children of the sand pride themselves on their horsemanship, and one has to admit that the desert-man gets more out of his dish-faced Barbary than any other rider in the world. At Ishmalia we heard marvellous stories concerning the distances covered by present-day Arabs and their horses.

While admiring a string of fiddle-headed steeds, on sale under an awning, I was approached by a venerable sheik, who offered the prince of all ponies and the father of kings for the sum of 20. It was a pretty little Arab stallion he offered, five years old, and a perfect wind-drinker when it came to a pinch. The same stamp of animal would have brought twice the money in Melbourne or Sydney.

I was compelled to reject the old man's offer, owing to the shipping company refusing to allow passengers to crowd horses into their cabins. I learned afterwards that the old sheik's little Arab had nearly bitten off a man's leg only the day before. And the soft-tongued old rogue had assured me that his little wind-drinker had been reared with his children. Republics come and go; kingdoms totter; but the horse-dealer passes serenely down the centuries unchangeable as his stock of horse- lies.

It was in Egypt we discovered that the Australian abroad is in perpetual conflict with the travelling Englishman. The bone of contention is the White Australian policy. It must be admitted that the Englishman from London merely echoes the clap-trap of his neighbour's coining. To him the Chinaman, the coolie, and the Jap are very desirable colonists. His knowledge of their habits is usually gained from the illustrated papers. He winds up his argument in favour of admitting aliens into Australia by saying that Japan will level up things when the day of reckoning arrives. It seldom occurs to the admirers of Japanese prowess that in the final reckoning of things—a period supposed to be close at hand—that Japan may be as the left-hand side facing national bankruptcy and decay.

In Cairo and Naples we listened to the elegantly embroidered London ex-militaire, who predicted a Japanese descent upon Australia within the next decade as a counterblast to the White Australia policy. Yet nine-tenths of the Englishmen who reside in the Commonwealth agree with our Aliens Restriction Act. The reasons are immediately apparent to them. Many of them have seen the Chinaman and the Jap in North Queensland, festering in their hasheesh dens and gambling houses, and they admit frankly that an uninhabited wilderness is preferable to a colony of shanties and a race of mongrel whites.


XII. — THE STRAITS OF MESSINA

The West Australian, 13 July 1907

ENTERED the Straits April 24th, with an ice wind shrilling down from Mount Etna's sullen brow. The coast of Sicily has many picturesque spots, but after mature and unenthusiastic reflection one fancies that the ancient poets were scenery-blind when they raved over at these rocky headlands and bleak, desolate isles. From Colombo to Naples I have seen nothing to compare with the delightful coast pictures enclosed within our Great Barrier Reef.

A volcano is a fine addition to the perspective, and at first glance the eye is overwhelmed by Etna's colossal bulk, snow- shrouded, pulsating, its great, hot lips drinking in the eternal ice-blasts. But volcanoes are cheap hereabouts; a no sooner does Etna fade than Stromboli heaves its fire-blown head through the cloud-masses.

There are villages and walled vineyards scattered around Stromboli's base. The Italian and Sicilian coasts are cultivated to their utmost capacity. Not a foot of arable land is left untilled. It is said that a family of hard-pushed Neapolitans once tried to grow a certain variety of olives within the crater itself. In. Australia there is much ado about putting people on the land: in Italy the Government has to forcibly prevent people from settling inside its show volcanoes.

When compared with certain Australian beauty-spots, the ancient Straits of Messina are simply third-rate. The country around has been denuded of its forest land, and for the most part it is a lava-blighted haunt of volcanoes.

Within our unadvertised Barrier Reef we have endless stretches of palm-shadowed bays and coastal lagoons, a veritable sea-river that runs from Rockhampton to Thursday Island. The Barrier Reef is our Orinoco, and there is nothing lovelier in Europe or Asia.

"You New Zealanders and Australians are hard to please," said an English tourist, as we passed a tiny rock bound Italian city that seemed to be hanging by its door-posts over mountain ledges and ravines. "Surely you will admit that the Straits of Messina are unequalled anywhere?"

"Hard to please because we have the best things on earth at our front doors," was the reply.

One can understand the street-bred London poet journeying to Messina, and his complete collapse at sight of a burning mountain silhouetted against a stretch of blue water. It is not surprising that the poets from the murky purlieus of Bradford and Sheffield have been overcome at sight of blue Italian water, reared as they are under wet, livid skies and grey, sparrow-haunted streets. Many British poets, including Byron, have advertised the Italian and Greek side of the world; and sent millions of tourists wallowing in their tracks.

The New Zealander, accustomed to the infinitude of sky, of lake, and of mountain scenery, is only moderately impressed at sight of the Sicilian Alps, Although the Maorilander possesses the finest scenery in the world, his advertising posts are far too young to handle their own mountain thunder, too diffident as yet to steep themselves thoroughly in their own lakes of fire.

NAPLES—THE BAY OF THE SEVEN SMELLS

Illustration

Via Roma, Naples, 1907.


THE night before we arrived in the Bay many enthusiastic sightseers sat up to catch a glimpse of Vesuvius facing the dawn. Far off at sea the cone was visible as a wind-blown ember showing through a beard of lava-smoke and clouds. We entered the Bay of Naples at 4 a.m., but the city lay shrouded in mist and smoke. We made fast alongside of the Erin, a green and white yacht owned by Sir Thomas Lipton, and belonging to the Royal Ulster Yacht Club.

King Edward arrived early in the morning from the Continent, and the thunder of the warships' salute guns were kept up for the greater part of the day. It is hinted in Naples that the King becomes the guest of Sir Thomas Lipton. A glance at the Erin's snow-white decks and glittering brass work sets one thinking of the ability of these Tea King millionaires to keep pace with Royalty in the matter of luxurious sea boats and liveried attachments.

Naples, like many European beauty spots, depends on the weather for its chief effects. To-day it is bright and the sun illuminates Vesuvius from cone to base. The cinder-scattered tracks of the lava where it was swept over the villages in April last are visible from the bay. The black summit is bare and cloud-wrapped. From time to time a coil of treacle-coloured smoke fumes skyward. There is no sound from the crater. The giant sleeps. Yet only a few months ago it was bombarding the villages below with streams of molten lava and flying boulders.

Naples itself is a mere bunch of causeways resembling the Rocks habitations around the Argyle Cut, Sydney. There are many fine villas and hotels overlooking the bay, flat-roofed Doric and Florentine structures with cold vault-like bed-chambers large enough to accommodate a troop of cavalry, horses and all.

The approaches to Naples are second to none in the way of filth and squalor. The roads are the public ash-bins. Slops and garbage are flying from upstair windows on to the pavement below. And the overdressed gendarme stands motionless in courtyard and piazza while men and women strew their germ-laden refuse about his heels. Naples is a city of beggars and loafers. Everybody loafs. On our two-mile journey to San Martino the tram was side- tracked eight times for periods of minutes at a stretch. The passengers seemed to enjoy the pauses, and chatted pleasantly about the weather and themselves. In Sydney or Melbourne there would have been eight fights between the conductor and the passengers if he failed to explain the a waste of public time and money.

The begging is done with a certain savage persistence that speaks of the wolf behind the door. Also money is evidently dear in this dirt-strewn abyss. For a penny a crowd of able-bodied men and women will sing and dance through a long, hot afternoon. The cab-drivers follow you around the city on the chance that you may grow tired and take a ride.

Up the narrow step-flanked streets and down the unutterable by-ways filth rises like a yellow corpse and flaunts its seven smells across your path. Long processions of donkeys file from the country roads into the city carrying vegetables and fruit as in the days of Herod. The streets echo with the braying of innumerable mokes until one's nerves fairly shrink from the guffawing squeals.

The squares and piazzas are dominated by a certain swashbuckling military class. The dude majors and perfumed lieutenants clank and lean their squat bodies against pillar and causeway. Naples cannot afford to keep itself clean while it has to provide waggon loads of gold lace and embroidery for this vast army of tinkling generals and staff officers.

We journeyed to Pompeii by the electric car. A guide took us across the lava-swamped villages around San Giuseppe, where the crater fumes have a habit of blowing across the main street. The Italian guide—the one you hire at the Maritime Stazione—is a crafty rascal who pockets your money and often leaves you stranded among the excavations.

There were five Cousin Jacks in our party, and they caught one guide in the act of decamping while we were arranging for refreshments at Vesuvius. We had paid him 4 for the day, to cover expenses, leaving him a clear 2 for his afternoon's work. Three Cousin Jacks carried him neck and heel to the crater edge, and after a short consultation decided not to hurl him down the blast-hole if he promised to complete his contract.

He promised....

POMPEII AND MORE TOMB WORSHIP

THE excavations at Pompeii illustrate the deep- rooted love of all that existed among the early inhabitants. Buried by the ashes of Vesuvius A.D. 79, the ancient city—where Greco-Roman culture supervened on an Oscan foundation—presents the modern world with an accumulation of public buildings, streets, and private houses in the very shape in which they existed at the time of the great catastrophe. The most important buildings are grouped around the market-place or Forum of the city.

During the almost recent excavations men and women were unearthed in an almost perfect condition. In the shops adjoining the Foro Civile, tradesmen were discovered in the act of passing their wares into their customers' hands. In the peristyles and tricliniums of the wealthy were grouped the figures of musicians, their instruments still grasped in their hands as when the torrents of volcanic sand and ashes overwhelmed them.

Within the Porta Ercolano, a man was found nursing a baby, while his wife was in the act of drawing some cakes from an oven. In another quarter of the city a cobbler was disclosed beating his wife with a leather thong—after the manner of all good cobblers—and his strong right arm had remained uplifted for nineteen centuries—probably the slowest thrashing on record. Within the columned portico of Casa dei Vettii, a temple- like structure crowded with beautiful statuary and flowers, one pauses to reflect upon the consummate skill and art practised by the Greco-Romans many centuries before the birth of Christ. Surely nothing in modern architecture can compare with it the Ultimi savi or the Colonne dei templo di Venere.

The present-day Italian villagers who cultivate the soil around Vesuvius are enthusiastic about their volcano and its possibilities. They cling to the breathing monster as a child to its mother. They tell you cheerfully that the time is not far distant when it will overwhelm Naples as it did Pompeii. For miles around the earth is riven is and guttered where the terrible streams of molten lava flower during the eruption in April last. Where vineyards as stood, only a year ago, nothing is to be seen now save the eye-wearying heaps of ashes and sand.

"Why do you cling to this quaking hell-heap?" was asked one of the villagers near San Giuseppe. "Are there no other places in Italy where you might settle?"

"Ah, Signor," came the reply; "we love this breathing mother of ours. She a is our life and our winding-sheet. Here we were born with the taste of her breath in our months. No, no, Signor, we cannot desert this hot-bosomed mother of ours." This crater worship is worse than the Egyptian pyramid disease.

The view from the top of Vesuvius is worth seeing. Naples and the Mediterranean at foot, blue water and the sunlit domes of a hundred churches and cathedrals. As the night creeps on the fumes from the lips of the crater steal down with acrid insistence. Now and again one feels an audible, half-tremulous belching underfoot as though some great beast were turning in his cavern below.

In a corso named after him stands the statue of Giuseppe Garibaldi. It is a magnificent piece of bronzework surrounded by the laureled figures of four girls. Passing through the outskirts of Naples one marvels how these people who build palaces of unrivalled architecture should remain so ignorant of their architectural outlook. On one hand we see artists and sculptors at work in every little shop and basement creating pictures and models of surpassing loveliness. On the other we observe the farm labourer hammering the earth with a club-shape hoe, or ploughing his field with an ancient contrivance that did service during the time of Caesar.

Agriculture seems to run counter to architecture in many lands. In Australia a man may live in a 12 x 8 iron and bark shanty, but he is generally the owner of up-to-date farming implements; a disc plough, or a seventy guinea harvester at least.

ADVERTISING CANADA

RETURNING to the steamer we saw a vessel crowded with emigrants bound for Canada. They were unmistakably a fine lot of men and women, intelligent, well-dressed and evidently the pick of the rural districts. I learned that they were only a detachment of the thousands flocking to the much-advertised farming lands of the Dominion. A well-repeated cry runs throughout Italy, Austria, and Germany to the effect that the finest land in the northwest of Canada is to be had for the mere asking. Therefore the heavily-burdened, over-taxed agriculturists of the best class turn their eyes westward in quest of the free forest land where log homesteads and bearskin rugs are to be had for the seeking.

Speaking to a well-placed newspaper man to-day, he said that the Canadian Government subsidised Continental journalists to write picturesque articles dealing with the prosperous side of Canadian agricultural life. These articles were printed in hundreds of European papers and came under the notice of millions of farming people from the South of Russia to the Baltic.

After reading one or two of the above-mentioned articles dealing with the ideal conditions prevailing in the snow-bound north-west, one is impressed by the fluency and imagination of Canada's hired journalists. We met several Englishmen on board the Ophir who had invested their life savings in Manitoba land. They spoke of the bitter hardships that await the small capitalist on arriving in the Dominion. The Canadian railway companies are flooding Europe with picturesque fiction dealing with their land of beef and corn—nothing is said about the long, unendurable winters and frequent blizzards.

On arriving at Quebec or Montreal the energetic immigrant is guided to the bleak north-west, where the overflowing vitality will find employment dodging the ice-hurricanes that tear down from Klondyke and other summer resorts.

The astute Yankee farmers, whose lands petered out long ago through their forced system of cultivation, have attended to all the best land Canada has to offer. The Australian or New Zealander who goes to the Dominion with his capital will be offered something that has been rejected by 869,548 long-headed Uncle Sams.

"You Australians are very backward in advertising your country," said the newspaper man. "How are we to know of your agricultural prosperity unless you put your facts before us continually? It is not enough that we should read of you occasionally," he went on. "If I you want the pick of the people you must appeal to their imaginations as the Canadians are doing. We want pictures of your farming districts, railway information, rainfall statistics, and the precise nature of the country available for settlement."

We returned to the Ophir feeling certain that Australia and even New Zealand has much to learn in the way of advertising to their best possible advantage.

Once outside the Bay of Naples we run into baresark weather, white rain, white seas, and a wind that howled at us in the voice of an unpaid boarding-house keeper. We do not know whether Jonah or the Prophet Daniel over passed through the Gulf of Lyons; it is the mother of all bad storms, and the cradle of doomed ships.

We passed many islands of interest, among them being Corsica, the birthplace of the little brigand in the buckskin breeches. Corsica is a ruffianly, looking island, a place that might give birth at any moment to a nine-armed thief or a double-jointed mule. There are enormous ravines visible from the ship's deck, sabre-edged mountain peaks that seem to slice the clouds in halves. Very few English and Americans desire to see the house where Napoleon was born, and very few Frenchmen either.

Astonishing how sure-footed the deep-sea sailor becomes after years spent in tearing up and down riggings and narrow bridge steps.

Watched an A.B. this afternoon running for'ard to execute an order. The deck was littered with chairs, babies and tiffin parties enjoying their afternoon cake. Without pausing, the A.B. dashed through the crowd, but it was amazing to note how his feet avoided the teapots and trays, how dexterously his toes dovetailed themselves between a plate of sandwiches and the French rolls.

A lot of us were impressed by the feat, and one or two offered to bet a sovereign that the A.B. could run at full speed along the deck without breaking or touching the most delicate number of obstacles scattered in his way, provided that three inches of foot space were left between each obstacle. The bet was taken up.

During the dinner hour five babies were collected while the mothers were below, and laid side by side along the deck; three inches of space between of each baby—enough to allow a mans' toe to rest if he were passing over them in a violent hurry. As an afterthought the babies were drawn farther apart and five basins of warm soup placed between them. The men who betted against the A.B.'s sure-footedness now reckoned that he would have to hurry over without upsetting a soup basin—or lose. I was not present when the curious obstacle race came off.

About 5 o'clock in the evening I met the A.B. on the bridge looking very depressed..

"Did you win?" I asked earnestly.

"I would 'ave," he replied huskily; "if I 'adn't trod on the lest baby."


XIII. — GIBRALTAR

The West Australian, 20 July 1907

Illustration

Royal Marines man coastal defence guns, Gibraltar, c. 1907.


WE stole into Marseilles on Sunday morning and the vessel was immediately surrounded by crowds of gesticulating Frenchmen in boats, sitting on piles of silk shawls and bric- -brac. We stayed three hours while the quarantine authorities burnt sulphur over some of the passengers' linen. Also, the tired Australians were driven for'rd while a small, fat doctor ran his eye over them inquisitively.

Some of these European sewer-cities are tremendously particular about their health rate. Port Said, with its infected nigger and its plague-smitten Arab, gets wild when an Australian person with a cough comes near in a ship, and it keeps him waiting outside its sand-bitten harbour while its boss medicine man fumigates the wilderness, with feathers and nitro-glycerine. Marseilles is just the same, and quite as dirty.

From Marseilles to Gibraltar is a short cry. The coast of Spain on the Mediterranean side is as barren as the shoreline of the Great Australian Bight. The rock itself looms Titanesque across the narrow straits. Gibraltar is a source of pride and worry to England. As a fortification it is a perfect money-eater as regards upkeep. Also it is somewhat of a mystery to the outside world. We met several gunners while exploring the mole- men who had put in several years within the rock, and to a man they admitted that Gibraltar, the real, subterranean Gib, was still a mystery to them. They were unacquainted with many of its galleries, and could only guess at the number of guns concealed in the mighty bosom of the rock. Stored within the refrigerators is a seven years' supply of meat and provisions.

The local artillerists chuckle at the mere suggestion of an attack by land or sea upon the mother of all fortifications. These tight-trousered, swaggering little fellows who wear the King's uniform tell you that no European Power would be mad enough to bring their fleets to the slaughter-yards of Gibraltar.

One of our party hinted at the possibility of a general collapse on the part of the rock if it were attacked with heavy modern guns from the African side.

The Tommies laughed outright.

"If you brought the combined German. Jap, and Italian fleets over there," said one artilleryman, pointing across the narrow Straits, "torpedoes, war-balloons, and all their blamed gunnery science thrown in, d'ye know what we could do?"

We hazarded a wide guess which meant nothing. The artilleryman did not smile, his eyes seemed to be measuring the blue ribbon of water that separates the rock from the African coast.

"We'd let them come right in there," he said dreamfully, "assuming there was a combination of 200 battleships and cruisers. And then we'd do what Admiral Fisher's been promising us for the last ten years—we'd give 'em a shell-typhoon that would make the world hold down its head for the next century. You don't understand," he said, glancing at me sharply, "the kind of a graveyard we could make of a 'Europer' fleet if it stood out there and used bad language."

We shook hands with that gunner because he believed what he said even though the rock happens to be crumbling in a few places. We mentioned the fact as an afterthought.

"My Gawd!" exclaimed his companion. "It's a mile thick, and the newspapers 'av' been tellin' yer that a few twelve-inch shells will root it up!"


THE rock monkey is another source of mystery to the residents of Gibraltar. The animals come and go—but whither. There are no places along the arid coast where they could migrate to, no forests or places of concealment. About every two years a new species of apes appear suddenly, full-grown creatures and wicked as hyenas. They stay a little while and then vanish as mysteriously as they came.

It is also well known that certain adventurous Soldiers stationed at the fortress have disappeared suddenly while exploring the underground passages leading towards the Straits. While in the Alameda Gardens we met an old Moor who informed us that a tunnel existed under the Straits connecting Gibraltar with the African coast. The passage was known to the apes, he said. but woe to the man, white or black, who attempted to follow them.

A day or two before we arrived a big ape ran amok down the gun-passages, mauling an artilleryman about the face and body. For three days the brute held the fortress, fighting like a devil, and hurling pieces of rock at the men who attempted its capture. A law protecting the apes exists at Gibraltar, and no man is allowed to shoot or destroy the mischievous simians which swarm over the heights and gun embrasures. On the third day it was found necessary to pot the long-armed ape that hurled defiance and four-pound stones at the commanding officer.

After visiting the Buena Vista Barracks, Casemates Square, and the Linea Bull Ring, we adjourned to the Ophir, feeling convinced that Gibraltar will put up the reddest day in history when the time arrives.

IN THE BAY OF BISCAY

MORE rough weather in the Straits and a nasty beam sea that followed us through the Bay of Biscay. While crossing the Bay of Trafalgar we noticed a big-beamed tramp steamer on our starboard side. It kept ahead of us for an hour, and then one of those blackguard things happened that nearly sent 600 Australians to the bottom. Without signal or warning of any kind the big tramp changed her course and shot across our bows.

The Ophir was running at full speed, and the tramp's sudden manoeuvre was so unexpected that there was not a moment to reverse the engines. For 30 seconds both steamers approached each other at the rate of 40 miles an hour. The Ophir answered her helm magnificently, and swung to starboard as the tramp raced directly under our bows.

At the moment of the crossing writer was standing for'ard, and he is prepared to state that six feet of water did not separate both vessels from eternity. The tramp signalled us immediately, but, I could learn nothing from the white-faced sailors around me. One said she was apologising, and that something had gone wrong with her steering gear.

Astonishing that two vessels with unlimited sea-room cannot give each other a wider berth! The despised landlubber drives hundreds of carts and waggons within a few inches of each other year in and year out and nothing happens. Yet, ships, with infinity on both quarters and leagues to spare, rush within drowning distance of each other for no apparent reason.

For the rest of the trip we encountered wind and sleet until we lifted the Channel and the big-tongued bell from the Eddystone Lighthouse. The Ophir hooted her way from buoy to lightship like a thing afraid. Nothing was visible through the sheeted rain save the snarling rocks at the foot of the lighthouse.

The people of Plymouth have fought back the sea with giant breakwaters and league-long walls. There is excellent anchorage, but the approaches are reminiscent of innumerable drowned ships—liner and gunboats, brigs and Spanish galleons—that strew the sea-floor between the Hoe and the Nore.

The rough trip through the Bay of Biscay frightened a number of our passengers, and there was a rush to land at Plymouth rather than finish the voyage round the Channel to London.

THE CROWDED CHANNEL

THE journey from Plymouth to London is a revelation in the way of sea travel. Each moment sends a group of black funnels streaming over the skyline. Often a crowd of steamers troop up in a bunch with scarcely steering way between them, when the bunch will suddenly separate in seven different directions, hooting at each other like angry fish-wives.

A fog smothers you without warning, and your engines cease to gallop, your big frightened ship creeps foot by foot, bleating from her patient fog-horn, crying in a tearful bass to the disrespectful little bull tramps who run their black noses almost within collision distance. The fog lifts and you behold the Channel full of ships snorting defiance at each other.

The Goodwin Sands showed us their heaving red shallows between buoy and skyline. The masts and rigging of a dozen ill-fated vessels are staked within their ever-shifting bed. Rumour has it that an Amsterdam liner grounded this morning, but the mists roll in again blotting out everything save the lightship and the crying gulls.


LONDON. Slowly we enter the mouth of the Thames, and within an hour are past the Nore and fetch Gravesend and the green slopes of the Kentish coast. At five o'clock in the afternoon we are abreast of the Tilbury pier and are soon being overhauled by the alert Customs officials.

"Any silk or tobacco in your luggage sir?"

"No, James."

"Any spirits, cigarettes, wine or lace?"

"No, James."

"Open out then. We might find a pipeful you know. That tight- strapped leather bag first, if you don't mind."

And the large-handed Customs officer punches the interior of your portmanteau skilfully, casts your linen at his feet, and gropes cunningly in the regions of your bag. The married men suffered least in the overhauling. It is supposed that woman's influence prevents the rash tobacco-loving man from storing bundles of cigars and other contraband among his white shirts.

Of course, smuggling goes on in a small way. Many ladies who bought large quantities of silk at Marseilles came ashore bulging at the shoulders and waist. One or two Melbourne girls who appeared slim as billiard cues the night before staggered down the pier wearing a bloated expression about the hip and busts.

LONDON

ONCE in the train between Tilbury and Fenchurch- street, we felt London breathing like an animal in the distance. Afar off above the hammering at the train we heard the beat of the animal's heart. East, west, north, and south stretched a forest of chimney pots and black roofs. The night was almost warm, but there were no stars visible in the throbbing smoke- washed vault above. Millions of voices around us, a babbling Niagara of humans swirling down the narrow streets; and only yesterday we had felt the intolerable silence of the Bush pressing upon us!


Illustration

Fenchurch-street Station, c. 1907.


From Fenchurch-street station we plunged into a network of streets choked with barrows, cabs and loitering men. The hurrying Londoner is a myth, the eager-eyed fresh young man tearing past you is another scrap-book fallacy.

From Butchers' Row to High Holborn, from Piccadilly Circus to Victoria we met the shuffling little Cockney with the semi-Hebrew face, and the petrified city man in the stove-hat and frock coat. A lot of the men have pink cheeks—I saw pink-cheeked men looking out of the hospital windows—others, you meet them in the Strand and on the Mall—white-eyed creatures with the hatchet-strokes of worry carved on their brows.

There is the cheerful Londoner, thousands of him, well-fed, ignorant, good-natured people who will walk half a mile to put you on a tram or 'bus. London is full of kindly men and women and the boys are far more obliging and civil than the Australian urchin.

It is not possible to see London in a lifetime. The cabmen know it not and the police are acquainted only with their own particular district. The women of the East End reflect London's grimy side. We saw them reeling from the bars and gin shops with children at their heels. They stare at you sullenly over their shoulders, big-jawed women, slack-mouthed girls, ill-dressed, underfed, drunk.

In one bar off the Strand we saw a quiet fat man sitting with his face to the wall drinking brandy. He drank slowly, methodically, and the purple flesh under his eyes seemed to move and shake when he throw back his head to drink. For a moment we felt a little sick and surprised at sight of the young women drinking side by side with the men at the counters.

Somehow after our long sea trip the streets do not adjust themselves to our line of sight. The lights spin and throb, throb, the war of wind and sea is still in our ears. We had once dreamed of Hell—the real place with the central whirlwind of white fire and down-streaming ashes, but we were not prepared for the Gehenna of motor buses, the line on line of shifting traffic and stifling petrol cars. It is inhuman ferocious, meaningless, and there comes to us a solid conviction that it is all silly.

After all, London is merely a network of flaring by-ways and whisky advertisements. And your up-to-date Londoner is a very simple fellow. His head is full of music-hall catch-words. His evening papers supply him with his intellectual needs. This whirlwind of traffic and machine-guided civilisation doesn't sharpen a man's wits; it makes him dully dependent on a poison- machine that shatters his brain and nerve. If you put an ordinary question to a Londoner in a different way he gapes and struggles to grip the meaning. All interjections, methods of interrogation, jokes, and forms of address are ready made in London; everybody uses them. It saves thinking.

Sunday found our fury against London much abated. You begin to know the animal; you allow him to snarl and purr, or lick your hand without resentment. But still one has to admit that the animal expression is distinctly Jewish. If you ask a Londoner to show you something really great he points to a monument or the houses of his dear departed dead. If you say to him where are your big men? he will indicate the column in Trafalgar Square where the thin, dreamy figure of the old fighting admiral soars above the mammoth lines. St. Paul's is great; Westminster colossal. London's wet white skies and sullen river, her endless pavements and gaslit hearths, have a certain charm of their own the charm of a Beatrice, the sorrow of a Dante.

Behind us calling in a cleaner, warmer voice than London is the Bush, with her purple nights and her dry gumwood fires burning on her contented hearths. A bushman standing alone in the cold English streets turns his face to the south and mutters: "Oh mother, the night is long without thee."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library.
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