It is easier to stay out than get out.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.
The train was now exploring a beautiful hill country, and went twisting
in and out through lovely little green valleys. There were several
varieties of gum trees; among them many giants. Some of them were bodied
and barked like the sycamore; some were of fantastic aspect, and reminded
one of the quaint apple trees in Japanese pictures. And there was one
peculiarly beautiful tree whose name and breed I did not know. The
foliage seemed to consist of big bunches of pine-spines, the lower half
of each bunch a rich brown or old-gold color, the upper half a most vivid
and strenuous and shouting green. The effect was altogether bewitching.
The tree was apparently rare. I should say that the first and last
samples of it seen by us were not more than half an hour apart. There
was another tree of striking aspect, a kind of pine, we were told. Its
foliage was as fine as hair, apparently, and its mass sphered itself
above the naked straight stem like an explosion of misty smoke. It was
not a sociable sort; it did not gather in groups or couples, but each
individual stood far away from its nearest neighbor. It scattered itself
in this spacious and exclusive fashion about the slopes of swelling
grassy great knolls, and stood in the full flood of the wonderful
sunshine; and as far as you could see the tree itself you could also see
the ink-black blot of its shadow on the shining green carpet at its feet.
On some part of this railway journey we saw gorse and broom--importations
from England--and a gentleman who came into our compartment on a visit
tried to tell me which--was which; but as he didn't know, he had
difficulty. He said he was ashamed of his ignorance, but that he had
never been confronted with the question before during the fifty years and
more that he had spent in Australia, and so he had never happened to get
interested in the matter. But there was no need to be ashamed. The most
of us have his defect. We take a natural interest in novelties, but it
is against nature to take an interest in familiar things. The gorse and
the broom were a fine accent in the landscape. Here and there they burst
out in sudden conflagrations of vivid yellow against a background of
sober or sombre color, with a so startling effect as to make a body catch
his breath with the happy surprise of it. And then there was the wattle,
a native bush or tree, an inspiring cloud of sumptuous yellow bloom. It
is a favorite with the Australians, and has a fine fragrance, a quality
usually wanting in Australian blossoms.
The gentleman who enriched me with the poverty of his formation about the
gorse and the broom told me that he came out from England a youth of
twenty and entered the Province of South Australia with thirty-six
shillings in his pocket--an adventurer without trade, profession, or
friends, but with a clearly-defined purpose in his head: he would stay
until he was worth L200, then go back home. He would allow himself five
years for the accumulation of this fortune.
"That was more than fifty years ago," said he. "And here I am, yet."
As he went out at the door he met a friend, and turned and introduced him
to me, and the friend and I had a talk and a smoke. I spoke of the
previous conversation and said there something very pathetic about this
half century of exile, and that I wished the L200 scheme had succeeded.
"With him? Oh, it did. It's not so sad a case. He is modest, and he
left out some of the particulars. The lad reached South Australia just
in time to help discover the Burra-Burra copper mines. They turned out
L700,000 in the first three years. Up to now they have yielded
L120,000,000. He has had his share. Before that boy had been in the
country two years he could have gone home and bought a village; he could
go now and buy a city, I think. No, there is nothing very pathetic about
his case. He and his copper arrived at just a handy time to save South
Australia. It had got mashed pretty flat under the collapse of a land
boom a while before." There it is again; picturesque history
--Australia's specialty. In 1829 South Australia hadn't a white man in it.
In 1836 the British Parliament erected it--still a solitude--into a
Province, and gave it a governor and other governmental machinery.
Speculators took hold, now, and inaugurated a vast land scheme, and
invited immigration, encouraging it with lurid promises of sudden wealth.
It was well worked in London; and bishops, statesmen, and all ports of
people made a rush for the land company's shares. Immigrants soon began
to pour into the region of Adelaide and select town lots and farms in the
sand and the mangrove swamps by the sea. The crowds continued to come,
prices of land rose high, then higher and still higher, everybody was
prosperous and happy, the boom swelled into gigantic proportions. A
village of sheet iron huts and clapboard sheds sprang up in the sand, and
in these wigwams fashion made display; richly-dressed ladies played on
costly pianos, London swells in evening dress and patent-leather boots
were abundant, and this fine society drank champagne, and in other ways
conducted itself in this capital of humble sheds as it had been
accustomed to do in the aristocratic quarters of the metropolis of the
world. The provincial government put up expensive buildings for its own
use, and a palace with gardens for the use of its governor. The governor
had a guard, and maintained a court. Roads, wharves, and hospitals were
built. All this on credit, on paper, on wind, on inflated and fictitious
values--on the boom's moonshine, in fact. This went on handsomely during
four or five years. Then of a sudden came a smash. Bills for a huge
amount drawn the governor upon the Treasury were dishonored, the land
company's credit went up in smoke, a panic followed, values fell with a
rush, the frightened immigrants seized their grips and fled to other
lands, leaving behind them a good imitation of a solitude, where lately
had been a buzzing and populous hive of men.
Adelaide was indeed almost empty; its population had fallen to 3,000.
During two years or more the death-trance continued. Prospect of revival
there was none; hope of it ceased. Then, as suddenly as the paralysis
had come, came the resurrection from it. Those astonishingly rich copper
mines were discovered, and the corpse got up and danced.
The wool production began to grow; grain-raising followed--followed so
vigorously, too, that four or five years after the copper discovery, this
little colony, which had had to import its breadstuffs formerly, and pay
hard prices for them--once $50 a barrel for flour--had become an exporter
The prosperities continued. After many years Providence, desiring to
show especial regard for New South Wales and exhibit loving interest in
its welfare which should certify to all nations the recognition of that
colony's conspicuous righteousness and distinguished well-deserving,
conferred upon it that treasury of inconceivable riches, Broken Hill; and
South Australia went over the border and took it, giving thanks.
Among our passengers was an American with a unique vocation. Unique is a
strong word, but I use it justifiably if I did not misconceive what the
American told me; for I understood him to say that in the world there was
not another man engaged in the business which he was following. He was
buying the kangaroo-skin crop; buying all of it, both the Australian crop
and the Tasmanian; and buying it for an American house in New York. The
prices were not high, as there was no competition, but the year's
aggregate of skins would cost him L30,000. I had had the idea that the
kangaroo was about extinct in Tasmania and well thinned out on the
continent. In America the skins are tanned and made into shoes. After
the tanning, the leather takes a new name--which I have forgotten--I only
remember that the new name does not indicate that the kangaroo furnishes
the leather. There was a German competition for a while, some years ago,
but that has ceased. The Germans failed to arrive at the secret of
tanning the skins successfully, and they withdrew from the business. Now
then, I suppose that I have seen a man whose occupation is really
entitled to bear that high epithet--unique. And I suppose that there is
not another occupation in the world that is restricted to the hands of a
sole person. I can think of no instance of it. There is more than one
Pope, there is more than one Emperor, there is even more than one living
god, walking upon the earth and worshiped in all sincerity by large
populations of men. I have seen and talked with two of these Beings
myself in India, and I have the autograph of one of them. It can come
good, by and by, I reckon, if I attach it to a "permit."
Approaching Adelaide we dismounted from the train, as the French say, and
were driven in an open carriage over the hills and along their slopes to
the city. It was an excursion of an hour or two, and the charm of it
could not be overstated, I think. The road wound around gaps and gorges,
and offered all varieties of scenery and prospect--mountains, crags,
country homes, gardens, forests--color, color, color everywhere, and the
air fine and fresh, the skies blue, and not a shred of cloud to mar the
downpour of the brilliant sunshine. And finally the mountain gateway
opened, and the immense plain lay spread out below and stretching away
into dim distances on every hand, soft and delicate and dainty and
beautiful. On its near edge reposed the city.
We descended and entered. There was nothing to remind one of the humble
capital, of buts and sheds of the long-vanished day of the land-boom.
No, this was a modern city, with wide streets, compactly built; with fine
homes everywhere, embowered in foliage and flowers, and with imposing
masses of public buildings nobly grouped and architecturally beautiful.
There was prosperity, in the air; for another boom was on. Providence,
desiring to show especial regard for the neighboring colony on the west
called Western Australia--and exhibit a loving interest in its welfare
which should certify to all nations the recognition of that colony's
conspicuous righteousness and distinguished well-deserving, had recently
conferred upon it that majestic treasury of golden riches, Coolgardie;
and now South Australia had gone around the corner and taken it, giving
thanks. Everything comes to him who is patient and good, and waits.
But South Australia deserves much, for apparently she is a hospitable
home for every alien who chooses to come; and for his religion, too.
She has a population, as per the latest census, of only 320,000-odd, and
yet her varieties of religion indicate the presence within her borders of
samples of people from pretty nearly every part of the globe you can
think of. Tabulated, these varieties of religion make a remarkable show.
One would have to go far to find its match. I copy here this
cosmopolitan curiosity, and it comes from the published census:
Church of England,........... 89,271
Roman Catholic,.............. 47,179
Bible Christian,............. 15,762
Primitive Methodist,......... 11,654
Christian Brethren,.......... 465
Methodist New Connexion,..... 39
Church of Christ,............ 3,367
Society of Friends,.......... 100
Salvation Army,.............. 4,356
New Jerusalem Church,........ 168
Protestants (undefined),..... 6,532
Confucians, etc.,............ 3,884
Other religions,............. 1,719
Not stated,.................. 8,046
The item in the above list "Other religions" includes the following as
Believers in Christ,
Church of God,
Followers of Christ,
Town (City) Mission,
About 64 roads to the other world. You see how healthy the religious
atmosphere is. Anything can live in it. Agnostics, Atheists,
Freethinkers, Infidels, Mormons, Pagans, Indefinites they are all there.
And all the big sects of the world can do more than merely live in it:
they can spread, flourish, prosper. All except the Spiritualists and the
Theosophists. That is the most curious feature of this curious table.
What is the matter with the specter? Why do they puff him away? He is a
welcome toy everywhere else in the world.