Meet us on:
Welcome to Read Print! Sign in with
to get started!
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "You can pray for someone even if you don't think God exists."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Chapter 14

    • Rate it:
    • 1 Favorite on Read Print
    Launch Reading Mode Next Chapter
    Chapter 15
    Previous Chapter
    We can secure other people's approval, if we do right and try hard; but
    our own is worth a hundred of it, and no way has been found out of
    securing that.
    --Pudd'nhead Wilson's New Calendar.

    My health had broken down in New York in May; it had remained in a
    doubtful but fairish condition during a succeeding period of 82 days; it
    broke again on the Pacific. It broke again in Sydney, but not until
    after I had had a good outing, and had also filled my lecture
    engagements. This latest break lost me the chance of seeing Queensland.
    In the circumstances, to go north toward hotter weather was not

    So we moved south with a westward slant, 17 hours by rail to the capital
    of the colony of Victoria, Melbourne--that juvenile city of sixty years,
    and half a million inhabitants. On the map the distance looked small;
    but that is a trouble with all divisions of distance in such a vast
    country as Australia. The colony of Victoria itself looks small on the
    map--looks like a county, in fact--yet it is about as large as England,
    Scotland, and Wales combined. Or, to get another focus upon it, it is
    just 80 times as large as the state of Rhode Island, and one-third as
    large as the State of Texas.

    Outside of Melbourne, Victoria seems to be owned by a handful of
    squatters, each with a Rhode Island for a sheep farm. That is the
    impression which one gathers from common talk, yet the wool industry of
    Victoria is by no means so great as that of New South Wales. The climate
    of Victoria is favorable to other great industries--among others,
    wheat-growing and the making of wine.

    We took the train at Sydney at about four in the afternoon. It was
    American in one way, for we had a most rational sleeping car; also the
    car was clean and fine and new--nothing about it to suggest the rolling
    stock of the continent of Europe. But our baggage was weighed, and extra
    weight charged for. That was continental. Continental and troublesome.
    Any detail of railroading that is not troublesome cannot honorably be
    described as continental.

    The tickets were round-trip ones--to Melbourne, and clear to Adelaide in
    South Australia, and then all the way back to Sydney. Twelve hundred
    more miles than we really expected to make; but then as the round trip
    wouldn't cost much more than the single trip, it seemed well enough to
    buy as many miles as one could afford, even if one was not likely to need
    them. A human being has a natural desire to have more of a good thing
    than he needs.

    Now comes a singular thing: the oddest thing, the strangest thing, the
    most baffling and unaccountable marvel that Australasia can show. At the
    frontier between New South Wales and Victoria our multitude of passengers
    were routed out of their snug beds by lantern-light in the morning in the
    biting-cold of a high altitude to change cars on a road that has no break
    in it from Sydney to Melbourne! Think of the paralysis of intellect that
    gave that idea birth; imagine the boulder it emerged from on some
    petrified legislator's shoulders.

    It is a narrow-gage road to the frontier, and a broader gauge thence to
    Melbourne. The two governments were the builders of the road and are the
    owners of it. One or two reasons are given for this curious state of
    things. One is, that it represents the jealousy existing between the
    colonies--the two most important colonies of Australasia. What the other
    one is, I have forgotten. But it is of no consequence. It could be but
    another effort to explain the inexplicable.

    All passengers fret at the double-gauge; all shippers of freight must of
    course fret at it; unnecessary expense, delay, and annoyance are imposed
    upon everybody concerned, and no one is benefitted.

    Each Australian colony fences itself off from its neighbor with a
    custom-house. Personally, I have no objection, but it must be a good
    deal of inconvenience to the people. We have something resembling it
    here and there in America, but it goes by another name. The large empire
    of the Pacific coast requires a world of iron machinery, and could
    manufacture it economically on the spot if the imposts on foreign iron
    were removed. But they are not. Protection to Pennsylvania and Alabama
    forbids it. The result to the Pacific coast is the same as if there were
    several rows of custom-fences between the coast and the East. Iron
    carted across the American continent at luxurious railway rates would be
    valuable enough to be coined when it arrived.

    We changed cars. This was at Albury. And it was there, I think, that
    the growing day and the early sun exposed the distant range called the
    Blue Mountains. Accurately named. "My word!" as the Australians say,
    but it was a stunning color, that blue. Deep, strong, rich, exquisite;
    towering and majestic masses of blue--a softly luminous blue, a
    smouldering blue, as if vaguely lit by fires within. It extinguished the
    blue of the sky--made it pallid and unwholesome, whitey and washed-out.
    A wonderful color--just divine.

    A resident told me that those were not mountains; he said they were
    rabbit-piles. And explained that long exposure and the over-ripe
    condition of the rabbits was what made them look so blue. This man may
    have been right, but much reading of books of travel has made me
    distrustful of gratis information furnished by unofficial residents of a
    country. The facts which such people give to travelers are usually
    erroneous, and often intemperately so. The rabbit-plague has indeed been
    very bad in Australia, and it could account for one mountain, but not for
    a mountain range, it seems to me. It is too large an order.

    We breakfasted at the station. A good breakfast, except the coffee; and
    cheap. The Government establishes the prices and placards them. The
    waiters were men, I think; but that is not usual in Australasia. The
    usual thing is to have girls. No, not girls, young ladies--generally
    duchesses. Dress? They would attract attention at any royal levee in
    Europe. Even empresses and queens do not dress as they do. Not that
    they could not afford it, perhaps, but they would not know how.

    All the pleasant morning we slid smoothly along over the plains, through
    thin--not thick--forests of great melancholy gum trees, with trunks
    rugged with curled sheets of flaking bark--erysipelas convalescents, so
    to speak, shedding their dead skins. And all along were tiny cabins,
    built sometimes of wood, sometimes of gray-blue corrugated iron; and
    the doorsteps and fences were clogged with children--rugged little
    simply-clad chaps that looked as if they had been imported from the
    banks of the Mississippi without breaking bulk.

    And there were little villages, with neat stations well placarded with
    showy advertisements--mainly of almost too self-righteous brands of
    "sheepdip." If that is the name--and I think it is. It is a stuff like
    tar, and is dabbed on to places where the shearer clips a piece out of
    the sheep. It bars out the flies, and has healing properties, and a nip
    to it which makes the sheep skip like the cattle on a thousand hills. It
    is not good to eat. That is, it is not good to eat except when mixed
    with railroad coffee. It improves railroad coffee. Without it railroad
    coffee is too vague. But with it, it is quite assertive and
    enthusiastic. By itself, railroad coffee is too passive; but sheep-dip
    makes it wake up and get down to business. I wonder where they get
    railroad coffee?

    We saw birds, but not a kangaroo, not an emu, not an ornithorhynchus, not
    a lecturer, not a native. Indeed, the land seemed quite destitute of
    game. But I have misused the word native. In Australia it is applied to
    Australian-born whites only. I should have said that we saw no
    Aboriginals--no "blackfellows." And to this day I have never seen one.
    In the great museums you will find all the other curiosities, but in the
    curio of chiefest interest to the stranger all of them are lacking. We
    have at home an abundance of museums, and not an American Indian in them.
    It is clearly an absurdity, but it never struck me before.
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 15
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a Mark Twain essay and need some advice, post your Mark Twain essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?